And events have changed the overall dynamic between influencers and brands. On the one hand, it is likely that the deep discounts that customers get through big influencers will not be maintained if the brands make deals with live players who have much smaller fans. And instead of relying on the huge reach of influencers, many brands are now building their own live streaming channels. “This may be good news for brands, as customers could go to their self-operated live sessions,” says Jialu Shan, a researcher at the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation, “but certainly bad news for customers, as I can’t enjoy the cheap deals that only live players like Li and Viya can offer.
The fate of key influencers is also a clear signal that live e-commerce cannot escape government scrutiny. “Reputable KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) have become a huge business and are now essential in e-commerce. But with multimillion-dollar paydays and high visibility, there are risks to “A microscopic scrutiny and a setback to social media,” says Franklin Chu, CEO of Azoya International, a U.S. marketing firm that has worked with Austin Li in the past.
Along with tax liability and content censorship, live e-commerce influencers also face growing regulations that hold them accountable for things like product quality control, proper sales number reporting, and participation of minors in live transfers. Since 2020, the government has released several regulatory documents addressing different aspects of the business, putting the industry under close surveillance.
Although influential people like Huang and Zhu have disappeared from the Internet, their marketing and business teams are struggling to stay in the industry. His attendees have become influential themselves, claiming that they are no longer involved with the companies that supported their former famous bosses, but the Chinese media have reported that they follow virtually the same teams involved.
If this tank-shaped ice cream appearance ends with Li’s career, so will his company, Meione. But no statement has yet been made by his team, technology platforms or the regulator, leaving a game of anxious waiting for millions of his fans. They will not be the only ones to rejoice if they can return to their daily live broadcasts: the sellers and marketing agencies that have benefited from their popularity will join. “Azoya has worked with him successfully in the past and is likely to do so again, assuming there are no dramatic declines in his marketing effectiveness,” says Franklin Chu.