In Hangzhou’s bustling Binjiang district, a new cadre of digital anchors is taking center stage. These virtual hosts, operating 24/7, have harnessed the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to create interactive experiences that closely mimic human interactions. While human hosts still hold an edge, these virtual counterparts are making waves in China’s e-commerce livestreaming sector.
Virtual hosts in E-commerce live streaming
A thriving ecosystem: Hangzhou serves as China’s e-commerce livestreaming hub, featuring over 50,000 human anchors and a growing number of virtual hosts. Here, sales personnel promote products through real-time broadcasts, offering consumers an immersive shopping experience.
Lier Baby’s success: A top Taobao Live live streamer, Lier Baby, recently featured six virtual replicas in a live broadcast, showcasing the potential of AI-powered hosts.
Cost-effective alternative: Qianxun Holdings, a leading live streaming company, has introduced AI hosting services that offer substantial cost savings compared to traditional live streaming setups. Virtual hosts are professional and can maintain stability and work 24/7.
Virtual hosts’ impact on live streaming
AI vs. human hosts: Tests conducted by Qianxun Holdings indicate that virtual hosts outperform their human counterparts in various aspects, including gross merchandise volume, average view duration, number of viewers, and transaction rates. However, trust-building remains a challenge for virtual hosts.
Growing industry: Data from iiMedia Research shows that nearly 1,000 companies registered in 2022 to offer virtual host live-streaming services. Consumers expect human and virtual hosts to coexist in the future.
Baidu’s digital avatar platform
Xiling by Baidu: Baidu Inc. has introduced its digital avatar platform, Xiling, offering services for the creation and operation of virtual hosts, virtual celebrities, and virtual brand spokespeople. The platform provides clients across various industries with innovative marketing solutions.
Enhancing shopping experience: Virtual hosts can adapt their makeup and clothing based on user preferences, enhancing the shopping experience for consumers.
Cost reduction: By utilizing virtual hosts, businesses can reduce operational costs significantly, including expenses related to physical locations, equipment, and human talent.
The growing E-commerce live-streaming sector
Booming sector: China’s e-commerce livestreaming sector recorded significant growth, reaching CNY 1.4 trillion in revenue in 2021, with projections indicating it will reach CNY 2.1 trillion by 2025.
Appealing to young consumers: Brands are increasingly using virtual hosts to attract tech-savvy and novelty-seeking young consumers due to their cost-effectiveness and reduced risks.
Prospects and challenges
Potential for efficiency: AI-powered digital hosts can improve operating efficiency, enhance the shopping experience, and boost product sales in e-commerce livestreaming. They can handle repetitive tasks, allowing human hosts to focus on creativity.
Challenges ahead: Despite the potential, challenges like ethics, data security, and privacy protection have emerged. The industry needs to develop regulations regarding digital character ownership and standardize their behavior.
Beijing’s vision for the virtual human industry
Government support: Beijing has released an action plan to boost the innovative development of the virtual human sector. It aims to develop leading virtual human companies with substantial revenue by 2025.
Technological advancements: Advances in AI, 5G, and upcoming technologies like 6G are expected to drive the growth and intelligence of virtual hosts. They will offer personalized feedback based on real-time information.
Expanding use cases for virtual hosts
Beyond livestreaming: Virtual hosts are increasingly utilized in various sectors, including brand promotion, advertising, gaming, and entertainment. They offer a fresh and innovative approach to engaging with consumers.
Legal and ethical concerns: As the virtual human industry evolves, issues related to ethics, data security, and personal privacy must be addressed. Regulations and standards for digital characters and their behavior will be essential.
The rise of AI-powered virtual hosts is transforming the e-commerce livestreaming landscape in China. As this industry continues to grow and evolve, it presents exciting opportunities for cost-effective marketing and enhanced consumer experiences, raising important questions about ethics and regulation.