Livestreaming opening new e-commerce vistas for Malaysian products in China

PHOTO: Twitter/sawt_co

Selling 300,000 yuan (S$58,000) worth of durian products in 10 minutes was beyond the wildest dreams of Leron Yee Poh Soon, co-founder of Malaysian durian producer DKing. But that dream materialized last week, thanks to Chinese internet celebrities.

As marketing via livestreaming becomes the "new normal" in China's e-commerce playfield, influencers, better known as "Key Opinion Leaders" in Chinese, are extending tentacles to promote overseas merchandise through heartfelt engagements with social media followers.

"They (KOLs) are professional and … have such trustworthy appearances that you are more than willing to allow them to promote products on your behalf," said Yee, who exports A-level Musang King durians to China. "Such staggering speed is only possible in China."

Data from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, owner of the nation's top online shopping site, echoed Yee's sentiment. During a weeklong campaign promoting Malaysian local produce that ended on Sunday, eight top-tier influencers, who regularly host livestreaming shows via Alibaba's Taobao platform, helped facilitate goods sales of 1 million yuan in just three seconds and helped one merchant sell 80,000 bottles of bird's nest in just five minutes, among other incredible feats.

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Boosted by online word-of-mouth, Chinese shoppers are buying three times as much of Malaysian products like cookies, white coffee, durian fruits and snacks, as well as teh tarik-a local beverage, Alibaba said. Meanwhile, procurement from Chinese businesses last week saw an eleven-fold growth from earlier, though no details were disclosed.

Darell Leiking, minister of international trade and industry of Malaysia, said Malaysia Week has ridden the global marketing wave of influencers and e-commerce, with small and medium-sized enterprises and the tourism industry reaping the benefits.

"I would like to extend my particular gratitude to the team at … Taobao Livestream," Leiking said. "These KOLs are able to guide our consumers on the know-how of the products sold during Malaysia Week 2019 … This approach proves to be beneficial to consumers."

The campaign is the fruit of an initiative proposed by Alibaba called electronic World Trade Platform. It sank its first roots in Malaysia, where a string of commercial facilities, from e-commerce infrastructure, logistics, financial technology to cloud computing, are being upgraded and even revolutionized.

"Livestreaming is a medium that puts fans and products directly in touch, making for more genuine experiences," said a Taobao host named Wei Ya, who has over 6 million followers and is seen as a topnotch internet influencer in the lifestyle sector.

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"I myself and my team normally spend at least one month carefully sorting and doing research on the products to promote to my followers," she said. "A number of factors like the authenticity of the experience, the trust we have built up through our professional work and the urge for instant gratification among younger consumers have helped boost sales."

Taobao is taking one step further by bridging Malaysian online influencers with their Chinese peers and seeing how that mixture plays out.

Malaysian online influencer Jia Ling, who is known under the avatar "Southeast Asian Darling" on Taobao, debuted in a 100-minute broadcast last week with her Chinese counterpart, "Pink Grandpa", for promoting nine Malaysian local products.

"I think it plays out quite well-the Chinese host is so eloquent and knows how to pamper the audience," said the 23-year-old host, who works full-time as an event manager in Malaysia. "As audiences search for more intimacy from brands, live content has an authenticity that can't be duplicated."