Across China: Traditional businesses cash in on online influencers

HANGZHOU, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- A microphone, a camera, and an annular floor lamp are all the equipment Yang Han uses to rake in tens of thousands of dollars each month for clothes retailers in east China.

Yang has around 70,000 fans on the live broadcast platform of China's e-commerce heavyweight Taobao. Like many online influencers, Yang is taking her broadcast to brick-and-mortar stores.

This is an emerging trend as more Chinese small and medium-sized retailers are seeking greater publicity online at affordable prices.

In front of the camera, Yang puts on different clothes in the store, swirls, poses, and introduces the dresses to her fans.

"Unlike working in carefully decorated studios, broadcasting in the store while trying on all these products in real-time gives consumers better shopping vibes," Yang said.

Working for six hours a day, Yang raked in nearly 100,000 yuan (about 14,385 U.S. dollars) on Monday alone for a small store in Sijiqing clothing market in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province.

The number can get astounding with more popular broadcasters. On Nov. 11, China's annual Singles' Day shopping spree, the top broadcaster on Taobao helped sell 267 million yuan worth of products in two hours, according to Global E-businessmen, an Alibaba-backed media platform.

Industry giants like Alibaba have been fueling the trend. In September, Taobao invited more than 30 online broadcasters to promote a major leather market in Zhejiang, and broadcasts have been arranged for the annual shopping fair to be held on Dec. 12, according to the company.

Unlike big firms which can afford celebrity endorsement, small and medium businesses in China are increasingly promoting their products through the numerous online influencers that have emerged with the social media boom in recent years.

As of May, online influencers in China have gained some 588 million followers, presenting great marketing potential, according to a report jointly released in June by analyst iResearch and China's microblogging site Weibo.

In Sijiqing market, where some 1,300 stores ranging from six to twelve square meters each packed, hundreds of shop owners have set up spaces for live broadcast, and most of them are simply arranged with just basic equipment.

During the broadcast, audiences can tap on links appearing on their phones to buy the presented goods or come to the stores directly.

"Some are even looking for wholesale," Yang said, "Like today (Nov.26), a customer bought 10 dresses for 1,000 yuan."

Chen Juan, who hired Yang in her shop, said sales can reach 100,000 to 150,000 yuan per day with the help of the broadcast, doubling or tripling the previous revenue.

Chen got in touch with Yang through Evergreen Info Tech Co., Ltd., a local company that signs online influencers and recommends them to shop owners like Chen.

Since March, the companies have signed 12 video broadcasters, including Yang, who is a hot pick. "She can help bring in around two million yuan each month," said Shen Wei, an Evergreen operator.

For Yang, she was not satisfied with the results in Chen's store on Monday. "We only had around 30,000 viewers today," Yang said, "At peak times, the number can reach 90,000."