This is real life, and it’s big business.

IRL (In Real Life) streaming has become one of the fastest growing genres of live content on social media platforms. It is estimated that over 300 million people watch 3.5 million streamers in China.

IRL streaming is a lot like reality television, except it’s entirely unscripted. You never know what’s going to happen next, which is one of the reasons it’s so exciting to its viewers.

In China, it is possible for people to earn up to US$20,000 a month live-streaming themselves just doing regular things.

Brands Tap Into Surging Viewership

(Video courtesy of Wall Street Journal)

Live video is especially popular among younger users. According to December 2016 data from iResearch Consulting Group, 76.5% of mobile live-streaming app users in China are under the age of 36.

Fashion brands, in particular, have shown an eagerness to use live-streaming to project their brand personality and engage with viewers through exclusive and real-time content.

During New York Fashion Week in 2016, luxury fashion brand Coach live streamed Chinese celebrities Tang Yan and Li Yifeng’s visits to the Coach showroom, which attracted 3 million views and 7 million interactions.

Live-Streaming Is Future Of Retail

A screenshot of the ShopShops website (http://www.shopshops.com.cn)

Deloitte, a consultancy, estimates that China’s live-streaming revenue will hit US$4.4 billion this year, a 32% increase over 2017 and up 86% since 2016.

For foreign brands interested in China as a source of growth, live-streaming offers the chance to tap into an audience of upwardly mobile young consumers with increasing discretionary income.

One such website is ShopShops, an interactive, livestream global marketplace that connects retailers and brands directly with cross-border shoppers. It has virtualised the physical shopping experience for global consumers by providing them with real-time curation, interaction and content.

Liyia Wu, the founder and CEO of ShopShops, was quoted as saying in a report by the Nikkei Asian Review that live-streaming is the future of retail, not only in China but globally, as other countries dive deeper into mobile e-commerce.

“It’s a very intimate and direct way to shop,” she said. “It’s just as though you walk into a store and talk to the salesgirl: ‘Hey, I’m looking for a black dress. Can you help me find one?’”

Since the first ShopShops stream aired on the Chinese online shopping website, Taobao, in 2016, it has partnered with close to 200 brands and retailers, from online-first retailers to independent boutiques.

Why Embrace Live-Streaming?

Live-streaming has bridged the gap between advertising and a reality TV show, according to a report published by Forbes.

Why, you ask?

Well, firstly, there’s a functional advantage to live-streaming.

Live-streaming allows experts to show the product being used, to talk through techniques and permutations, to demonstrate various techniques, and to point out the results. The audience can ask questions in anonymity, but the experience is interactive and immersive.

Furthermore, there’s also a feeling of authenticity that comes from live streaming. Reviews and reactions of fellow consumers already weigh heavily on Chinese buyers’ purchasing decisions, and live streaming allows them to witness those reactions in real time. 

Why Is Live-Streaming Doing So Well In Asia?

According to a BBC report, there’s several reasons live streaming in Asia – and in China specifically – has taken off.

Firstly, most of the world’s youth lives in the region. Around 717 million people aged 15 to 24 live in the Asia Pacific – or 60% of the world’s adolescents. Asia is also home to more than half the world’s mobile users – mostly in China and India.

And they spend more. Mobile analytics consultancy Appsflyer found that in 2016, the average global user spent US$0.50 per app that provided purchasing options. By region, Asian users spent the most, at US$0.70. Europeans spent a mere US$0.26.

According to the BBC, that tendency to spend underpins one part of the way streaming platforms monetise, allowing viewers to pay for virtual tokens that are used as currency on the platform. Viewers send these virtual gifts to a streamer who – once the platform takes a cut – can cash them in.

Strange But True

Earlier this year, a couple in China was bankrupted by their teenage son after he spent almost all of their savings (more than US$37,000) trying to curry favour with a live-stream host he claimed was his girlfriend.

According to a South China Morning Post report, the 19-year-old, surnamed Lee, started spending his earnings of just a few thousand yuan a month on gifts for hosts on the website Juxing Kuwo.

The website is one of more than 150 social media sites in China where “hosts”, mostly women, live-stream themselves singing, dancing or even just eating a meal to earn “gifts” from viewers.

Earlier this year, China conducted checks on more than 5,000 live-streaming apps, shutting down 370 for illegal content such as pornography or “content that instigates crime”, China Daily reported. Some of the most popular websites such as Huajiao and Douyu were also investigated for pornographic content.

Is Live-Streaming A Big Deal In Your Country?

Neue would love to hear from you wherever you are. What live streaming site do you go to? Are there any live-streamers that you’d recommend people to follow? Drop us a line in the comments section below or reach out to Neue on social media via Facebook or Instagram.