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Retailtainment boosts Taobao sales late at night

Mainland shopping site Taobao has kicked off a new series of “webisodes” for the late night retailtainment of Chinese who like to watch something on their phones before heading to sleep.

The new season, entitled “Night Warriors,” opened March 15 with a six-minute video featuring a group of soldiers who are challenged to solve a puzzle by figuring out how to use their helmets to pour water into a small-mouthed container without spilling. One soldier shoots a hole in his helmet, which matches the size of the hole in the container. Mission accomplished. Then comes the hook: At the end of the show, viewers can click to buy a set of cleverly designed cookware made by Chinese brand Taste Plus.

Recognising that traffic on Mobile Taobao, China’s most popular shopping app, peaks every day around 10-11 pm, Taobao last year decided to play to this audience by mixing video advertising and shopping with a little light entertainment. The 2016 series, called “One Thousand and One Nights,” was a hit. Focused on food, one webisode prompted consumers to buy 537,000 dumplings in just a few hours.

This year Taobao, part of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, has created seven new webisodes to promote household products selected from its Quality by China program, which was established in 2015 to cultivate and promote homegrown Chinese brands and original designs.

“Quality by China is a very special business in Taobao,” said Chen Wenxin, project manager of the Night Warriors series. Most consumers who buy Quality by China featured products tend to be men who compare shops and “spend money rationally,” Chen said.

Using webisodes “to encourage rational users to place orders impulsively, and also engage sentimental consumers to accept rational consumption, is challenging but interesting,” she said.

The video campaign is part of Taobao’s larger effort to build itself as a lifestyle destination for customers, especially younger shoppers. About 35 per cent of Taobao’s users were born after 1990, and this group accounts for an even higher percentage of visitors who browse at night.

“We hope to create more content that fits the aesthetics of young people, taps into their appetites and allows them to find surprising content and experiences when they log into Taobao at night,” said Zheng Zhong, who leads Taobao content marketing.

Evidently video storytelling boosts sales. The March 15 webisode, which was available from 10pm to 7am, was watched 2.7 million times compared with the 800,000 playbacks generated by the first webisode last year, according to Taobao. Taste Plus also reported a surge in traffic to its virtual storefront. Over a 14-hour period following the Night Warriors launch, sales of the featured cooking pot sets exceeded sales for the previous 30-day period by 50 times.

Yet Zheng said Taobao won’t be using conversion rates and sales as goals for webisode initiatives. “We hope people come here to have fun,” he said.

  • Original reporting by Alizila, the Alibaba-funded, but independent news service on Alibaba Group affairs.

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