Ask any young person in China if they know about Austin Li and the answer is most likely yes. With 19 million followers on TikTok, 1.7 million on Weibo and more than 1.6 million people watching him sell cosmetics on Taobao from his Shanghai studio every evening at 8pm, Li is perhaps the most famous livestreamer right now.
Who is Austin Li?
Lipstick King: The man who sells most lipsticks in China.
Li was born in 1992 in Hunan province. After studying dance at university and selling L’Oréal cosmetics on the side, Li became a full-time livestreamer for Taobao in 2017 and his stardom has grown steadily ever since. Once, Li reportedly applied upwards of 380 lipsticks during a two-hour livestream session. Within 15 minutes, 15,000 tubes were sold. Speaking with a husky voice, Li is energetic, funny and unassuming. He’s also meticulously careful about his appearance.
"Wearing an LV bag is not as good as wearing an Armani 400 lipstick for a girl. Why? The first thing a man sees in you is the color of your lipstick, not your bag," Li said on a livestreamed show, Sina News reported.
Li once managed to sell 15,000 lipsticks in 15 minutes, he also set a Guinness World Record on September 6 by successfully putting on lipstick on four people in 30 seconds. On March 8, also called the Queen's Day in China, he closed 23,000 deals worth 3.53 million yuan ($508,668) in a five-and-a-half-hour livestream show viewed by 190,000 people.
What made him stand out?
'Haohaokan' (too pretty to look at) and 'OMG, your lips are a piece of art' may seem overdramatic, but they've become his trademark lines, showing his natural aptitude for entertainment and sales. He also seems to be impartial when it comes to recommendations, which can be hard to find in the current livestream landscape. If he’s not into a particular product, his blunt criticism of big brands helps convey the image of trustworthiness.
Finally, he seems to understand female consumers. Some have expressed a desire for fairer skin. Others want to mimic the lifestyles of the rich and famous. As a result, his broadcasts include lines like 'Girls with darker skin will look fairer if they use this shade,’ or ‘A certain celebrity uses this exact same lipstick.'
What does Austin Li's fame say about the future of livestream sales in China?
Li has proven that he can turn viewers into buyers. According to the South China Morning Post, Taobao’s livestreaming platform has a conversion rate of 32 percent, an almost unheard of rate (a 2016 study by Grapevine put the average influencer conversion rate at just 2.6 percent in the US).
Technode also recently reported that Tencent has grand plans to expand livestream business Taobao Live this year, with goals to push annual sales north of 1 billion RMB, and will provide professional training for 1,000 livestreamers across multiple platforms and product categories. Looks like we can safely say there are plenty more Austin Li's on the way.