Are livestream influencers getting drunk on power?

November 12, 2023 - 09:45
These days, e-shopping has gradually transformed into an entertainment habit for most consumers and is evolving into a consumer culture of the current younger generation. But the leniency shown by customers is causing some well-known KOCs to become excessively confident.
Illustration by Trịnh Lập

By An Phương

Has the leniency of customers caused some renowned KOCs to become 'drunk with power'?

Livestream selling has become a trend as Key Opinion Consumers (KOC) and TikTokers take advantage of their visibility in the community to sell products.

The appeal and earning potential in this profession can be seen through the participation of famous artists and Key Opinion Leaders (KOL), all flocking to livestreaming.

“That being said, as more people join this field and more brands approach, controversies are bound to happen,” my friend Thanh Thảo, 23, told me, adding that she has witnessed several cases.

In the latest incident involving KOC P.T., a brand accused him of being insensitive, insulting customers, and causing financial loss by spending VNĐ220 million on a livestream but only selling a little over 100 orders, earning VNĐ20 million in revenue.

P.T. responded with a video, clarifying that the VNĐ220 million covered event expenses and livestream fees.

He emphasised that he didn't assure sales for any brand and pointed out challenges arising from the brand failing to reach mutually satisfactory deals on products.

In response, the brand accused P.T. of tax evasion, claiming money was transferred into a personal account without a proper contract.

Despite this, P.T. continued his livestreams and public appearances.

“I was looking into the drama and realised neither P.T. nor the brand were entirely at fault. Though KOCs don't guarantee sales, it is understandable for the brand to expect significant sales volumes after making a booking,” Thảo said.

Quang Huy, a 29-year-old at a local marketing firm, pointed out that due to KOC being a new profession, it is challenging to grasp the full workings of livestreaming, resulting in various misunderstandings.

P.T.’s recent controversy within the KOC community serves as a noteworthy case. Delving into the typical livestreaming approaches of P.T. and similar KOCs, as well as exploring the broader context of the industry, proves to be intriguing.

"Short-video platforms like TikTok tend to promote controversial content. This may explain why some KOCs and livestreamers engage in disturbing behaviour as a way to secure views and eventually sales,” Huy added.

Sales are important, but a brand's image and core values should also be taken into consideration when livestreaming as well, we all agreed.

“I don’t follow many KOCs with such a style but I have watched them enough to notice the consistent number of views they receive during each livestream. What surprises me is how such content is considered normal these days,” Huy’s colleague, Quốc Trường, 27, said.

"My perception of 'normal' comes from the fact that these livestreams usually generate hundreds of millions of đồng in revenue per session,” he added.

Even though we all acknowledged the importance of individual KOCs having their unique approach to closing deals, harshly scolding customers should never be the way to go.

This brings out another crucial point: the leniency shown by customers is causing some well-known KOCs to become excessively confident.

P.T.’s case is just one among many in which, during a PR crisis, the lives of KOCs continue normally without any apparent impact.

Thảo said that regardless of whether they are large or small-scale brands, KOCs and livestreamers have created a chaotic trading environment.

“These conflicts can lead to unhealthy competition, leaving buyers struggling to find quality products and sellers failing to meet their revenue expectations, potentially even facing losses,” she emphasised.

Stricter management

In Việt Nam, there are approximately 70,000 to 80,000 livestream sales sessions on various social media platforms every day, recent statistics have shown.

Although livestream sales have been around for a while, their popularity surged during the COVID-19 pandemic when people were forced to stay at home.

According to Nguyễn Thị Thanh Huyền, deputy director of the Department of Broadcasting, Television and Electronic Information, under the Ministry of Information and Communications, livestreaming has the potential to quickly impact society.

It is crucial to enforce strict regulations on livestreaming activities through legal means.

Many experts agree that relevant authorities should establish clear legal frameworks to facilitate the development of the digital content service market.

Specifically, for livestreaming management policies, there should be mechanisms to make the market more open and self-purge objectionable content.

To be honest, I really enjoy the new form of shopping, so-called “shoppertainment” on TikTok with the participation of many KOCs.

These days, e-shopping has gradually transformed into an entertainment habit for most consumers and is evolving into a consumer culture of the current younger generation.

Nevertheless, if KOCs continue to pursue unprofessional practices, they may find themselves phased out from this trending industry.

At that point, the impressive figures of multi-billion đồng orders confirmed during a livestream or swiftly sold-out inventory overnight will lose their significance, becoming mere numbers and images that nobody wishes to be associated with.

"I have great expectations for the industry, but I won't be the kind of consumer who simply accepts any approach," Thảo said, adding "a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with." - VNS