With consumers confined to their homes, brands turned to livestreaming in China in a big way. But what does this mean for brand experience?
Live broadcast is a tool, what matters is brand experience
During the COVID pandemic Ikea opened a Tmall flagship store and tested Taobao live shopping. Chinese entrepreneur Luo Yonghao announced that he would become a shopping anchor, and major shopping malls began to think about cloud shopping. In order to promote online sales for goods from Central China’s Hubei Province, a well-known news anchor and top beauty influencer, Li Jiaqi, live-streamed the promotion of local products, successfully selling $5.7 million worth of goods in just two hours.
Various brands, shopping malls, retail outlets and home furnishing businesses that originally had their own space and brand personality, have all boarded the bandwagon to livestream to consumers.
As early as a few years ago, digital experience was a topic of research and discussion for brands. Since 2019, short video, live broadcast and live shopping have begun to slowly subvert the traditional purchase path. The arrival of the pandemic, combined with closed shopping malls and stores, has accelerated the migration speed of this as brands and businesses search for ways to be seen and heard by consumers.
In line with this principle, luxury brand Louis Vuitton launched its first live broadcast, in collaboration with Xiaohongshu, in March. The broadcast location was the brand's flagship store in Shanghai. However, the live broadcast was far from the brand's luxury positioning due to its association with a night street market stall. LV failed to express its established brand values, and it had a negative impact on the brand experience.
Many comments reflected this. People felt “the background setting of the live show was too simple and crude,” along with the live shopping being more like a “night market stall”. Some thought it “must be a goods clearance sale”.
As more and more brands turn to live broadcasting, it will eventually become standardized. The risk with this is that the consumer's attention and time will be severely diluted accordingly. When selling goods becomes the main priority of live broadcasting, the ultimate selling point to attract consumers will eventually become “the bottom price”, and the effect of live broadcasting may show a cliff-like decline.
This raises the question, how can businesses maintain lasting competitiveness, cultivate a differentiated image, create an emotional connection and reflect their brand values?
Make better use of new touchpoints
The design of brand experience touchpoints is based on consumer's cognitive behaviour journey. For consumers, every brand interaction is a brand experience, whether it is reading or watching the content created by the brand, asking questions of the brand, or trying to buy products and services from the brand. Generally speaking, consumers usually have to interact more than 20 times with different brand touchpoints to make purchases at the right time.
The cognitive behaviour journey is comprised of a series of links: from consumers knowing the brand to remembering it, to having the opportunity to choose products, to understanding and using the brand, to establishing trust and an emotional connection with the brand and finally to speaking for the brand spontaneously.
In the past, brand touchpoints were built based on these links. They were linear in nature, with fixed routines and relatively simple purchase channels.
Today, these links comprised of human cognitive characteristics still exist, but the touchpoints on each link are constantly evolving and innovating. The order of occurrence of the links and the cognitive depth that the brand can achieve have changed accordingly. For example, brands initially could only launch short video ads on the platform of Douyin. The platform then added a livestream feature followed by a live shopping feature, which directly connected consumers from knowing a brand, to purchasing the brand, thereby minimising the intermediate links.
Brands that explore these new platforms and touchpoints, bringing new shortcuts to better connect the target audience, show an open attitude and a willingness to lead the trend.
Ways to enhance brand experience innovation
1. Step into the world of your target and understand the significance of the new contact medium in their lives so as to conduct in-depth demand communication.
For example, Saturnbird (三顿半), an emerging coffee brand, did not reach out to high-traffic platforms such as Douyin or WeChat, but instead, a specialized food community called Xiachufang to discuss coffee with foodie consumers, to let them try prototype product and to obtain feedback.
Xiachufang is a community that gathers culinary talents and enthusiasts to share inspiration and experiences about food. It is quite common to find coffee enthusiasts here. Saturnbird, while getting inspiration for the product, also harvested seed users—those willing to be pioneers who enjoy testing and sharing helpful suggestions. Taking the creation of better coffee as a starting point, Saturnbird chose this precise, high-viscosity strategy, which laid a foundation for the masses and helped its products and brands to grow optimally.
2. The media platform is a tool for building a brand experience; its characteristics and gameplay can help convey the brand's value information.
Although the functions provided by the platform are becoming similar, the crowds they gather are very different. For example, "Xiachufang" connects foodies, Xiaohongshu gathers urbanites who pursue a better life, Douyin was originally known for make-up skill sharing, and Kuaishou as a down-to-earth platform where one can find a life in Tier 5, or even lower, cities. For brands, the most important thing is to find and connect with people who resonate with the brand, create interactive activities and platforms that can provide different tools to enhance the effectiveness of brand campaigns.
In the past year, Perfect Diary, the beauty brand, has been cultivating different contacts from the WeChat ecosystem, such as WeChat groups and small program malls to be closer to fans. This allows the brand to interact with consumers more frequently, helping product iteration, leading to more efficient conversion between communication and purchase.
3. Based on the principle of connecting users and communicating brand value, build a brand experience strategy and refine your contact design.
Building brand touchpoints creates memory points for users. When these memory points are connected in a line it not only becomes an emotional bond between consumers and brands, but also an opportunity for brands to communicate with consumers. Brands can take this opportunity to optimize products.
For example, the WeChat experience officer applet created by Huaxizi can obtain user opinions and improve products for the brand. It can also increase the emotional connection with the user, whilst increasing the sense of participation and achievement for the user fans.
In this era of two-way selection and communication, the consumer’s cognitive action process is no longer linear. Instead of going to all touchpoints, brands need to be able to identify those that can leverage a consumer cognition shortcut and design differentiated but relevant experiences around it. In doing so they will be able to connect existing, as well as potential consumers, through distinctive brand values.
Mengxi Jiang is design strategy lead with Quantum China.