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Livestreaming making major waves in Europe
2020-12-22 
A vendor sorts out festival goods at a store in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, on Thursday. [Photo by QIAN XUSHENG/FOR CHINA DAILY]

As a sales representative of home furnishings brand Conforama in France, Celine Mila should be excited about the busiest time of the year during the Black Friday discount bonanza.

But as the country entered into a fresh round of closedowns due to resurging COVID-19 cases, she has resorted to new ways to greet customers and hopefully pump up sales.

Black Friday, the United States import that falls on the Friday after Thanksgiving in late November, has since been embraced by European retailers as the quasi-official beginning of the Christmas shopping season. It was delayed this year due to COVID-19 by a week in France, to Dec 4.

For the first time in her life, Mila made her livestreaming debut via AliExpress, a cross-border e-commerce platform based in China, where she promoted everything from mobile phones and Bluetooth speakers to smartwatches.

The one-hour session alone attracted some 20,000 viewers, according to company data, raking in nearly $3,000 in sales.

The latest wave of pandemic infections sweeping across many European countries further exacerbated the offline retail sector. The French government, for instance, recently ordered the shuttering of restaurants, bookstores and other "nonessential" businesses and is only keeping supermarkets, electronics chains and online retailers operational as consumers shelter in their homes.

The situation is driving some retailers to try out new sales strategies like livestreaming, which enables vendors to market goods via real-time conversations with prospective buyers via handsets and laptops, and also supports simultaneous mobile transactions.

"I've heard that this format is very popular in China. In France, livestreaming is still at an infancy stage," said a salesman at the Boss flagship store, who only provided the name Volodia, and premiered in a livestreaming session on AliExpress recently. "But I am sure people here are going to love it, as it's so interactive and engaging."

He debuted in front of the camera during his shop's Black Friday campaign, during which he marketed lipsticks, eye shadow palettes and other cosmetics.

Originating from China's bustling digital media landscape, livestreaming has moved quickly from the periphery to the mainstream, with businesses engaging with customers in smartphone-based broadcast shows in which they market products and often offer steep discounts.

This year's Black Friday campaign saw an army of leading brands jumping on the livestreaming bandwagon, such as Galeries Lafayette and Longchamp. While over 100,000 views have been garnered in total, a number currently incomparable to the massive business in China, about 80 percent of hosts expressed their intention of long-term cooperation with AliExpress, the company said.

The huge opportunities and development space of overseas live broadcasting have attracted more and more domestic and foreign online celebrities, talent and content creators to test the waters. According to data from AliExpress, the number of anchors during the Nov 11 shopping extravaganza jumped five times year-on-year, and the number of hosts promoting products during the Black Friday blitz increased by 28 times.

"In the past year, our new users have increased by more than 50 percent, mainly due to new user acquisition methods of social and online and offline integration such as livestreaming," said Wang Mingqiang, general manager of AliExpress.

"Our socialization strategy has been welcomed by users in many overseas countries. Content creators are playing an increasingly important role in promoting retail transformation and e-commerce success."

Amateurs-turned influencers on AliExpress began springing up as the site had some 150 million buyers by the end of last year. The platform has thus taken action, launching a dedicated initiative this year called AliExpress Connect to help influencers sell via the marketplace.

Under the program, influencers and those who want to launch an influencer career can access collaboration opportunities, both with Ali-Express and with brands that are selling through the platform. In return, they will be rewarded for creating original content that helps brands sell their products and brings new customers to sellers.

The goal is to empower over 100,000 content creators worldwide over the course of the coming year to "bring new job opportunities and help them generate new income streams", Wang said.

In addition to live broadcasts, short videos are also showing a rapid upward trend. According to data from AliExpress, the number of short videos posted during the Black Friday holiday increased 130 percent compared with last year. The platform said it has helped connect 700 short video experts globally with suitable merchants.

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