Challengers take aim at Taobao and WeChat, with more live-streaming

Xiaohongshu and Pin Duo Duo are among the new platforms that may give Taobao a run for its money.

L-R: Hendrik Kühl, managing director, Lion & Lion Hong Kong, Kim Leitzes, Ashley Dudarenok, Horris Tse
L-R: Hendrik Kühl, managing director, Lion & Lion Hong Kong, Kim Leitzes, Ashley Dudarenok, Horris Tse

While Alibaba and Tencent are still arguably the duopoly force shaping the Chinese social media and ecommerce landscape, up-and-coming platforms such as Pin Duo Duo (拼多多), Xiaohongshu (小红书) and Dou Yin (抖音) may unlock further marketing potential and spur a new breed of KOLs, according to panelists in a discussion about China's KOL scene Wednesday in Hong Kong. 

The fact that even the highest-paid Chinese actress and super KOL, Fanbingbing, has joined Xiaohongshu recently is reason enough to watch the platform, said Kim Leitzes, founder and CEO of Park Lu. Fan has styled herself as a skincare maven on Xiaohongshu, posting various skincare tips and product recommendations that have sparked some frenzy online. 

"With over 30 million active users, a lot of tagging, geo-based features, (backended by) ecommerce, Xiaohongshu is actively pushing to be bigger," said Leitzes. "KOLs who only had 10,000 to 20,000 followers there a year ago now have five times more. This is pretty interesting."

She further noted the ecommerce appeal of the platform, which provides a seamless experience from product discovery to reviews to purchase. "When a platform is early and new, that's when the brand should consider creating their own KOLs," she said. "We have also seen more brands tapping their own social media managers as in-house KOLs."

She added that some brands have hired social-media heads who already have their own followings and can be assets for  brands to build community engagment. 

Horris Tse, director of stratagy consultancy RollAngle, singled out Pin Duo Duo, which Tencent is an investor in, as the challenger to Alibaba-owned marketplace Taobao. "I don't comment on its business model, which is a bit like Groupon, not sure if it is sustainable," said Tse on the group sales and freebies offered by the platform. What he does like about Pin Duo Duo is its social capabilities, which allows users to share products with their friends, who can then participate in a bidding process to lower the price. He added that the Mini Programmes released by WeChat last year represent another platform with better social capabilites. 

Meanwhile, live-streaming is expected to continue to be big in the Chinese ecommerce space. The key is to start on popular platforms such as Miaopai and Yizhibo to get viewers, said Ashley Dudarenok, founder of ChoZan and Alarice. She had earlier launched her book Unlocking the World's Largest E-market: A Guide to Selling on Chinese Social Media during the event. 

"Platforms invested by Alibaba such as Weibo will lead to more commercial results with the ecommerce links," said Dudarenok.

Also, Leitzes again stressed on the advantages of KOLs, especially during livestreaming to help brands double-or triple stream at the same time. 

"KOLs will help to bring their own followers. But all live-streams should have interesting product and content, and be at least an hour ot two to allow for viewers to pop in and out," said Leitzes.

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