Chinese Influencers Make Millions of Dollars Through Online Promotional Campaigns: Why Chinese Consumers are Falling for the Same Old Tricks

Chinese Internet celebrity Li Jiaqi selling lipsticks (source: wap.jd-tv.com)

How much money can one Internet influencer make from live-streaming? For the trending top-level Internet celebrity Li Jiaqi, it could be around millions of dollars per day.

On the Chinese Singles’ Day shopping festival, Li greeted his fans and broadcasted a marathon-style shopping livestream. Through his own social media platforms, Li promoted make-up and cosmetics, generating millions, if not hundreds-of-millions in sales during the one-day event.

There is no doubt that Li Jiaqi is one of the best merchandise promotion ambassadors in China. He has millions of fans, a proven record of success, and substantial financial compensation, all exhibiting his extraordinary ability in the e-commerce industry. According to reports from South China Morning Post, Li managed to sell 15,000 lipsticks in 5 minutes and made more than 10 million yuan annually due to the sales generated through live-streaming promotions.

According to Alibaba’s official statement, Li Jiaqi’s show was watched by 36 million people and generated more than 1 billion yuan for the e-commerce platform.

During another livestream promotion, an embarrassing incident got Li a lot of attention. While trying to sell a non-stick cooking pan to his viewers, Li realized that everything he cooked actually stuck to the pan. For a livestream host, this could not be more embarrassing.

But jokes aside, the non-stick pan on Li’s show revealed greater problems that exist within the e-commerce industry. While top-level hosts are making 10 million dollars per year, the quality of the products on their shows is often substandard. Yet many of Li Jiaqi’s fans, seem to blindly trust the host on their recommendations.

It is not difficult for anyone to tell that Li’s role in today’s world of e-commerce has dramatically changed in recent years. With professional teams dealing with operations, content, and scheduling, Li Jiaqi serves as more of a key influencer with clear targets of conducting promotions for products and brands in need. Li lives on commissions, paid by advertisers just like many other traditional advertising agencies and media outlets.

Li Jiaqi and the e-commerce live-streaming promotions remind people of a notorious form of sales: TV shopping advertisement.

The children of today, might not be able to recall the TV ads that aired between TV shows in the old days. They were selling weight-loss drugs, magical mops, and miraculous fitness machines that guaranteed weight loss in a short period of time. None of these products seemed reliable at all, but a large number of people fell into the trap regardless. Just like consumers today, they picked up their phones, called the number on the screen, realizing that they were about to purchase something that they would surely regret weeks later.

While it took a little while for consumers and government authorities in China to put on more vigorous regulations on the wild TV ads, these products found a new avenue by shifting onto the new e-commerce platforms. With little regulation and accountability, the old misleading advertisements are back at it again, complete with ‘non-stick pans’ that malfunction during a live-streaming event.

The e-commerce livestream promotions are not so different from the traditional TV shopping ads. They use a combination of visual and audio impact to convince potential buyers to purchase their products. With no clear rules for after-sale services, or return and refund policies, online shopping and TV ads failed to ensure the product quality of items sold on their platforms.

It is sad to see that while many have experienced the hoax of TV advertisements back in the day, they continue to fall into the same traps over and over on online platforms. From TV hosts to Internet celebrities, the ways that businesses conduct promotional campaigns are evolving alongside the technological changes, but at the end of the day, the lack of accountability and quality controls remain and that is something modern-day technology has yet to find a good solution for.