Enter the dragon: Australian social media influencers eye China’s booming livestreaming market

Key Points
  • Mandarin-speaking Australian social media influencers are eyeing business opportunities in Chinese e-commerce.
  • Over 10 million people worked various jobs related to livestreaming in China by the end of 2021.
  • Expert says Australia lags behind China in e-commerce development.
In 2019, Kim Kardashian joined a top Chinese livestreamer, Viya, to promote her perfume brand in China. A in The New York Times stated they ended up selling 15,000 bottles in a few minutes.
In simple words, livestreaming on e-commerce platforms is like an ‘online sales show’ where big bucks can be made within minutes without setting up a brick-and-mortar shop.
A lot like shopping channels on TV that became household names many years ago, livestreaming sessions offer shoppers the opportunity to interact with the salesperson or influencers live, who in turn thrive on their social media following.

Over the past few years, it has become quite the rage in China and also amongst this shopping-savvy community fanned across the world.

APTOPIX Virus Outbreak China Livestreaming

A Beijing clothing shop owner displays dresses for her online clients during a livestreaming sale. Source: AP / Andy Wong

Australian social media influencers seem to be getting increasingly attracted to this emerging sales channel, as evident by the first Australian Influencer Self-Promotion Conference that was held in July in Sydney.

Over 30 Mandarin-speaking Australian internet celebrities participated in the conference.
Steven Greig is one of them.

He is not excited about recalling his first experience selling Australian wine via live streaming in 2019 in Chatswood, Sydney.


Steven Greig sells products via his livestreaming cooking sessions. Credit: Steven Greig

“The sales were okay, but not as good as those live streamers in China,” says Mr Greig, who has over 170,000 followers on Redbook, a Chinese lifestyle social media platform.

Earlier this year, the 55-year-old made his way to China to pursue his career as a livestreaming salesperson.

He believes that China’s booming e-commerce will offer a wealth of opportunities for expats like him who are fluent in Mandarin.

I’m going to take a chance here [in China].

Steven Greig, Australian social media influencer


To capitalise on the livestreaming opportunity, Steven Greig has shifted base to China. Credit: Steven Greig

There are plenty of opportunities in China for expats who speak Chinese, and have a fanbase.

Steve Greig

Sales on China’s livestreaming e-commerce platforms surpassed $680 billion in 2022 and are expected to exceed $980 billion this year, according to Chinese national media outlet, People.cn.
Data from China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security indicates that by the end of 2021, over 10 million people worked in various jobs related to these ‘online sales shows’ like packing, customer service, logistics etc.
Out of these, 1.234 million were the ones presenting these shows, i.e. the actual livestreamers or salespersons like Mr Greig.
Online sales shows in Australia?
Mr Greig is not the only Australian influencer who speaks Mandarin and has his eyes set on the Chinese market.
Western Australia-born James Clarke has around 300,000 followers collectively on several Chinese social media outlets.
In a livestreaming sales show in May, after China officially reopened for business to the world, Mr Clarke sold $200,000-worth of Western Australian tourism products in just one hour.

This show was done in partnership with Tourism WA and a Chinese travel website.

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In May, James Clarke sold Western Australia tourism products to Chinese customers via livestreaming. Seen here posing with a quokka in Rottnest Island, near Perth. Credit: James Clarke

“Chinese tourists will spend far more than that when they arrive in Perth, $200,000 is just the beginning,” he says.

He believes that for some Australians who don’t know much about online livestreaming sales, his experience can make them realise that there is a market for them here too.

“Many Australian companies know little about the livestreaming economy in China,” he says.

They have no idea that the sales that these top livestreamers make in an hour, or even in a matter of minutes, can be mind-blowing.

James Clarke, Australian social media influencer

Seven-figure sales in 12 hours
For China’s top livestreaming influencers, expanding their sales volume into international markets has been an area of continuous exploration.
Access, a brand management company based in Sydney, established a new sales platform this year.
Called ‘Celebrity Streamers’, it aims to bring China’s leading influencers to Australia for livestreaming sales shows.
In August, a Chinese livestreaming influencer, Sherry Xu, who has almost 10 million followers on Chinese social video platform Kuaishou, visited Sydney in partnership with Access.

Her 12-hour livestream resulted in nearly $1.25 million in sales, according to Kirsty McRae, marketing and sales consultant with Access.

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Popular Chinese influencer Sherry Xu hosted a livestreaming sales show during her visit to Sydney earlier this year. Credit: Access

She is the Kim Kardashian of live commerce and incredibly good at leveraging this emerging sales channel.

Kirsty McRae, Access

“That sort of seven-figure result is a real wake-up call for anyone who is sceptical about live commerce as a genuine opportunity for international brands,” she adds.
Cheaper choice for overseas customers
The booming e-commerce market in China also attracts overseas Chinese influencers to get a slice of the pie.
Xiaoqing Wang moved to Melbourne from China in 2008.
By sharing videos of her life in Australia, she has amassed nearly 70,000 followers on Kuaishou.

Clinching the opportunity, Ms Wang started a livestreaming business earlier this year.

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Chinese influencer Xiaoqing Wang primarily sells Australian healthcare products via livestreaming from her Melbourne home. Credit: SBS Chinese

The 65-year-old began selling some Australian products which are popular amongst Chinese consumers via live streaming, like milk powder, honey and healthcare products.

Ms Wang tells SBS Chinese that the items she sells are shipped from Australian retailer Chemist Warehouse’s bonded warehouse in China, so consumers don’t have to wait for months for their delivery to arrive.
“It is also cheaper than buying from a retail store in Australia and then shipping it to China,” she says.
Australia’s lagging e-commerce market
Compared with China, Australia “lags behind in e-commerce development”, an expert says.
Heling Shi, an associate professor in Monash University’s Department of Economics elaborates.

Prof Shi explains that one of the reasons behind this is the different consumption habits between Australian and Chinese people.

Black Friday sales

Australian consumers are more inclined to shop in physical stores, says Monash University’s economics professor. Source: AAP

Australian consumers are more inclined to make purchases in physical stores or to have firsthand experiences before buying something.

Prof Heling Shi, Monash University

“In addition, shipping is slow in Australia [compared to China] and consumers have to wait several days to receive their packages, so some prefer physical one-stop shopping,” he tells SBS Chinese.

Although livestreaming sales are “uncommon” and “less developed” in Australia, Prof Shi sees it as an “effective” way to take Australian products to China.

China is indeed a hotbed for livestreaming e-commerce. There is significant potential in promoting Australian products to China via livestreaming.

Prof Shi

However, he believes that the livestreaming economy will have a “negligible” impact on the Australian economy as a whole because the products that are hot sellers in Chinese online sales shows, such as healthcare products and snacks, only account for a small share of Australia’s exports.

“It’s probably far more beneficial to Chinese consumers than it is to the Australian economy,” he adds.


James Clarke (second from left) won the inaugural Australian Influencer Self-Promotion Conference in Sydney earlier his year. Credit: James Clarke

Evolving livestreaming sales

At the conference in Sydney, Mr Clarke came out on top with his slight Beijing-accented Mandarin.
As the winner of the contest, he will receive e-commerce partnership opportunities as well as additional traffic support from multiple Chinese platforms.
In addition to promoting Australian products in the Chinese market, Mr Clarke says he is also looking forward to bringing Chinese products to Australia.

“China’s electric vehicles are going to be sold in Australia, and probably I will play a reverse role in the middle. Who knows,” he wonders.

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