Ask any young person in China if they know about Austin Li, 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?
Li was born in 1992 in Hunan province. After studying dance during university and selling L’Oréal cosmetics on the side, Li became a full-time livestreamer for Taobao in 2017 and his stardom grew 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 stylish.
Photograph: @李佳琦Austin via Weibo
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 have become his trademark lines, showing his natural talent for entertaining 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 proves him trustworthy.
Finally, he seems to understand female consumers. Some have expressed desires for fairer skin. Others want to mimic lifestyles of the rich and famous. As a result, his broadcasts include lines like 'Girls with darker skin will look more fair 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 live-streaming platform has a conversion rate of 32 percent, which is substantially higher than across the globe. Technode
also recently reported that Tencent has grand plans to expand livestream business Taobao Live this year, the 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.