The Power of Live Streaming and KOLs in China

The Power of Live Streaming and KOLs in China [Market Insights]

When it comes to live-streaming services, the Chinese market is in a league of its own. While the rest of the world has started selling through real-time content during the pandemic, China has been reaping the perks of this trend since 2016.

The growth of the local live-streaming market is further empowered by Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). With these influencers taking center stage as livestream hosts, Chinese viewers are more likely to put their trust and money into products recommended on these channels.

It’s a digital revolution out here, and it’s time for you to join in. Here are important insights you should know to leverage live-streaming and KOLs in China more effectively.


The Growth of Live Streaming in China

Did you know that nearly half of China is watching live streams not only for entertainment but also for online purchases? With over 765 million Chinese consumers utilizing these platforms, it’s safe to say that live-streaming shopping isn’t just a fleeting trend. It’s a cultural phenomenon that’s here to stay.


Local entrepreneurs using live-streaming to promote their products

Local entrepreneurs using live-streaming to promote their products (Source: Xinhua)


The COVID-19 pandemic played a huge role in the massive growth of local live-streaming platforms. With everyone stuck at home, Chinese internet users turned to their screens to complete their day-to-day activities and transactions.

During this time, live broadcasts continued to gain higher conversion rates than other forms of conventional e-commerce and social media strategies. The market’s value reached over 1.2 trillion yuan in less than a year during the health crisis.


Market value of live-streaming commerce in China 2018-2023

Market value of live-streaming commerce in China 2018-2023 (Source: Statista)


If you look at the graph above, China’s live-stream market value almost tripled from 2019 to 2020. The upward trend shows no signs of slowing down, especially with the segment garnering 4.92 trillion yuan in 2023.

While entertainment is a big part of live streaming, it’s not the only reason internet users patronize these channels. Educational content, fitness classes, cooking shows – you name it, and there’s probably a live stream for it.

The range of live streamers is as diverse as China itself. You’ve got celebrities and big-time influencers drawing millions of viewers.

However, these days, Chinese consumers resonate better with industry experts and regular shoppers like them. It’s mainly because these individuals can understand user needs through first-hand experience.


How Important Are KOLs in the Chinese Live-Streaming Market?

Think of KOLs as the A-listers of the Chinese internet. They’re not just popular; they have an influence that can make or break industry trends. In live-streaming platforms, these influencers are like hosts of reality shows. The only difference is they have the power to drive sales directly.

Imagine a stadium full of fans – that’s the kind of audience top KOLs command. In China, a single KOL has a Chinese audience reach of hundreds of thousands to literally millions, depending on their follower base and the live-streaming platform they use.


Live stream beauty KOL


Top KOLs like Viya had once sold products worth over $30 million in just a single live-streaming content. If you think about it, that’s more than some blockbuster movies make on opening night!

Another example of the power of KOLs and live streams is the recent success of China’s “Lipstick King,” Li Jiaqi. During the 11.11 Singles’ Day Promotions, his sales for the shopping event’s first day reached a gross merchandise value of 9.5 billion RMB.

KOLs aren’t just following the wave from platforms or brands. They’re creating trends not only through short videos but also through real-time interactions with their followers. Through their industry expertise and POV as regular users, they can build emotional connections with Chinese consumers and convert them into long-term brand loyalists.


KOLs and Live Commerce: How Does It Work?

●     Instant Engagement and Sales

Imagine showcasing your latest product and watching it fly off the virtual shelves in real-time. That’s the charm of combining live streaming and e-commerce! It’s the digital equivalent of a hot sale where everything must go, but faster.

The nature of this feature has led livestream platforms to generate an overall market revenue of $700 billion in 2023. Despite having 1.23 million live streamers competing to get the attention of the general Chinese audience, nearly half of China’s internet users still shopped and engaged with livestream e-commerce content in mid-2023.


Xiaohongshu livestreaming


●     Key Opinion Leaders as Live-stream Hosts

KOLs are ambassadors representing brands. They’re the face and voice of your brand during a live stream, bringing authenticity and excitement to your products.

These online personalities have the incredible power to humanize your brand, tell your story, and make your products irresistible. Beyond selling on live-streaming platforms, they can build a community around brands through their fan base.

The right KOL can make all the difference. It’s about finding someone whose style, audience, and values align with your brand.

Chinese consumers expect a smooth live-streaming experience through your brand ambassadors, so authenticity should be your top priority. No matter how much sales you intend to garner, remember that these savvy audiences can spot a hard sell even from a mile away.


●     E-commerce Platform Integration

Unlike short videos, real-time content on e-commerce platforms allows consumers to watch live streams, learn about your products, and make a purchase all in a few clicks without leaving an app.

This seamless integration between live streaming and e-commerce platforms like Taobao Live provides convenience for both consumers and brands. It’s a win-win situation where your sales go up, and the customers enjoy a hassle-free shopping experience.


Live streaming on Taobao with real-time product demonstrations

Live streaming on Taobao with real-time product demonstrations


●     The Impact on Consumer Buying Behavior

It’s no secret that live streaming is changing how people shop in China. These days, it’s no longer about browsing through endless product listings. Consumers on streaming platforms care more about being part of an engaging, interactive shopping experience.

These savvy shoppers are wary of counterfeit goods and low-quality products. Because of this, they expect to see the items in action, get answers to their questions in real-time, and feel part of a larger community.

When brands meet all their expectations, shoppers are more inclined to make spontaneous, informed purchases, all thanks to the immersive experience live streaming offers.


●     Brand Awareness and Loyalty

KOLs aren’t the only element that keeps live-streaming platforms popular in the Chinese market. When they go live promoting your product, they must do more than sell. These influencers must start building a narrative around your brand.



This storytelling is not only the main source of generating immediate sales but also building long-term brand loyalty. Their live-streaming viewers must become part of your brand’s journey and connect with its story to become repeat customers.


●     Challenges and Considerations

Tapping into live streaming and KOL marketing in China isn’t without its challenges. You must keep an eye out for different platform regulations and government laws. As a lucrative market, new industry standards are bound to emerge that can affect how a specific industry operates in this segment.

Regardless of the platform you choose to host your live stream session, you’re also bound to follow digital advertising laws set by the Chinese government. Not abiding by these regulations may result in content censorship or being banned.


Industries that Can Utilize Live-streaming KOLs in China

1.    Fashion and Beauty

Fashion and beauty brands are all about visual appeal, and what better way of showcasing than through a live stream? Key Opinion Leaders can serve as your brand’s runway models and makeup artists, trying your products in real time.

China’s fashion and beauty sector has thrived in the live-streaming market these past few years. In a survey by Statista, 39% of the respondents admitted to buying apparel and footwear through real-time content, while one-third purchased cosmetics via live shopping in 2022.


Xiaohongshu KOLs collaborations


2.    Food and Beverage

Food-related content is one of the top topics locals can’t ignore when shopping through a live stream. It’s where viewers get to see, almost taste, and then buy the ingredients or products used by KOLs.

Brands that have leveraged these strategies have seen significant sales boosts, especially during special events like the Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival.



When creating a live-streaming strategy for your chosen KOLs, remember it’s not just about selling food and beverages. Chinese consumers, especially younger people, seek unique experiences that your product can offer.

Be it showcasing the joy of cooking or the pleasure of tasting your products, it will make them click “Buy Now” when watching your content.


3.    Fitness and Health

KOLs in this industry are like your personal trainers and health gurus. They host live workout sessions, share wellness tips, and endorse health products.

The interactive nature of their content invites viewers not only to watch but also to participate and purchase the products they’re promoting. Whether it’s fitness equipment or supplements, you name it. If a trusted KOL is using it, their followers are buying it.

It’s a sector that’s growing fast, especially since health and wellness have been more prominent in China these past few years.


Fitness KOL on Douyin


4.    Technology and Gadgets

The technology and gadgets sector is perfect for live streaming. Why? Because tech enthusiasts love detailed reviews, live demos, and the excitement of the latest releases.

KOLs can showcase new gadgets, offer tutorials, and provide first-hand reviews. It’s a sector where being up-to-date is crucial, and live streaming offers just that – real-time interaction and the latest buzz.


SDG’s work with Sennheiser Gaming: KOL Livestreaming Sessions

SDG’s work with Sennheiser Gaming: KOL Livestreaming Sessions


In China’s gaming industry, game streamers have dedicated followers supporting their craft. Sometimes, all they need to do is show the gadgets in action during their streams, and their fans are more than happy to follow their purchases.


5.    Education

For overseas schools looking to attract Chinese students, live streams serve as an effective medium to reach your target audiences. Around 23% of the live-streaming commerce market belongs under the age bracket of 18 to 25 years old, which is the range when locals decide where to study in college.

Real-time content can help make learning interactive and engaging for your potential customers. Your chosen KOLs can be teachers or subject-matter experts who are comfortable sharing knowledge.

Since online learning is a growing trend in China, live-streaming breaks down the barriers of traditional learning and makes overseas education more accessible.


Top Livestream Platforms Where You Can Find KOLs

Taobao Live

Taobao Live is a channel where live streaming meets shopping. As Alibaba’s real-time content platform, it’s a heavyweight contender in the local e-commerce market. In 2022 alone, its gross merchandise value reached around 770 billion yuan.

Finding a KOL in Taobao won’t be complicated, especially since the platform has welcomed  500,000 new hosts over the past few years.


Live streaming on Taobao



Like it or not, Douyin will always come up when discussing video content. It’s young, it’s hip, and it’s where you want your brand to be if you’re targeting the Gen Z and millennial crowd.

In 2023, Douyin hit a mind-blowing 746.5 million monthly active users. It’s a massive audience ready to be captivated. The KOLs in this app are trendsetters. They know what’s in, what’s out, and how to grab the audience’s attention.


Douyin hot video platform China



If you’re targeting audiences from China’s rural areas, Kuaishou is a better live-streaming app for your brand than Douyin. It’s big on user-generated content and has a strong sense of community.

KOLs in this platform are perfect for brands that want a more genuine, grassroots approach. Its authenticity can give you access to a broader, more diverse audience.


Kuaishou hot video platform China


Quick Q&A

How many live streamers are there in China?

Around 12.34 million Chinese internet users hosted live streams in 2020 alone, scattered in different market categories. If we compare it to the pre-pandemic numbers, that’s approximately 350 percent higher than the previous year.

Is live streaming popular in China?

Yes, live content streaming is popular in China. In fact, it has garnered over 727.9 million users in 2023. Right now, this trend is changing the way the Chinese market perceives online entertainment and virtual shopping.


Your Trusted Digital Marketing Partner in the Chinese Market!

Navigating the power of KOLs and the convenience of livestreaming tools is no easy task. However, as long as you understand the Chinese market and the consumer behaviors that surround it, utilizing them can help boost visibility and generate potential sales.

With SDG’s extensive expertise in this niche, we offer you the avenue to unlock your brand’s potential and secure a formidable position as a leading entity in the industry.


Sekkei Digital Group Services


Whether it’s crafting compelling advertising campaigns, utilizing social media apps, or opening a virtual shop, we have the digital solutions you need. Contact us today, and let us help you navigate the intricacies of the Chinese business scene.


contact us SDG



Live Streaming & KOL: A General Overview
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