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China Bytes Vol.2: Live Commerce, Blind Box, Drone Ads and the Monkey King

Welcome to the second edition of the China Bytes Series, a biweekly guide including:

1) first-hand experience summary of what's trending in China's technology world; 
2) a deep-dive of China's most popular apps/products; 
3) timeless ancient Chinese wisdom you could apply to today.

I'm Camellia, founder of Y Media on a mission to accelerate ideas exchange beyond language barriers.

Sign up here to be notified when a new edition goes live!

Live Streaming E-commerce

If you are working in the e-commerce arena, you won't be a stranger to Alibaba's Double 11 or Singles' Day online shopping event. This is the equivalent festival to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, where Chinese consumers break the spending record on a year-on-year basis.

Here is the last year's data from this Shopping Festival that occurred from November 1 to 11:

  • ¥498.2 billion yuan ($74.1 billion) total turnovers;

  • 583,000 orders per second at the peak time;

  • 2.32 billion logistic orders in total;

  • Nearly 800 million consumers;

  • Over 30 live streaming e-commerce rooms and 470 brands with transactions exceeding ¥100 million yuan ($15.4 million).


(Photo credit: sina.com)

Among hundreds and thousands of live streaming e-commerce hosts, Austin Li (right) and Viya are the two major players in this live-streaming world.

During the Double 11 pre-sales event on October 20, Austin's sold ¥4.3 billion ($520 million) worth of goods with 162 million views on his Taobao live streaming channel and Viya sold ¥4.8 billion ($440 million) with 148 million views.

Weibo, the equivalent site to Twitter in China, has the feature of the trending topic, where the #Double11Festival has been read more than 2 billion times. Chinese consumers enjoy watching videos or streamers while shopping because it combines the emerging shopping experience with entertainment.

According to the iiMedia Research, China's live e-commerce market size reached ¥961 billion yuan ($148 billion) in 2020, a significant increase of 121.5% compared with the previous year and expected to grow to approximately ¥1.201 trillion yuan ($185 billion).

There is no doubt that the practice of live streaming e-commerce hit highs during the lockdown. Still, it's expected to stay popular post-COVID time as more and more brands participate in the live streaming event. As more entertainers and entrepreneurs rush into the game, it will accelerate the innovation and development of this industry.

Five elements drive the success of live streaming e-commerce in China:

  • Products. Take my friend Summer Jin, a micro-influencer in the Chinese nutrition industry, as an example. She used to sell a cereal brand on live streaming platforms. She summarised that "the key to success is fully displaying the products including ingredients and nutrition benefits. It's also important to showcase a step-to-step guide on eating the cereal with fruits and yoghurt and turning this breakfast into an Instagram image". She has to spend days and nights conducting detailed research before launching to answer any questions about the products that her followers might have.

  • Platforms. Taobao Live, Douyin, Kuaishou, Xiaohongshu and Pinduoduo are the most popular platforms in China.

  • Promotion: Two tricks are widely used in live streaming e-commerce: Limited time offer to create scarcity and occasionally offer the prize giveaway if you buy it NOW.

  • Team: Both Austin and Viya have a team to support them from product selection to live streaming preparation.

  • Personality. Austin is good at using selling tactics such as his signature catchphrase, "oh my god, buy it now!" and authentic and honest reviews on big brands. Chinese consumers are also intrigued by his poetic and vivid description of products. He once sold 15,000 lipsticks in less than 5 minutes. Jack Ma challenged him at one of his Taobao Live events, but Ma only sold 10 lipsticks compared with 1,000 sold by Austin.

Despite the booming e-commerce sector in China, it's much quieter in the West world. Perhaps there is an opportunity for Western companies to refresh their approach to online shopping. Who will be the emerging leaders in the live streaming e-commerce space?

Three New Trends/Products

1. Can't decide where to go? Let a Mystery Box make a decision for you.

Chinese people welcome the 7 days Labour Holiday this week. The total number of domestic tourists has fully recovered from the pandemic, with 250 million passengers flowing all around the country, up by 28.21% compared to the same period of 2019.

The most significant trend during the holiday season is the Mysterious Box or Blind Box launched by online travel agents (OTA). The Mysterious Box is a one-way domestic ticket with a specified departure point, a random destination and a specified time frame for use at a relatively low price.

Three major OTAs, Fliggy, Qunar and Ctrip, lead holiday sales with this marketing initiative offering air tickets under ¥99 yuan ($15, market price around $200). Consumers have no idea which tickets they will get until they unpack the box, bringing extra thrill and fun.

Other brands, including Pringles, launched Mystery Flavour Chips in the China market; The Henan Museum launched the Archaeological Blind Box, where you have to use a tiny shovel and a brush attached to uncover the artefacts to have a "real" archaeological experience.

According to Qianzhan Intelligence's report, the market for Blind Box could grow to ¥25 billion yuan ($3.8 billion) in 2025. The major Blind Box player Pop Mart has become the first Chinese Blind Box toymaker company to go public in Hong Kong stock, with 114 outlets and 825 vending machines across China in 2020.

2. Look at the sky and scan the QR code in the air.

The next level of advertising in China involves taking your message to the sky.

Hyundai used 3,281 drones to project its luxury vehicle brand Genesis logo over Shanghai's skyline, which set a new Guinness World Record for "The Most Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) airborne simultaneously.

Chinese video-sharing website Bilibili used 1,500 drones to form a giant QR code in the sky for users to scan and download a game. Fashion brand Bulgari also participated in drones advertising, lighting up the sky with its iconic logo.


(Photo Credit: Bilibili)

3. Bye-bye, Mr Delivery Guy

A long, long time ago, I can still remember how parcels used to be delivered by human beings. Now, Meituan, China's leading e-commerce platform for service and one of the world's largest online and on-demand delivery platforms, released the new generation of autonomous delivery vehicles in April.


(Photo credit: Meituan)

Up to now, Meituan's autonomous delivery service has covered more than 20 communities, delivering more than 35,000 orders with 300,000 km of self-driving mileage.

Meituan's 2020 financial results show that the platform made 10.1 billion transactions on food and beverage delivery with a daily average of 27.7 million. Meituan currently employed about 3 million riders all around the country and the cost of ¥48.7 billion yuan ($7.5 billion) a year.

Ancient Chinese Wisdom

Let me introduce you to the most legendary mythical figure in China: Sun Wu Kong (孙悟空, aka the Monkey King).

Sun Wu Kong is one of the main characters in the 16th-century Chinese novel Journey to the West (西游记) which has been adapted to many stories, animations and video games ever since.


(Photo credit: Google Image)

In the Chinese language, "Wu (悟)" means "enlighten" and "comprehend". "Kong(空)" means "emptiness" and "in vain". The name Wu Kong was given by his first master, Patriarch Bodhi (ancient master of Three Teachings), together means "awakened to emptiness" or "aware of vacuity".

As the protagonist in the Journey to the West, Wu Kong went through the hero journey from an uncivilised monkey to the "Victorious Fighting Buddha". His name represents his whole growth process of acquiring knowledge and wisdom to achieve a supreme state of enlightenment, a state of cosmetological harmony and oneness.

This story serves as a complete programme for cultivating our human nature: we start from knowing nothing, but with constant learning and development, we acquire knowledge and wisdom through practice and experience. Our ultimate goal is to reach the realm of full awareness of our nature and live harmoniously with the universe.


That's all for this edition! Want to be notified when the next edition of China Bytes is live? Sign up here or leave your comments and questions!

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