Chinese seniors flock to buy short videos on apps

Lu Xiaoying, a 61-year-old resident of Chengde in Hebei Province, China, defines herself as a frugal consumer who is not particularly inclined to keep up with the latest technological advances. Until a few months ago, she didn’t even have an account on Taobao, a popular online marketplace operated by Alibaba. Now, she frequently purchases products from Douyin and Kuaishou, two popular short video apps. How did this happen, you may be wondering?

It’s no secret that ByteDance’s local version of TikTok, Douyin, has built its popularity on younger users, and so has Tencent-backed Kuaishou. Yet, as the Chinese population ages, these two platforms are increasingly targeting seniors in their e-commerce offerings. In June 2020, 22.8% of China’s 940 million Internet users were aged 50 or over, 13.6% more than in 2019.

“As a friend recommended, I started shopping for items on Douyin and Kuaishou, mainly clothes and small things for the house,” Lu said. KrASIA. “Some of the products on the short video platforms seemed to be of real quality and the price was really attractive. They were even cheaper than some of the more traditional ecommerce platforms like Taobao,, and Pinduoduo, ”Lu said.“ Believe me, I checked, ”she joked with a wry smile. .

Lu, who spends much of his time with his two grandchildren, is not unique. Among the nearly 6.4 million new Douyin users registered in March 2020, 14.5% of them were over 46, according to Quest Mobile. In 2019, this proportion was 13%. Chinese seniors are also spending more time online, nearly five hours a day, up 39% from 2017, per QuestMobile.

With these numbers in mind, it’s no wonder short video platforms have sought to monetize the trend. To attract more senior buyers, short video apps have cultivated a strong category of senior-centric influencers, said Ashley Galina Dudarenok, marketing expert and founder of marketing firm Alarice. KrASIE.

“Many elderly Internet celebrities in Douyin and Kuaishou have millions of fans. They have strong personalities, a solid reputation, strong creative abilities and a mature understanding of the format and the channel, ”she said. For example, an account on Douyin, nicknamed “Grandma Wang Who Wears Only High Heels,” garnered 10 million fans in three months, garnering sales of over 5.3 million RMB ($ 820,000). in one of his live broadcasts.

ByteDance also tested a specialized version of Douyin for older users, offering simplified functions and larger font sizes. The company’s efforts coincide with guidelines from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released in late 2020, calling on tech companies to improve accessibility for older and less digitally savvy users by streamlining interfaces and limiting intrusive advertising.

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Of the 40 million Chinese internet users, 22.8% are 50 years or older. Photo by Jaddy Liu on Unsplash.

A new shopping experience that’s too tempting?

Buying on short video apps is radically different from using goal-based purchases from e-commerce platforms like Taobao. Users don’t have to search for the products they want; instead, the items are recommended by an algorithm that analyzes customer preferences and predicts what they might want to buy.

The short video apps are also easier to navigate for the elderly, as the vertical scrolling feature for watching videos on Douyin and Kuaishou is quite intuitive. Senior users benefit from an intuitive shopping experience presenting ephemeral shopping opportunities that only require a few clicks. At the same time, most of the products featured in a user’s feed on short video apps promote offers that are only available for a limited time, creating “ideal consumption scenarios to stimulate resonance.” and induce impulse buying, ”said Dudarenok.

However, this new shopping experience can also lead to waste and excess. “By shopping on Douyin and Kuaishou, I made more impulse purchases than I could have done elsewhere because sometimes the supply is limited and the deal will not last forever,” Lu explained. ‘an attractive offer may seem like a missed opportunity, she said.

The most popular e-commerce categories on Douyin and Kuaishou are cosmetics, clothing, food, and health and nutritional products. These two platforms have also flooded their platforms with grants to attract new customers. For example, Douyin gave around $ 1.5 million in grants at this year’s 618 e-commerce festival in June.

Scams could also be around the corner, as older users tend to be more susceptible to dishonest merchants looking to scam buyers in the fine print of the promotion. Chinese internet users have even complained about it on online forums. “My mother bought things from Kuaishou, but she was duped. Some products are of poor quality and some traders do not deal with customer complaints. I had to contact Kuaishou directly to request a refund, ”reads a comment on Zhihu, China’s Quora-like platform.

Defective or low-quality products are of particular concern, as health and nutrition products are among the most popular products among older buyers. “Health management is an important topic for the elderly, so the demand for health related content is high,” said Duderenok.

Despite the potential pitfalls, as Chinese society continues to age (the country is expected to have around 300 million Chinese seniors by the end of 2025), the number of elderly e-commerce users will increase, as technology companies will increasingly focus on catering. their needs.

Short video platforms are also trying to gain credibility and confidence by signing big brands on their platforms. Douyin unveiled a flagship store feature for brands, promising wider exposure and higher click-through rates. More than 220 brands, including local giant Perfect Diary, and Western companies like Louis Vuitton and Dior, are already on board. Kuaishou, meanwhile, has partnered with JD Retail to strengthen its live streaming offerings.

“I remember I used to berate my kids for spending too much time on their phones and shopping online, but in recent years I’ve developed similar habits. They must think I’m a hypocrite, ”said a friend of Lu’s 63-year-old nicknamed Zhou.

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