From 10 million to 11 hundred million RMB: Ctrip’s livestream sales

On the 29th of July, Ctrip published ”2020 Ctrip BOSS live stream data report” reviewing its live streaming performance for the first half of the year.

01: From 10 million to 11 hundred million RMB

On the 3rd of March 2020, Ctrip launched ‘the travel industry v shaped revival plan’ in order to revive the tourism industry post lockdown. By the end of march, Hainan’s government administration and Sanya’s luxury Atlantis Hotel (亚特兰蒂斯酒店) planned to welcome travellers back to the region. To do so, Ctrip’s suggested to focus on utilising live streaming as a medium to recommend the hotel to users. Ctrip’s proposal led to the first BOSS livestream event involving a live tour of one of the hotel’s underwater suites.

This first live stream for the travel industry had remarkable results with ten million RMB of GMV within the first hour. This enabled the Atlantis hotel to be fully booked for the following three months.

Soon after, Ctrip transformed the BOSS event into their official live streaming brand and continued to see an amazing growth. From March to June, Ctrip ran a total 18 live streams with over 600 hotels which resulted in a total GMV passing the 7 hundred million RMB threshold. At the same time, this allowed closed to 1 billion RMB of savings for users.

Recently, BOSS live streaming has planned to expand its coverage globally for Chinese outbound travellers. With themes ranging from how to handle an emergency abroad to standard live streams sales, BOSS live streaming has become the world’s most important travel and tourism livestream platform. Up to mid-June, Ctrip has generated 11 hundred million RMB of sales with its new streaming platform. 

02: Attracting and retaining users

Since the start of the pandemic, offline businesses have turned to online mediums to support their operations. While live streaming platforms continuously demonstrated their ability to convert viewers into customers, hotels, cruises and OTAs also started using online streaming. Along with a continuous growth of users, attracting and retaining live stream viewers has become the main focus point.

Where does this traffic come from?

Except Ctrip’s in house app which was used to host its live streaming events, they also built a WeChat mini-program.  Their main requirements for choosing a secondary medium was that it had to be convenient for quickly starting a live stream and had strong potential for driving traffic to their stream. WeChat became the obvious choice due to the high number of subscribers on their WeChat account.

Regarding conversion, the WeChat mini program has proven to be effective in promoting sales and redirecting users to Ctrip’s main mini program. Not only has this been effective for promotion and conversion, it has also proved to be very transparent with a ‘what you see is what you get’ feeling for viewers. Conversion has also been effective due the wide availability of discounts promoted during the live stream. Regarding payments, book now pay later and the availability of Wechat pay have also been important to convert viewers. This was also supported by a private traffic pool which users naturally became followers of Ctrip’s BOSS livestreaming.

What Kind of content?

Ctrip’s two core principles for livestreaming are that the content has to be ‘new and fresh’ as well as being ‘loud’.

Since Boss’s initial launch on March 23rd, a live streaming session has been held every Wednesday at 8pm by James Liang, co-founder of Ctrip. This regular schedule has made it easier for users to integrate it to their weekly habits. In terms of new and freshness, James has 20 Cosplay identities linked to China’s culture which he uses during live streams. The show can also drastically shift from Sichuan opera to rap among other themes. His cosplay identities are so popular that it has become a topic of conversation among users.

Except for James’s Cosplay identities, each livestream undergoes thorough planning. Content of the livestreams include special guest appearances, performances as well as mystery prizes. Mystery prizes often include free hotel stays. Special guests can include Hotel owners or local government bodies who join the stream to hold talks with Ctrip’s Co-founder.

Regarding their second principle of being ‘loud’, advertisements for hotels are made evident through strongly emphasising accommodation prices and discounts ranging from 40 to 80%. This happens during the whole livestream in order to hype up demand from viewers and enhance conversion. This type of discounting has proven to be extremely important as consumers are extremely sensitive to pricing post pandemic. For example, Atlantis promoted rooms via the live stream for as a little as 1000 RMB per night.

By June 26th, content regarding weekend trips and trips to neighbouring destinations have also been integrated to the live stream shows as the domestic tourism industry recovers. Having surpassed 40livestreams, James Liang has become a core part of BOSS’s identity. Based on the current trends in China, Ctrip’s international livestreams are forecasted to first feature accommodation providers in Asia before moving onto the rest of the world.

3: Ctrip’s BOSS live streaming reasoning

Being part of the tourism industry recovery

Post lockdown, the travel industry needed urgent assistance. Since March, James Liang has not missed one live stream to the extent that the program has become somewhat of a weekly event for some users. The question is: was this just all about increasing sales? Except the flash sales sessions, a more important aspect is the goal to try and recover the travel industry by encouraging consumers to travel more. As James is such a popular figure in China, his new role in representing the travel industry has proven to give faith to consumers that things will go back to normal. These livestreams have also given hope to China’s domestic tourism industry. 

When focusing on the current economic situation, content is paramount

While this is an unprecedented situation with scarce knowledge on how to handle the situation. However, businesses have demonstrated a strong will to fight. If one can be able to entertain and keep its consumers informed during these hard times, this will pay off when the situation improves. While many businesses are keeping their consumers informed, very phew are looking for ways to keep them entertained during these times.

Adapting to the current situation will define the company’s reputation among its customers.

Getting your viewers’ attention is crucial. Looking at the travel industry, whatever the company’s strategy, it needs to create consumer focused KPIs in order to get high exposure: Quality content, viewers approval, click rates… etc. Creating KPIs around your viewers and consumers will enable growth in your livestream’s viewership. However, in order to do so, one needs to have a deep understanding of their consumer’s needs.  

 Strengthen your CRM database, ease of use

Hosting live streams provides a wealth of information about your consumer base. Regarding what platform to use, Ctrip decided on a WeChat Mini-program not only because they can set up a livestream within a day, but also its ease of operation, ability to receive many viewers and the versatility of its livestream platform.

Ability to maximise interaction with your customer base as well as creating private pools

During these exceptional times, live streaming for the travel industry is considered as the only viable option to interact with consumers directly and at scale. Apart from increasing sales, growing awareness and alleviating some of the business’s current financial pressure, another important benefit includes the ability to create private pools where consumers can provide vital feedback and information about your business and products.

Private pools are becoming invaluable. By using WeChat, it allows to create private groups on the platform of which consumers can join and provide feedback about your brand and products, it can also serve the purpose of focus groups for new products and services. By combining the abilities of livestreaming, private pools and social media, businesses will be able to gather a wealth of information not easily achieved otherwise.

As social-Ecommerce continues to grow in importance, live stream fans and private pools are effective components to include in your social marketing. And by having both these mediums on Wechat, it allows to create an ecosystem for your brand. For example, a brand could have a mini-program for live streams, another serving the purpose of e-store with WeChat pay enabled, combined with the brand’s WeChat account and private pools all on the same platform. Therefore, creating awareness, conversion, CRM as well user feedback can all be performed withing the WeChat ecosystem.

Currently, Ctrip’s WeChat private traffic pool has surpassed 360 million users and its livestreaming mini program has seen remarkable results. Ctrip’s BOSS livestream has not only allowed to revive consumer spending with discounted products and services, it also allows for the travel industry to reach its customers in new ways.

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