Livestreamers flow overseas for sales, profits(2)

2023-02-27 10:12:46China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Juanita Cerrillos sells makeup via a livestream in Los Angeles after joining a Chinese e-commerce company last year. (CHINA DAILY)

Chinese e-commerce companies are also bullish on the U.S. market, as it is vast and has numerous wealthy customers. Given the huge sales volume but low prices in Southeast Asia, "the U.S. is a place to make profits", Ma said, noting the higher prices of goods in the U.S..

Yet such great success only belongs to a few. Despite the sector's rapid growth, many companies are struggling to make a profit through livestreaming sales.

Luo Weizhe, founder of e-commerce company Parrotok, has temporarily suspended the livestreaming project after trying for approximately three months from March to June last year.

In the Los Angeles office, Luo's influencers were surprised when they heard that Li Jiaqi could sell hundreds of thousands of lipsticks per livestream in China, but they quickly became frustrated because U.S. viewers see the format as entertainment, meaning audience numbers fall off a cliff as soon as the sales pitch begins.

Their best-selling item is a sports water bottle. Over 20,000 viewers are amused to see Li and an influencer take turns running to the bathroom in a two-hour competition to see who can drink the most water.

"Americans come to watch the livestream for entertainment, not to shop," Luo said. In a rare highlight, he and his influencers sold goods worth about $4,000 and received 10,000 likes. Most of the time, they lose money. "We are on the right track, but it is not the right time," he said, noting that the livestream shopping bug has yet to bite the U.S.

Diverse forms of entertainment and abundant shopping methods also divert U.S. customers' attention away from livestreams. Gu Jun, CEO of Newme, said TV shopping is still very popular in the U.S., and his staff members even learn sales skills from it while watching shows over lunch at restaurants.

Meanwhile, Wang's new company, Content and Commerce Partner, is barely breaking even in the Southeast Asian livestreaming business. Cultural and linguistic differences have set up roadblocks.

He was once torn between annoyance and a desire to laugh when his local employees found him a TV news anchor after he requested they hire an influencer. The Mandarin words for "influencer" and "news anchor" are the same, so the translator misunderstood his request.

Moreover, a lack of industrial clusters also makes livestreaming e-commerce less effective in Southeast Asia. Wang recalled that when he was in Zhejiang province, "just a few calls and some coffee chats nailed down one-third of the promotional campaigns for the Double Eleven shopping festival".

A foreign influencer and his Chinese counterpart livestream to boost cross-border commerce at the livestream base of China Pearls& Jewellery International City in Zhuji, Zhejiang province, last year. (GUO BIN/XINHUA)

Logistics, supply chains

As one of the first Chinese retailers to take e-commerce overseas, in July 2020, Yao Enhao employs more than 30 local influencers to sell makeup, clothes, 3C goods (computer, communications and consumer electronics) and baby products in Indonesia. He said the internet infrastructure, supply chains and logistics in Southeast Asia lag far behind those in China.

UltraHD Blue-ray is not widely available in Southeast Asia as it requires more bandwidth to provide stunning images, Yao said.

Also, internet speeds are much slower as 5G is far from common, and a lack of cold-chain systems means it is impossible to deliver some fruits and agricultural products. "It's like there are 81 hurdles in front of you, and you just cleared the second one," he said.

Yet the Chinese businesspeople are optimistic about the future of livestreaming overseas. Shifting his current focus to short videos, Luo is biding his time to restart his livestreaming business in the U.S.. Ma's company has rented a 3,000-square-meter warehouse in Vietnam to shorten delivery times, while Gu opened a new office in New York in December.

"Taking livestreaming e-commerce overseas is like going to an unknown place," Gu said. Despite that, he said he knows that the demand is there… somewhere.


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