China’s e-commerce superpower: Wacky viral videos and care-free influencers

  • China’s digital revolution sees 944 million users immersed in short videos, reshaping online behavior.
  • Douyin’s short videos, driven by algorithms and social influence, have emerged as powerful advertising tools.
  • Successful vidoes no longer need to be super-polished or high production quality.

China’s viral creativity: Short, wacky videos as advertising vehicles

In the past few weeks, the unpolished but super-viral creativity of some of China’s successful influencers has been on full display. These seemingly crazy but addictive content ideas have shown what we probably all have known for a while – successful content does not need to be super high production quality, or beautifully scripted, or from famous names and faces. Here are some of the recent examples:

Water-proof makeup in the rain

A Chinese KOL promotes waterproof cosmetics in a heavy rainstorm. The bizarre but direct approach left a lasting impression on viewers.

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Face-pinch-covering foundation

A Chinese guy vigorously pinches his own face until it turns red and then applies foundation. This rather violent self-harm effectively demonstrated the product.

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Casual cheap sales

An elegant broadcaster promotes products for just three seconds each. The novelty combined with affordable products priced at CNY9.9 ($1.40) or CNY19.9 generated millions in revenue in just a few minutes.

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Sales rap

A host sings rap, using big red lips as a signature look. She presented product descriptions in the form of rap lyrics, creating a catchy and lively marketing style, leading to a surge in sales.

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These examples show how China’s digital landscape is experiencing an unprecedented surge, with the 48th China Internet Development Status Statistical Report by the CNNIC revealing staggering numbers. As of June 2021, the internet user base in China reached an astronomical 1.011 billion, boasting an internet penetration rate of 71.6%. Notably, online videos, including short videos, garnered a massive user base of 944 million, constituting a staggering 93.4% of the overall internet population. Within this cohort, short video enthusiasts accounted for an impressive 87.8%, solidifying short videos as a normative means of expression in the mobile era, with an expansive user base of 888 million.

How does TikTok e-commerce work? Faced with a new frontier, every enterprise wishing to venture into social media e-commerce hopes to gain experience and achieve assured growth. In April 2021, TikTok e-commerce introduced for the first time the operational methodology of interest-based e-commerce – FACT, which stands for Field (Self-Broadcasting by seller), Alliance (Influencers’ matrix), Campaign (Marketing activities), and Top KOL (Top Key Opinion Leaders). They are regarded as the four pillars of TikTok e-commerce platform operation and represent a summary of the pioneering experience in TikTok e-commerce at the current stage.

Also read: TikTok’s drastic change: A second round of share buybacks

According to the data disclosed by the President of TikTok E-commerce, Wei Wenwen, at a conference, in June 2023, the daily average searches for e-commerce intentions related to TikTok E-commerce Global Shopping have exceeded 7.88 million. In the one-year period from July 2022 to June 2023, the year-on-year growth of TikTok E-commerce Global Shopping’s ordering users was 43%, the year-on-year growth of GMV was 80%, and the number of merchants joining increased by 111%.

“As user e-commerce behavior and awareness settle, habits of users actively searching and browsing are gradually forming.”

Muqin, Vice President of TikTok E-commerce (Translated from Chinese speech in TikTok E-commerce Ecology Conference 2023)

Riding the short video wave: A paradigm shift in consumption habits

Short attention spans and the ‘short, precise, and small’ trend

The short attention spans of user groups, coupled with the concise nature of short videos, align seamlessly with the trend of “short, precise, and small” content presentation. This unique format allows users to garner maximum rewards with minimal time investment, stimulating their senses through multidimensional content presentation that accommodates text, audio, and image media. The low entry barriers and trial costs have laid a solid foundation for the rapid development of short videos.

Key drivers of short video success: algorithms and social influence

Powerful algorithms and recommendation systems play a pivotal role in the success of short videos. Big data and algorithmic distribution technology enable precise targeting of different types of short videos to reach their intended audience, thus enhancing user engagement. This phenomenon is further fueled by the “star effect” and social attributes, as celebrities and influencers flock to platforms like Douyin (TikTok), attracting massive followings and forming vibrant social circles.

Douyin: A hub of creativity and expression

Douyin stands out as a dynamic and creative platform where unique expression and creativity flourish. The platform showcases high levels of creativity and entertainment, capturing the attention and active participation of a large number of young people.

Also read: TikTok is reshaping how we experience live events for the better

Pop quiz

Which company does Tiktok belong to?

A. Tencent

B. Microsoft

C. Bytedance

D. Alibaba

The answer is at the bottom of this article.

The rise of content-driven E-commerce: A paradigm shift

Transition from traditional to content-driven E-commerce

The evolution from traditional to content-driven e-commerce signifies a paradigm shift – from “people finding goods” to “goods finding people.” Platforms like Douyin and Kuaishou redefine the user experience, capturing consumers’ interest through live broadcasts and sparking newfound purchasing intentions.

Advantages of content-driven E-commerce over traditional platforms

E-commerce that prioritizes content delivery adopts a user-friendly approach, ensuring straightforward and clear presentation. This design not only facilitates a seamless understanding of product features and applications but also contributes to a more user-centric experience, enhancing overall satisfaction.

Leveraging influencers as trusted third-party entities serves as a powerful strategy to boost the credibility of product recommendations. The inherent trust associated with influencers fosters a more authentic connection with users, making them more receptive to product endorsements and ultimately strengthening brand trust.

Content-driven e-commerce platforms play a pivotal role in simplifying the decision-making process for users. By providing comprehensive information about products, these platforms empower users to make informed choices, saving them valuable time and energy that would otherwise be spent on extensive independent research.

Influencers play a key role in catering to consumers’ cost-effectiveness preferences. By disseminating product information along with promotional details, influencers often utilise discount coupons and enticing promotions. This approach not only appeals to the consumer’s desire for bargains but also creates a compelling incentive for making purchasing decisions, thereby contributing to the success of content-driven e-commerce strategies.

Live broadcast dynamics

Live Q&A sessions and doubt resolution in real-time offer a dynamic platform for immediate interaction, ensuring that user inquiries are addressed promptly and effectively. This real-time engagement not only fosters a sense of responsiveness but also plays a pivotal role in eliminating doubts, contributing to a more informed and satisfied audience.

Moreover, live broadcasts excel in creating an emotional atmosphere that goes beyond traditional communication methods. The interactive nature of these broadcasts cultivates an environment conducive to genuine emotional engagement. This heightened emotional connection enhances the overall user experience, ultimately increasing the likelihood of successful conversions. By leveraging the power of live broadcasts, businesses can tap into the potential of forging stronger connections with their audience, leading to lasting impressions and brand loyalty.

Also read: TikTok sets up massive Black Friday sale Vs. Giant rivals

The success of content-driven e-commerce in China, rooted in platforms like Alibaba and TikTok, foreshadows a global shift towards similar trends.The evolution of content-driven e-commerce within China’s social media landscape signals a fundamental change in consumer behavior. From the convenience of intuitive content presentation to the trust instilled by influencers, these platforms are not merely places to share content but holistic ecosystems where engagement seamlessly transitions into commerce. As content becomes a driving force in shaping consumer habits, the future of e-commerce appears destined for a fusion of entertainment, social interaction, and commercial viability. The transformative wave is in motion – the question remains: when will the rest of the world catch up?

In this dynamic landscape, China stands at the forefront, steering the narrative towards a future where content and commerce seamlessly converge, revolutionising the very essence of online engagement. The global landscape awaits the unfolding of this trend, poised to reshape the way we consume and interact in the digital era.

The correct answer to the pop quiz is  C.Bytedance


Flavie Du

Flavie Du was a senior writer at BTW media focused on blockchain and fintech investment. She graduated from King’s College London.

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