In Part 1 of our 2022 Tmall Live-streaming Guide, we will detail what Live Commerce is, why brands should live-stream on Tmall, what sort of shoppers to expect when doing so, and the step-by-step process to getting a brand set up to live-stream on Tmall from opening an enterprise account and a live-streaming account to your first broadcast.
For anyone not yet convinced of the power of live-streaming commerce, take note:
- Live commerce in China generated $300bn in sales in 2021 alone
- There are almost 400bn live commerce users in China
- Around 40% of all Chinese internet users engage with live commerce
- Alibaba, parent company of Tmall, has an 80% market share
What is live commerce?
Put simply, live commerce is the combination of online live-streaming with e-commerce. It can be thought of as teleshopping for the 21st century. What the television did for home shopping in the 1980s and 1990s, with companies like QVC becoming multi-billion-dollar juggernauts in just a decade or two, smartphones are doing for all shopping in the 21st century, at a significantly hastened pace.
Much of the format remains the same. There is a presenter, whose persona usually reflects that which the target product demographic aspires to or identifies with. On one end of the scale this might be someone who identifies as a regular consumer, on the other it might be a celebrity or idol. It will often be a KOC, or a KOL. They will be commenting on, using, demonstrating, reviewing or exploring the stories behind a series of products. Sometimes in a direct sales format, other times in the form of a tutorial, interview or behind-the-scenes segment.
Here is where the main differences begin. First, the video is live-streamed via an online platform, which allows presenters and users to interact directly, and often users to interact with one another. Not only does this provide greater reach – people may watch anywhere, not just from home – but it allows customers to be an active part of the process. Second, the products featured are purchasable directly through a linked e-commerce platform. The distance between the customer being shown the product, and placing an order, is shortened by several orders of magnitude.
Why live-stream on Tmall?
In 2021, Taobao Live restructured to grant live-streamers access to 100 million products on Taobao’s sister platform, Tmall, and extending its access to Tmall merchants. Why is this significant?
First off, Taobao is technically a C2C platform. Though some merchants on the platform are essentially large businesses, they are still merchants, not brands in and of themselves. Prior to the restructure, if a brand wanted to engage in live commerce on the Alibaba digital ecosystem, they would have to enlist the help of a KOL, KOC, or other merchant-streamer, who would often demand price reductions and commission. By opening up its live-streaming platform to Tmall, which is B2C, Taobao Live is allowing brands to easily run streams of their own.
The implications are massive. Not only does this grant more control over content and pricing, it also hands brands ownership over the data associated with a given live-stream of their products, and the channels for further communication with customers and fans. The shift in brand behaviour has been significant. Whereas brands hosted around 40% of live-streams during 2021’s 6.18 shopping festival, just five months later, during Singles Day (AKA 11.11), the percentage rose to 70-80%.
Second, the concept of ‘New Retail’ introduced by Jack Ma in 2016 is now a reality in China. In a nutshell, New Retail is the combination of online, offline and logistical services provided by brands to allow their consumers a seamless, efficient sales journey. In New Retail, e-commerce is not simply a trend or an option, but a cornerstone in the state of play. Live-streaming is a tool by which brands may add significant value to their e-commerce offering, and Tmall provides brands access to Taobao Live’s gigantic 80% market share of live commerce in China to do so.
Types of live-streaming shoppers to expect
The folks over at China Marketing Insights sum this up well. Here’s a brief summary of the six types of shoppers they identify.
- Those who go for quick deals on bulk or bundle options. They’re motivated by the idea that the deal in front of them is a one-chance-only moment to get what they want at a discount rate.
- Group buyers. Savvy consumers who link up with others to make use of bulk deals, but only want small quantities, and so share the inventory via second-hand apps like Xianyu.
- Those who follow the idols they like to watch anywhere and everywhere. If their idol drops in on a stream, they will drop in too.
- Those who like surprises, like blind boxes and hidden collections.
- Sankeng girls. Those who are interested in cosplay and its accoutrements, often in the image of girls depicted in Japanese anime or manga.
- Point collectors. Those who make use of Alibaba’s gamification of live-streams to gain points, and redeem them for rewards such as discounts and free items.
How to get started with Tmall live-streaming
Getting a brand set up to live-stream on Tmall is a little complicated without some Chinese-language skills, or the help of an agency. For those who wish to try and do it for themselves, here are the main steps.
- Register, verify and open an enterprise account on Tmall. This is a pre-requisite to live-streaming.
- The Tmall account needs to be bound to Alipay, with real-name verification of the enterprise representative.
- The account must be bound to an offline-sales business with a registered address.
- Go to https://darenmcn.taobao.com to create a live-streaming account.
- The identity of the account owner must be the same as that which is bound by the enterprise’s Alipay account.
- The account owner, a mainland-Chinese citizen verified with Chinese ID only, must not have created any other enterprise accounts.
The verification checklist
- After verification, select the type of enterprise account you would like. Currently there are eight types to choose from: MCN Agency, Merchant live broadcast service provider, Stall live broadcast service provider, Shopping guide live management, Village broadcasting service, PGC professional content and production organization, Integrated marketing agency and Live supply chain base.
Types of account
- Fill in four types of information: account information (which requires additional registration for payment settlements at pub.alimama.com), legal business registration information, contact information and additional business information.
- Submit for review. If rejected, the reason for the rejection will be received by SMS. If successful, you will be invited to pay the deposit, which is usually around 100,000RMB. At which point, you will gain access to the backend.
- Go to we.taobao.com and register with your business information. This process is relatively simple, after the previous verification.
- From the backend at we.taobao.com, you will have access to all planning and review tools, as well as the ability to add anchors (who should also register at we.taobao.com). You can link specific products to planned live-streams here, and view all associated live-stream data.
- For any phone that will be used for a live-stream, download and sign up / log in to the Taobao Anchor app (淘宝主播), complete real-name verification, and link with the backend. From within the app, you can begin broadcasting.
Taobao Anchor app
- Optionally, go to the Taobao university website for a series of video introductions on the DaRenMCN and We.Taobao back-ends.
In part two of this guide, we will detail the best practices for Tmall live-streaming.
Let us know if you are willing to take your Tmall Store performance to the next level by unlocking the power and potential of Live Streaming in China.