Comeback king: China’s disgraced live-streaming ‘sales king’ sells in 12 hours what a Hong Kong mall sells in 12 months

Iris Deng
·3-min read

China’s disgraced “king of live-streaming sales” made a big comeback on Saturday when he sold more than US$300 million worth of goods in a single show lasting 12 hours, a record for streaming platform Kuaishou, showcasing the market potential of live-streaming e-commerce after growing in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kuaishou is Xinba’s live-streaming platform of choice and China’s second-most popular short-video site after ByteDance’s Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. The session attracted four million viewers at its peak, and Xinba sold more than 16 million items across categories as diverse as shampoo and smartphones, according to social media data provider Bihu Kankan. Total gross merchandise volume (GMV) topped 2 billion yuan (US$305.7 million). Kuaishou did not officially publish the figure for the session, and sales numbers are neither audited nor count for returns and refunds.

The sales numbers are staggering for a host mired in controversy just a few months ago. In this single session, Xinba pulled in more money than Times Square shopping centre in Causeway Bay, one of the most high-profile locations for luxury goods in Hong Kong, made in all of 2020.

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Saturday’s show surpassed Xinba’s previous record of selling 1.45 billion yuan worth of products in a session last November, and it marks the biggest live-streaming sales session that Kuaishou has hosted.

This was also Xinba’s first show in nearly three months, after he came under fire late last year when Guangzhou’s market watchdog found that he had promoted fake bird’s nest – an expensive Chinese delicacy – made of sugar and water.

The regulator fined Xinba 900,000 yuan, and Kuaishou blocked the host in December from live-streaming for 60 days. Xinba issued an apology and offered buyers compensation up to three times the purchase amount, as required by the country’s consumer rights law.

Live-streaming e-commerce has become a highly competitive market in China, where the biggest online platforms and brands have piled in to offer consumers a more interactive online shopping experience, which has become increasingly important as more people stay home amid the pandemic.

Meet Xinba, the Chinese billionaire ‘sales king’ of Kuaishou who donated US$21 million to fight coronavirus in Wuhan

In 2020, KPMG estimated China’s live-streaming e-commerce industry was worth about 1 trillion yuan (US$152.8 billion) – a value primarily shared among three players. Taobao Live – from China’s largest e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding, the owner of the South China Morning Post – still accounts for about half of the market, according to Qianzhan Industry Research Institute. Kuaishou and its rival Douyin share the bulk of the other half.

For Kuaishou, top influencers like Xinba have helped to turn viewers into buyers, but the company is now looking to nurture smaller influencers to avoid an over-reliance on a small group of hosts. Kuaishou’s total e-commerce GMV ballooned from 59.6 billion yuan in 2019 to 381.2 billion yuan the following year, according to the company’s financial report released last week.

However, the Chinese government has recently increased scrutiny of the country’s short-video and live-streaming platforms, which could slow growth in the future. In March, the State Administration for Market Regulation unveiled new regulations that would treat social networks and live-streaming platforms the same as e-commerce platforms, which may increase their operating expenses.

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