The Gap Between Rural And Urban China Is Narrowing Thanks To Live Streaming

摘要: What's the most popular concept in the Chinese internet world right now? What benefits can be brought by combining agriculture and live streaming? What impact can live streaming have on China's agriculture industry and even the rural China's role in China's modernization?

(Chinese Version)


Last year, Ph.D X’s article titled “Harsh Reality of Chinese Grassroots: Chinese Countryside Seen from a Video App” was widely circulated on the internet, revealing the status quo of Chinese internet users in countryside through a Chinese short video app Kuaishou. Although the article was soon deleted through Kuaishou’s public relations maneuver, it already left people the impression towards countryside internet users of being crude, vulgar and uncouth.

There is no denying that Ph.D X’s article did reveal the status quo of many countryside internet users, who are obsessed with dirty jokes and self-injury videos and drastically different from urban internet users. However, it didn’t tell the whole truth. In fact, they actually only account for a tiny proportion of Chinese internet users in countryside. With the spread of 4G and mobile internet, an even bigger internet plus revolution is unfolding in Chinese countryside. To some degree, the gap between rural and urban China is also narrowing thanks to this wave of mobile internet.

Agriculture plus live streaming

As a matter of fact, while Kuaishou celebrities are making weird gestures on the field to amuse the audience, streaming platforms have already eyed on countryside, a vast market seldom noticed by the market.

Last May, Chinese popular model and actor Liu Yan teamed up with Alibaba’s groupon platform juhuasuan.com and sold over 20,000 agricultural products within an hour through streaming. However, this is not a single case. As a matter of fact, such cases were often seen in the past year: Xiushan County of Chongqing sold over 40,000 chemical-free eggs within five seconds, a streamer showed the audience how a Zhanjiang farmer raised sandworms and help him raise over RMB 200,000 within three minutes; on March, 5th, Shannxi girl Zhou Sha stream broadcasted apples grown up in Liquan County via Momo and received over one hundred orders within an hour…

A friend of mine who’s familiar with the purchase of agricultural products revealed that the easiest way to receive large orders was to make use of the internet. Whether through C2C, B2C or live streaming platforms. Anyhow, it’s a lot easier than going to distributors door to door.

Since last year, live streaming has also become first marketing choice for fruit and vegetable growers.

Compared to beauty streamers, who can easily attract nearly half a million viewers, however, these fruit and vegetable growers’ performance is far from satisfactory. Although Zhou Sha was recommended by Momo on the homepage, she still didn’t win a large audience. However, the conversion rate is surprisingly high and oftentimes she would be out of stock soon after she started streaming. Although no authoritative organization has done any survey, some fruit farmer guessed that the conversion rate was roughly around 5 per cent.

If you’ve ever watch such streaming, you would think a conversion rate of 5 per cent is already amazingly high. However, everything has its reason, including agriculture streaming.

Above all, you can access to users directly via live streaming. Frankly speaking, live streaming is like a social networking form. For example, if a streamer is selling kiwifruit but you want to eat pork stewed in soy sauce, you are certainly not going to enter the streaming room. However, this doesn’t prevent other users who want to eat kiwi fruit from entering the streaming room, buy some products the streamer is selling and have a try.

As of June, 2016, China has nearly 325 million internet streaming users. Therefore, it’s not at all difficult to sell some products to the vast number of streaming users.

Besides, live streaming itself is an important process to add value to agriculture products. How can you convince others that your apple is better than others? Very simple. You can pick it from apple trees in your own field and compared it with others. Through live streaming, you can directly show the audience the real grow-up environment and the original appearance of your agricultural products. Streamers can not only explain the grow-up process to the audience, but even receive order, weigh and deliver products on-site, all of which can significantly improve the value of agriculture products.

At the same time, live streaming resolves the trust issue, since everything is showed and conducted live. Worried about food safety, many people will pay high attention to the source of agricultural products. Through live streaming, you can show the true condition of your products more intuitively, which may actually be more trustworthy than ads. After all, the audience can tell exactly where the agriculture foods grow up and what’s their original quality through live streaming.

More importantly, people are more likely to follow the trend when they purchase products through live streaming. When lots of people are watching the streaming and purchasing the products, other users will also be encouraged to buy some and give it a try.

The gap between rural and urban China is narrowing via live streaming

As a matter of fact, internet plus can not only raise income for people in countryside. More importantly, it is reducing the gap between rural and urban China. Although it won’t solve the problem fundamentally, it can at least make the gap less obvious.

Cities are gathering places of poker-faced people who enjoy the convenience of urban life but also have to bear the fast-paced life. People living in countryside, however, don’t know and understand what’s happening in cities.

For a long time, Chinese farmers have been eager to participate in the modernization of China and share the fruit of progress. However, except from the annual government No.1 document from the central government, they’ve seldom appeared in the mainstream. The gap between rural and urban China only intensifies the eagerness of people living in countryside to participate in modernization. The internet, however, provides the best gateway.

Through mobile internet, they can stream their lives on the field. After all, people living in cities have been curious of rural lives. All of a sudden, they can become experts in fruit, vegetable and husbandry, and win proper respect from people living in cities and satisfy their vanity a little bit.

At the same time, live streaming gives farmers the opportunity to establish their own brands. For a long time, Chinese agriculture products don't have brands. However, as trust is gradually established via live streaming, buyers will feel assured to buy your products. As time goes by, your products will be recognized by consumers and therefore you can actually build a brand. In this process, agricultural production is upgraded to agricultural marketing.

From another perspective, competition in the Chinese mobile internet market has entered the latter half of the game. To stand out, a streaming platform has to keep users’ freshness through launching new functions and channels constantly. A live streaming platforms is like a stage, while streamers are more like contents. To some degree, they are interdependent.

On the one hand, live streaming platforms can increase their value through social networking; on the other hand, they can increase freshness through streamers in countryside. In fact, there has already been a trend to to combine live streaming and agriculture.

Last May, Huajiao TV launched a couple of new channels, including streaming plus agriculture, streaming plus travelling, streaming plus charity, etc. to keep users’ freshness. YY has also opened several agriculture streaming rooms, including China Agriculture Technique Exchange, Basket Agriculture, Modern Agriculture, Billion Agriculture, etc. Momo even carried out an “Entertainment Farmers Project” to nurture farmers into internet celebrities.

With the rise of internet plus e-commerce, Chinese e-commerce platforms such as Tmall and Suning have already launched streaming services. Female e-commerce platform VIP.com has also launched its own streaming service focused on the idea of “shopping guide”. JD is also expected to launch streaming channel soon. The thing about streaming is that it not only shows the products’ features and advantages, but also the entire production process.

Therefore, it is likely that a complete industry chain of agricultural products can be established based on streaming and that together they might contribute to huge interests, both public and business, and create significant social benefits.

The forgotten countryside

According to the sixth nationwide census, China has a rural population of 674 million. Imagine the huge value out there.

If we really think about it, when we focus all our attention on first and second-tier cities, we’ve forgotten 674 million internet users in countryside. In the past, we seldom paid attention to their lives; today, however, they’ve also become eager to enjoy the benefit of the internet.

YY is one of the earliest live streaming giants in China. As the streaming markets grows mature, YY remains one of the major live streaming platforms. In 2016, the total revenue volume reached around RMB 15 billion, among which YY accounted for 50 per cent (RMB 8 billion).

“At present, there’s only a handful of influential social networking apps in China, including WeChat, QQ, Momo. There are no other apps as influential. In this case, I believe the key to winning users in the future is to combine live streaming and social networking together,” Chen Zhou, CEO of YY Entertainment, told TMTpost.

Another company that makes a fortune via streaming is Momo. According to its latest financial report, Momo’s net profit in Q4, 2016 reached $91.5 million, while that figure was only $11.8 million in 2015. More specifically, streaming contributes to 79.15 per cent of Momo’s total revenue.

“Momo has always been an open and idealist social networking platform. Functions don’t matter that much on Momo, while diversified content consumption is more important,” Tang Yan, CEO of Momo Technology, once said in an interview.

The more I watch agriculture streaming, the more I disagree with Ph.D X’s observation that the internet world of rural and urban internet users are completely separate. On the contrary, they are actually quite complementary and reflect the two sides of the same world, to be accurate.

Suppose we compare rural and urban China to two circles: although most resources and power are gathered in the urban China circle, it doesn’t mean that the rural China circle doesn’t have any chance. In fact, the border between these two circles are getting increasingly indistinct, and resources have already started to be transferred from urban to rural China circle.

Still, live streaming can’t solve the long-standing problem of agriculture e-commerce, such as logistics. In fact, live streaming should be regarded more as a rising marketing tool than the magic key to standing out in the wave of “internet plus agriculture”. After all, the influence of rural celebrities is limited. They can’t raise tens of millions of RMB financing, can’t become the cosset of media and can’t benefit much from the online celebrity economy. However, it’s their natural right for them to play a role in this era. Thankfully, they’ve been able to exercise their right via live streaming.

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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @Ma Youkong, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]

Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.

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