© Tommy Köhlbrugge
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Dutch Design Week is the place to present your innovative concepts in various forms to the general public. But DDW participants don’t just focus on design. In the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven, there is room for an exhibition about the internet giant Alibaba. Anton Isaev spoke with participant Jing, who decided to give this exhibition a twist of her own and to focus on e-commerce in China in general. Two Chinese internet entrepreneurs came with her to show how they use the global web to promote themselves and their product via live stream vlogging.

Photos Tommy Köhlbrugge

Where did you come from?
I live in a “small” city in the Yunnan province in China. My city has three million inhabitants and would, therefore, be by far the largest city in the Netherlands. In China this ratio is different, we now have more than one hundred million-people cities. The vloggers I asked to travel with me for DDW come from Beijing and Shanghai.

Can tell you more about internet use in China??
The Internet plays an important role in daily life for both young and older generations. It is accessible everywhere and the costs of using the Internet are low, so its use is only increasing. Most people mainly use smartphones. This is because the purchase price of phones is low, and people prefer compact devices. This is also why live streams are so popular in China at the moment; all you need for a broadcast is a phone with a 4G connection.

Foto Tommy Köhlbrugge
Jing & Erbi – Photo Tommy Köhlbrugge

Why did you decide to invite these vloggers to DDW?
I chose this because of the theme of this exhibition: the internet company Alibaba. I wanted to make it broader and decided to stick to the theme ‘e-commerce’. I want to show visitors the role e-commerce plays in daily life in China. I specifically chose to focus on live stream vlogging at this exhibition. This is a powerful medium, both from an entertainment and marketing perspective. I have tried to visualize how live streaming is applied in industries and platforms in China, but in my opinion, this view was not suitable for this event. That’s why I decided to invite these vloggers and show visitors live that there are different ways to use live streaming.

How do the vloggers work??
Erbi Chen is currently focusing on building her brand awareness. Once she is known she can focus on promoting products for large companies. As co-founder of a media company she now also takes on assignments. Ultimately, she only wants to generate income from promoting products. For now, Erbi is doing everything possible to stand out: her blue hair, striking outfits and humour are tools with which she tries to reach her audience. The revenue model looks like this: a company that wants to use an internet personality to promote their products engages an advertising agency. The advertising agency makes a selection of vloggers from which the company can choose. The better known the vlogger, the higher the price. Erbi is not yet a celebrity but is seen in this world as a rising star. She has 2.5 million subscribers in China. In Europe, this is a lot, but for Chinese standards, it is in its infancy. A real internet celebrity has around 500 million subscribers there. They have the status of rock stars.

Foto Tommy Köhlbrugge
Erbi Chen tries Dutch snacks on the live stream – Photo Tommy Köhlbrugge

Chow Wei uses a different approach. Two years ago she started selling clothing via live stream video. She is still studying and works part-time on behalf of a clothing manufacturer. By using live stream there is interaction with customers who can watch the product live and buy it directly. Via the online platform ‘Ejubo‘ she holds daily sales sessions of four hours long. At the moment there are about ten thousand people watching. On her tablet, she sees the questions of customers, when the red symbol appears on the screen a customer has made a purchase. The advantage of this method is that it creates a relationship with the customer, something that is not possible when using normal webshops. Chow remembers what some customers like and what they bought before. No aggressive way of selling, but building a friendly relationship is the key to success in her business.

Foto Tommy Köhlbrugge
Chow Wei shows an outfit to her customers – Photo Tommy Köhlbrugge

What websites are widely used in China?
In China, many western sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are blocked by the government. People use Chinese sites and apps. For example, there is ‘Tic Toc‘, an app with which videos of up to one minute can be shared. The trick is to win the viewer’s attention within five seconds.

Why are many Western media censored in China?
I think it is a great challenge for the Chinese and American governments to reach an agreement on regulations for international media policy. Political tensions have only increased recently, and the trade war between China and the US is a good example of this. The US is blocking the Chinese market, and China is responding with the same action.

Are there any restrictions within China on what you can say or do on the internet?
Yes, and there are government agencies that keep a close eye on this. For example, it is forbidden to talk about political and social issues. It is also not allowed to put images online that show the consumption of alcohol and tobacco. Or to use swear words.

What can we learn from China?
In our society, the collective stands above the individual interest. I think that in western societies more attention should be paid to mutual relations. This is also reflected in e-commerce; interaction makes it more than just shopping. The relationship aspect plays an important role in this.

What can China learn from us?
People in the Netherlands are more open to art and culture. I think this should be encouraged more in China. For this event, we chose the theme ‘Alibaba’. We are not sponsored by this organization, this choice was made to show what kind of influence a company like Alibaba has on Chinese culture. Somehow this doesn’t feel right.

Photos Tommy Köhlbrugge