Live-streaming is a growing and powerful marketing tool that is particularly well-aligned with travel brands’ goals and potential in the Chinese travel market.

“Brand communication is maturing on China live broadcast. And travel is perfect for the medium with opportunities to tell visual, detailed stories from a very human perspective,” explains Jeremy Webb, Senior Vice President at Ogilvy Beijing.

Live-streaming was initially focused on gimmicks that grabbed the attention of viewers, but today more brands are using the medium making it more difficult to stand out.

Live-streaming is quickly becoming an important tool in communicating stories about travel in the Chinese market

“In the early days of live broadcast, we did lots of work with a large hotel group. Yet rather than doing a big central campaign, we trained up the staff in the hotel properties themselves to run live broadcasting on a regular ongoing basis. This kept the costs low and enabled them to tell a very granular story,” explains Webb.

Compared with a regular social media user in China, a live-streaming viewer is slightly younger and more likely to be male and affluent; however, the range of people tapping into the medium grows every day.

Live-streaming is a marketing technique particularly well-suited for the Chinese market.

“China is highly connected and mobile, for a start. Culturally, there’s more of a voyeuristic interest among consumers. There’s a willingness to sit there watching somebody do very little, and this is something I haven’t seen as strong in other markets,” explains Webb.

“There is more and more serious content on live broadcast, which for me hints at a more maturing audience.”

Like more traditional media, live-streaming is driven by the personalities of the influencers associated with a live-stream

Live-streaming is often based around a brand’s partnership with a celebrity or influencer who drives the story-line.

For example, VisitBritain partnered with Chinese influencer Ge Hu, who has more than 48.4 million fans on Weibo, to create a series of videos and live-streams of his travel experiences in London.

There are pros and cons to live-streaming in comparison to other modes of marketing in China, explains Leon Zhang, general manager of social media at MediaCom China.

Brands have a shorter window to drive massive social engagement so real-time interaction is critical and there’s no opportunity to go back and improve results. There are also stricter regulations for real-time broadcasting, so crisis presentation and rehearsal became a more critical aspect than other non-real-time marketing modes.

A major benefit is that live-streaming is naturally easier to adapt to mobile-friendly and short videos for further distribution.

The top-10 live-streaming apps in China

There are dozens of live-streaming apps and choosing which one is best suited for the influencer and audience can be a challenge for outside brands.

“When selecting live-streaming app, we usually use an audience-first approach—using audience and media research tools to understand which platforms our target audiences are mostly active on is priority. We then make media mix simulations to maximize reach and ROI and then make media selections and budget allocation. The results usually are aligned with top platforms on the market,” explains Zhang.

Webb, however, believes there is a need to look beyond the metrics associated with the platform and look at more reliable brand metrics such as surveys.

“There’s some interesting changes happening now in terms of “buy while you watch”—there’ve been quite a few cases on the live platforms on e-commerce but this has widened now significantly,” concludes Webb.


Travel Tech & Social Media