taobao ultimate guide top 5 live streamers

This article was inspired by Jing Daily’s ‘6 Tactics from Taobao’s Top E-commerce Live Streamer Viya

The Importance of Taobao Live Streaming

Taobao is the biggest online C2C marketplace in China, reminiscent of Ebay or Amazon, founded by Alibaba in 2003. Earlier this year, Taobao revealed plans to drastically expand its live streaming operations in 2019. Taobao Live will be a new driver for e-commerce growth.

This is no surprise seeing as how e-commerce live streaming generated sales of RMB 100 billion in 2018 for Taobao. A figure that grew nearly 400% year-on-year. Live streaming will accelerate the e-commerce effect on traditional retail.

Image Credit: Digital Crew

According to the South China Morning Post, Taobao Live already has a conversion rate of 32%, an almost unheard of rate (a 2016 study by Grapevine put the average influencer conversion rate at just 2.6 percent in the US).

Taobao’s Live Streamers

Taobao’s 4000+ live streaming influencers (over 4,000) generate 150,000 hours of content on a daily basis. With more than 1200 of them boasting over a million fans, Taobao Live is already filled to the brim with competition — and will only get more crowded as it becomes more established.

taobao live streaming
Image Credit: Lauren Hallanan

We’ve picked five of the top Taobao live streamers, along with 17 lessons to take away from them. So whether you’re a business looking for the characteristics of a quality KOL, an influencer looking to up your game, or a marketer who wants to learn more about Taobao’s top streamers, you’ve come to the right place.

Austin Li

On Singles Day 2018, Li took on Jack Ma to see who could sell the most lipsticks over a two-hour livestream session — easily selling 100 times more lipsticks than the Alibaba Group co-founder.

Austin Li (Li Jiaqi) is one of the biggest live streamers on Taobao. With 19 million followers on TikTok, 1.7 million on Weibo and more than 1.6 million followers on Taobao.

austin li
Image Credit: Time Out Beijing

The 27 year-old became a full-time Taobao live streamer in 2017. Since then, he has become one of the most reputable and trustworthy lipstick KOLs in China.

Once, Li reportedly applied upwards of 380 lipsticks during a two-hour livestream session. Within 15 minutes, 15,000 tubes were sold. On Singles Day 2018, Li took on Jack Ma to see who could sell the most lipsticks over a two-hour livestream session — In an overwhelmingly one-sided victory Li sold 1,000, while Ma sold just 10.

jack ma vs austin li singles day
Image Credit: SCMP

1. Be trustworthy and personable

Austin Li is energetic and funny, with a natural apititude for entertainment and sales. His fans are already addicted to his trademark lines like: “You have to buy this!” “Wear this lipstick and you are a queen!” “OMG, your lips are a piece of art”. However, this does not stop him from being honest and impartial when he’s not into a particular product. This blunt criticism of big brands conveys an image of trustworthiness to his viewers.

austin li personable
Image Credit: Dong Fang IC

Being trustworthy goes a long way in getting your viewers to trust your judgement. And being personable is necessary to be the source people want go to for information.

2. Understand your consumers

Li makes an effort to understand his consumers. Li figures out the mindset of his consumers through their mutual passion for lipsticks. allowing him to be able to connect with them. Some of his consumers have expressed a desire for fairer skin. Others want to mimic the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

austin li with consumers
Image Credit: Alizila

As a result, his broadcasts include lines like ‘Girls with darker skin will look fairer if they use this shade,’ or ‘A certain celebrity uses this exact same lipstick.’

3. Stand out among the competition

One thing that Li does is finding something that separates him from the competition. In his case, it is his tenacity.

“Many people question me, believing men do not have enough expertise to recommend female beauty products,” Li said. But Li believes he has advantages in this field over his fellow female KOLs.

While many women may find their lips hurt after testing three lipsticks in a row, he can test as many as 380 lipsticks a day. “Testing lipstick can damage the lips, but I do not treat my lips as lips,” Li said. Therefore, his fans have given him the nickname “iron-lipped brother”.

4. Consider male consumers

Li is making headlines as a Chinese man unabashed about regularly putting on makeup and loving it. He represents a growing generation of young men in China who are more and more interested in their looks. Li believes there is a growing trend in male beauty in the country.

This corresponds with L’oreal and TMIC’s whitepaper research on Alibaba consumer behaviour, where they found:

  • Men are getting more sophisticated about their grooming regiment, adding more products to their daily beauty routines
  • Male consumers want products made especially for men — unisex products just aren’t going to cut it anymore
  • Guys want better products too, and are willing to pay more for them. There’s a premiumisation playing out on Tmall as male consumers shop for higher end items.
male beauty austin
Image Credit: Alizila

Li’s advice to beauty brands? Don’t miss this opportunity. If you’re in the beauty industry, then there are likely men that have not been getting attention. Figure out who they are, what they want, and how you can provide it.

Zhang Dayi

By 2016, she was the first seller on Singles Day to break the 100-million-RMB record — and again in 2017. Last year, she launched the Zhang Da Yi X Mei Pai M6 Selfie Phone Limited Edition. All 2000 phones in stock sold out in just one second.

Zhang Dayi is considered the most business-savvy influencer in China. She began as a model for Japanese magazines like Rayli, ViVi, and Mini, then moved onto the online space — starting her own business, and launching a Taobao shop in 2014.

zhang dayi
Image Credit: AliExpress

In a year, her shop had already grown to 4.3 million fans. By 2015, it clocked annual sales of over 1,000,000 RMB, and ranked first on T-Mall for sales across all categories. By 2016, she was the first seller on Singles Day to break the 100-million-RMB record — and then again in 2017.

zhang dayi business
Image Credit: VCG

Last year, she launched the Zhang Da Yi X Mei Pai M6 Selfie Phone Limited Edition. All 2000 phones in stock sold out in just one second.

5. Find ways to motivate responses

Zhang emphasises the importance of an ‘interactive’ element. She explains there is a right way of asking questions in order to motivate responses from her followers. Here’s her thoughts on the matter:

For example, if I say, “This is such a pretty outfit!” If people think it looks ugly, then they won’t reply, but if you ask “What do you think of this dress?” it’s different. Another example, a sentence like, “I think this lipstick is beautiful,” versus, “Which color of lipstick do you like?” One is a statement, one is a question. The latter is more interactive. That way, they know you are looking, and you can even reply to them. Fans like that.

Being an expert at generating online engagement not only helps Zhang grow and maintain her fan base, but also serves as a significant way for Zhang to gauge the preferences of her followers (who are also, ultimately, her customers) to the products she sells.

6. Keep an approachable image

Having frequent interaction with fans promotes a more approachable image, which brings the live streamer and their audience closer together. Zhang Dayi creates an image of a frank, honest and amiable girl in her fans eyes (which is not unlike what Austin Li does). However, Zhang takes it a step further by interacting with her fans via comments and replies, and doing regular surveys of fan design preferences via social media posts.

zhang dayi yellow dress
Image Credit: WWD

This mitigates the sense of superiority and distance one might feel interacting with an A-list celebrity. Instead it creates a relationship that is more mutual and intimate, akin to a friend.

7. Listen to fans for product selection

One of the keys behind Zhang’s business success is that she uses her fans for product feedback and selection. For example, for Ruhan (a business Zhang co-founded), she will dress herself in different outfits and ask her fans to vote for what they like best. She then collects information on what materials they prefer, as well as the price they’re willing to pay. Using this information, she works backwards with the Ruhan team to figure out exactly what will work — down to the very fabric and dollar.

zhang dayi converse with audience
Image Credit: Innovation Is Everywhere

Implementing this strategy has created immense success for Zhang. It helped her generate an annualised revenue of over $70 million USD for Ruhan. This shows how powerful the simple act of listening to your audience can be.


Richora Honey (one of the 40 brands in the promotion) says that thanks to Viya, 377,000 units of Richora products were sold during the live stream — with 10,000 units sold in the first 5 seconds.

Viya (Huang Wei) is the top ranked live streamer on Taobao. Boasting nearly 6.5 million followers on Taobao, she has a following that is loyal and enthusiastic. They are so enthusiastic in fact, that products Viya promotes often sell out within a matter of seconds.

Image Credit: AIO&CO KOREA

In October, Viya acquired the Taobao record of selling $49.7 million USD (or 353 million RMB) of products in just a single day. A few months before that, Viya visited New Zealand to promote a selection of trusted New Zealand products. In just over 4 hours, she sold $20m USD (137 million RMB) worth of goods, facilitating the sales of tens of millions of products from more than 40 NZ and Australian brands.

viya new zealand
Image Credit: Allan Xia

Richora Honey (one of the 40 brands in the promotion) says that thanks to Viya, 377,000 units of Richora products were sold during the live stream — with 10,000 units sold in the first 5 seconds.

Image Credit: Vantage Digital

8. Due diligence to increase trust

Showing your audience that you make an effort to ensure quality assurance goes a long way.

Viya ensures that all the products she promotes undergo a rigorous product testing process through her and her team, instilling trust in her audience that she will do right by them. From checking the reputation of the product brand, assessing ingredients, to actually testing the products (taste test, use, etc). After her team, Viya personally tests and reviews the batch of approved products before each stream. This can take as long as another four hours.

9. Creating a need and a solution

What do you do if your live streamer does not have a niche like Austin Li for lipsticks? Viya is an expert in this situation, being able to sell anything. Whether it be mascara, handbags, food, or even dental floss, to name a few. How does she do this? By creating a need, and then providing the solution.

viya live stream selling
Image Credit: Lauren Hallanan

In the case of the dental floss: instead of focusing on the long-term pros and cons of floss vs. toothpicks as most would have done, she explained that children may imitate them and try to use toothpicks too, which could be very dangerous as toothpicks are sharp and could easily damage a child’s gums or poke them in the eye.

This created a sense of need and urgency for viewers to purchase her solution: the safer dental floss.

10. Importance of community

In China, streamers often address their audience with endearing terms like 宝宝 or 亲爱哒 (equivalent to honey or sweetie). Viya takes a different approach, giving her following the nickname “Women of Viya”. This is reminiscent of Western Youtuber Pewdiepie’s ‘Bro Army’ or K-Pop boy band BTS’ ‘A.R.M.Y’.

The nickname attaches a subordinated relationship between Viya and her fans, fostering loyalty and closeness.

11. Hosting experience is preferable

Viya understands how effective celebrities are at bolstering traffic and attention, and has invited many on to her streams including: Xiao S (小S), Lin Yilun (林依轮), and Li Weijia (李维嘉). What the celebrities that Viya invites has in common with one another, is they have all had experience with hosting.

Viya’s selection of these guests is by no accident — celebrities with past hosting experience will be more natural and comfortable during the stream. Viya leverages this in order to provide more fun and engaging live streams for her audience.

viya hosting experience
Image Credit: Vantage Digital

Christine Mou

Mou explains that she is able to leverage her knowledge of the Chinese market, in order to connect the breach in cross-border e-commerce (between West and East).

Christine Mou is a fashion KOL and e-commerce live streamer with Taobao and Shopshops. She has an advantageous position in the live streaming industry, as she has knowledge of both Western and Chinese social media (experience with Youtube, and Instagram).

christine mou
Image Credit: China Influencer Marketing

In an interview with Lauren Hallanan (during Hallanan’s Chinese Influencer Marketing Podcast), Mou explains that she is able to leverage her knowledge of the Chinese market, in order to connect the breach in cross-border e-commerce.

christine mou china influencer podcast
Image Credit: China Influencer Marketing

12. Small brands benefit greatly

Mou recommends that small brands or brands with little brand recognition should definitely work with live streamers. Stay small in the beginning, and work with 1-2 very targeted KOLs. Most importantly, stay consistent.

In another interview, she explains: “Live streamers play a double-role as powerful influencers as well as peers of the customers. When Chinese consumers watch a live-stream on an e-commerce platform, they are simultaneously watching an influencer and a peer whom they like and trust. They can become extremely loyal and receptive to specific live streamers, especially those they have been following for some time and feel connected to.”

Image Credit: Mouinstyle

What we can gather from this is that when a live streamer endorses your product, it’s not just an ad. With Youtube sponsorships, viewers will see a channel promote a product, but will often ignore it or skip past it. Whereas in China, when a live streamer promotes a product, the vast majority of viewers will at least show interest.

13. When all else fails, use discounts

Live streams don’t always go as planned. Perhaps the audience isn’t as large as expected, or the sales target is not being met. Whatever it may be, a discount will always help. “In order to attract a larger customer base and drive sales, brands will surprise live-stream audiences with incentives such as limited-time discounts and lucky draws,” Mou says. “The end result is that customers find it better to shop through live-streaming shows as they are almost guaranteed to buy products with better deals.”

Brands can also take this a step further, through simple psychology. According to Economist, people like getting something extra free versus getting it cheaper. People will be more likely to buy if you give them a 25% discount on top of a 20% discount, instead of a single 40% discount. Despite both being the exact same discount.

14. Live Streaming Should Be Two-Way

Like Zhang Dayi and Austin Li, Mou emphasises the importance of audience interaction. Here is what she has to say on the matter, in regards to Western live streaming vs Chinese live streaming.

“From what I see, live-streamers on Amazon Live tend to produce highly information-focused videos with a ‘one-way only’ conversation while, in contrast, Chinese live- streamers tend to focus on creating two-way conversations — they literally interact and talk to their audience every second. To watch Amazon Live almost feels like as if you are watching an unknown Youtuber doing a product review. Not only is there no element of social influence, but also missing are the engagement and relationship-building parts. Given these circumstances, why would a customer still tune-in and trust an unknown Amazon live-streamer instead of turning to their favorite social media influencers on other channels?”

雪梨 Cherie

Cherie was ranked number 1 on Alibaba’s first 2017 ‘KOL influencer index. Cherie’s live streaming prowess matches that of Viya and Zhang Dayi — generating 5,000,000 RMB of sales during a single 10 minute live streaming session.

Cherie (Zhu Chenhui) is an e-commerce KOL and fashion live streamer with close to 9 million followers on Taobao. She is the Partner of “雪梨和钱夫人定制” Store as well as the model of the products. Cherie was ranked number 1 on Alibaba’s first 2017 ‘KOL influencer index’.

cherie kol live streamer
Image Credit: K.Sina

In 2015, she reportedly made more than 150 million RMB ($23.57 million) from her online clothing store based on Taobao — surpassing that of Chinese celebrity Fan Bingbing that year.

Cherie’s live streaming prowess is nothing to scoff at, matching that of Viya and Zhang Dayi. In September 2019, Cherie generated 5,000,000 RMB worth of sales of Malaysian bird’s nest products during a single 10 minute live streaming session.

Image Credit: Parklu

15. Present an enviable lifestyle

Cherie believes that sometimes to get your audience to want to buy, you need some degree of envy and awe.

“Your fans have to believe that you are truly living the perfect life as seen through your photos, rather than just posing.” She adds, “you are actually selling a kind of lifestyle through these photos you show them, something which satisfies a fantasy that their lives could be as good as yours when they put these clothes on.”

cherie lifestyle
Image Credit: Vantage Digital

For brands, this means that you will want your live streamer to show how your product has positively influenced their life, and how customers will be able to have the same happiness if they purchase.

16. Prepare inventory beforehand

Before a promotion/sale on a live stream, Cherie will post photos of the product on Weibo in order. From there she can make an educated guess on how many followers will buy the product. If she estimates 10,000, then she will order 8,000 first. This opens up flexibility in supply chain management, which is important to ensure the followers receive the products.

cherie weibo post
Image Credit: TMO Group

This simple act has allowed Cherie to finish with brilliant turnovers consistently every year — an astounding 1 billion RMB in 2016, which was expected to double the following year.

This works because the factory is able to react fast on demand, and the KOL is then able to sell the product quickly.

17. Make the most out of e-commerce

Cherie was a presenter at the 2017 Alibaba Investor Day. She talked about the advantages of the business model of e-commerce driven by KOLs. She explains that traditional retail methods have limited knowledge about the potential market reaction to new product launches. KOLs can gain more colour on the market reaction by first posting photos of products they plan to sell, and gauge consumers’ reactions, as indicated by the number of likes.

She demonstrates this through snapshots of past live streams and the impact they had. This was followed up with an in-house live streaming session, in which she introduced the fashion items that she was wearing, and interacted with buyers to answer their queries and thoughts. The number of likes from viewers totalled a staggering 500,000 in the 15 minute session.

cherie at alibabaday
Image Credit: Fung Global Retail & Technology

The takeaway is to use live streaming to its fullest — take advantage of what it offers. Whether it be the ability to answer questions immediately, potential to reach a massive audience from anywhere in the world, or being able gauge reactions and feedback at minimal cost.


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So whether you’re a start-up looking to kickstart your Chinese social media, a mid-sized company looking for KOL partnerships, or a multinational looking for cultural insights and an extensive Chinese marketing campaign, Vantage Digital can help. We deliver value and measurable results through quality marketing strategies and strategic thinking.

What’s more, we’re so easy to partner with. In fact, collaboration is something we truly pride ourselves on. We can help any brand get started on their journey, and be with them every step of the way. So the question is, are you ready to take your Chinese marketing to the next level?