The Chinese Live Streaming E-Commerce Craze

Tech adoption and associated consumer trends in China are a few years ahead of the west. One such trend took a massive boost through the COVID-19 crisis in China and has become a major craze.

It is the live-stream e-commerce which Chinese believe is the closest experience to shopping offline in a retail store.

Many Chinese e-commerce apps, live-streaming apps and super-apps have embraced this trend including TaoBao, WeChat and Douyin (TikTok China) and the shopping experience really is friction-less.

Here are some of the reasons why I think this trend will grow, not just in China, but in the west too.

Firstly, live-stream e-comm is great for product discovery. Amazon in its current form is great for search and buy shopping experience but awful for discovering new products. On the other hand, Instagram is a good platform for discovering new products, but doesn’t have a seamless shopping experience in its present form. Although, with the announcement of “shops”, there’s an obvious plan to change that.

Secondly, all the Chinese apps are offering in-app checkout. So you can tap on the products shown in the live-stream and conduct your purchase right within the app while the live-stream stays uninterrupted. Instagram plans to bring in-app checkout with “shops”.

Thirdly, the Chinese apps have in-app frictionless payment options e.g AliPay and WeChat Pay. Facebook/Instagram do not yet posses the capability to offer in-app payments, but plan to offer with Libra.

Fourthly, in-app streaming & shopping experience enhances consumer trust as the products are shown live instead of the photoshopped 3D photos and professional videos.

Fifthly, apps also offer AR try-ons. So you can try the products e.g glasses, shirts etc to get a feel of how they would look on you.

And lastly, the apps have built-in game mechanics with features to induce scarcity, and get credits/cashback for sharing the stream with your friends etc.

It is unbelievable how far in the future China is with e-commerce in comparison with the western counterparts. But I’m sure that the west will catch up to these trends.

Instagram and TikTok are best positioned in the west to capture this in the future. If you’re an influencer on one of these platforms, the great days will come as the west catches up with the Chinese frenzy.

Riding Along The Wave

Forbes is double-dipping in ad-revenue by publishing about Kylie Jenner. First they made the entire world read the headlines that Kylie is the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.

Months later they published that Kylie and her family lied about her billionaire status and that she is not yet a billionaire. Instead, she’s worth only 900 million.

I don’t know about you, but I see no difference in being a billionaire or being worth 900 million. If she’s worth 900 million, she will be a billionaire in 1 or 2 years.

Instead I thought of something else when I read the news. I thought that an instagram influencer is (nearly) worth a billion dollars. She’s built this empire using Instagram, a Shopify store, and by private labeling products.

I also thought that Facebook only paid a billion dollars for Instagram while today an Instagram influencer is worth a billion dollars.

I also thought about TikTok posting 17 billion dollars in revenue in 2019 and over 3 billion dollars in profits. And the fact that they have over 1.5 billion monthly active users, more than Instagram as well as Snapchat.

I thought about gaming influencers/streamers who are making tens of millions of dollars per month using Twitch, YouTube, etc.

I thought about influencer marketing. I thought about riding along the wave of a powerful platform such as TikTok.

And I thought how being early in riding that wave can make you a millionaire or even a billionaire.

I have known, met or spoken to 100s of influencers till date who were early in riding the wave on Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, Snap, TikTok etc. I know a large majority of them are worth at least hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you saw a platform taking off, figured it early, and cringed instead of taking advantage, it was your loss and it will continue to be.

The Incentive To Be On A Platform

Platforms of all sorts incentivize businesses to depend on them. Most of my internet businesses were/are heavily dependent on Facebook, Instagram, Digg, Google etc. You got to drive traffic from somewhere, right?

The influencers making hundreds of thousands claiming to be indie artists are dependent on platforms like Instagram, Facebook & Youtube. It would take one bad email to snatch away their dreams, career, livelihood and fame. Platforms are risky, and the bigger your business is, the less dependent you need to be on a platform.

The list of causalities is too long for me to name. The list of my own business casualties isn’t short either.

It’s okay to be on a platform. We all need them. They are the power houses of the internet and fuel growth for all of our businesses. But it’s one thing to drive business from the platform and it’s another thing to build business on a platform. In an ideal scenario, we shouldn’t be building businesses on platforms. In some situations though the reward is so high that we and others embrace the risk that comes with the platforms.

When I started this blog, my father asked me that why am I self-hosting it. By self-hosting, I need to take care of some small bills, and also need to maintain it myself. In comparison, I could have started writing on Medium instead, which is what my father expected me to do. It can be easier to subscribe, higher email delivery and open rates, free recommendations and surfacing of my content on the platform to other medium users, no cost of hosting content, safe, higher up time, better SEO etc. There could be many benefits.

But when I see content-locker on Medium that tells me that I like to read a lot and hence have reached my reading limit, it’s a sweet reminder of why I chose not to use a platform like Medium.

I’ve finally decided to share my life stories. It took a long while for me to agree to write and share and I can not leave my breadcrumbs on the mercy of Medium or others. I use platforms because there’s financial incentive. As there is no financial incentive with this blog, I decided to self host it even if it means lesser readership, lower email open rates and everything else that I’ll be missing out. In the long run, I think, I will miss out more on a platform.

Making a Million Dollar Out of Thin Air

It sounds surreal. A million dollar out of thin air? How can you create money out of nothing. You can’t. But you can create money without having any money. Like you do in an employment. Although, you probably can’t make a million dollar with employment. Then how can you make a million dollar without investing any money. Only a few people can imagine something like that. Let me assure you, it’s possible. Not just possible, I personally know dozens of people who have done it.

You start with doing work that has no associated cost. The only cost would be your time and effort. Like starting a YouTube channel with your phone. Just like my friend ZSM did. Or you could work as a freelancer on UpWork / Fiverr and build your way up to becoming an agency or creating a product. Or you could just write a blog. Or create a following on Instagram or Facebook to be an influencer. Or you could sell arts and crafts, or T-shirts and hoodies on Etsy, or TeeSpring or Printful. If you’re a developer, you could be selling services on Fiverr and eventually start making plugins, apps and themes for WordPress and Shopify creating a product and a value-asset.

Let me assure you, I’m only scratching the surface here. If there are 99 ways to make money online without investment, I only know of 1. And I’ve written about what I know here. My brother recommended me this channel. May be you’ll find a lot more options to kick-start your internet journey there.

In summary though, there are hundreds of ways to make a living on the internet. Hundreds of things that need no capital to start. And hundreds of them that can eventually make you a million dollars. Sure, you’d most likely need to pivot at some point, but you can most certainly get there. Let me talk a bit more about the pivots below.

Suppose you start as a T-shirt designer on Fiverr. You sell time and skill to make money. Eventually you pivot and also start selling your designs on Etsy and use a print on demand to fulfil your orders. Once you get the hang of it, you now want to hit a larger audience or a global market. You pivot again and you take your designs to Shopify. You now invest a lot of money that you have made thus far in audience acquisition using ads on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest etc. You find more print on demand services in different countries so you can locally fulfil your orders. Eventually, you’re doing hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales. You have created a million dollar value-asset. All with sheer hardwork and no external funding or investment. You have successfully turned $1 into $1,000,000.

I don’t want to mention names here for the sake of privacy, but I know at least one millionaire in Pakistan from each of those categories: an influencer, a designer, a blogger and a developer.

The question is do you just like reading articles with a million dollar in the title, or are you gonna take actions.

How Can You Be Good At Internet Marketing

Internet marketing is a blend of two things; social science and technology. I think I do a better job at understanding the technology, but may be not so much at understanding the social science.

Think of SEO; you need to have certain technical knowledge. You need to know about XML sitemaps. You have to focus on reducing time taken to load the site and the techniques used to do so such as caching, CDN, Ajax, SSL, minifying JS and CSS, etc. You may need to learn about link juice, focus keywords and how that works. By the way I’m not the best resource for SEO. So, I recommend you to read the techniques from an actual SEO blog.

For social media, you may need to learn about the techniques used to have a higher reach and distribution in the newsfeed and other areas such as using the right hashtags/location tags. You’ll need to learn about different ways to post such as photos, videos, stories etc. You may have to compare their distribution insights and learn what to post where and when and how many times a day etc. You may have to reverse engineer the exact method by looking at your virals to have your content appear more often in watch tab, newsfeed etc. In other words, this may require time, experience, data and technical knowledge.

The other side of internet marketing is social science, and I can’t stress enough its importance. Point is, no matter how much you get the technology part right, if you’re unable to understand the human behavior and psychology, you’re unlikely to do well. This is especially true for social media. Viral marketers often train themselves in to producing and recognizing content that is going to break all barriers, and is going to spread like wild fire. You’ll find infinite examples of how people have made viral content, repeatedly, without having enough seed views, influence or followers. They also didn’t follow any traditional SEO/SMM strategies. They are able to do that because they get the social science right. Our ISI case study was certainly about getting the social science right. I learnt this from my friend Zeeshan Shafquat who does an incredible job at understanding human behavior and psychology.

So if you’re going to venture in to internet marketing or already do it, I highly recommend that one of the co-founders need to understand human behavior and social science better, while the other focuses more on technology.

Breaking the Internet With Influencer Marketing

Users online on Socialoholic’s content website at one point in time according to Google Analytics

Since 2011, we have driven more revenue from influencer marketing than anything else whether it is for e-commerce, content websites or Ad Breaks (video monetization program of Facebook). Influencer marketing is really rewarding in one regard and that is you can often have a much higher reach compared to paid ads of the same platform for much lower cost. It is one of the best ways to scale your business on social networks with higher margins. I also feel no shame in acknowledging that we’ve been doing influencer marketing before we knew what it was called. That makes us one of the first ones to tap into this industry.

We have served as much as 60 million pageviews in a single day. That’s 700 pageviews per second or 42,000 per minute. We also served 240 million ad impressions per day making our content network one of the largest in the world. I mention these figures to demonstrate the power of influencer marketing.

60 million PVs on 30th December 2014

We are also notorious for breaking the internet because we have crashed cloud servers, not only making our back-ends inaccessible but for hundreds of others as well. Of course the front-ends always stayed unaffected.

Our audience development was led by Musa Mughal who was only 16 at the time of contract. We identified him for his connections in the influencer-sphere when he was very young and that has led to a very rewarding experience for both Socialoholic and him.

Today, while Facebook penalizes content-websites for influencer marketing, it is still a booming industry for Ad Breaks. While Instagram continues to stay the top audience market for e-commerce businesses. I highly encourage you to explore this area of business as personally I haven’t found anything better in the entirety of my career.

I mean, Kylie Jenner became a billionaire by running e-commerce on her instagram, what further proof do you need?