China Looks To AI-Generated Hosts For Livestream Sales

Generative AI is finding a new niche in the massive livestreaming e-commerce market in China.

The widespread use of livestreaming to sell products in China is widely seen as a major emerging trend for global e-commerce, with more than 400,000 livestreamers in the country selling products across e-commerce platforms such as Taobao Live, WeChat, TikTok sister platform Douyin and rival short video app Kuaishou.

Major e-commerce players in the country have already begun experimenting with AI-generated livestream hosts, with JD.com launching its virtual beauty-sales host Xiaomei on Tencent’s WeChat in February of last year.

But the huge interest in generative AI that began in late 2022 with the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT has spurred a renewed drive to offer streams with virtual hosts.

JD.com virtual host Xiaomei in e-commerce livestreams on WeChat. Image credit: JD.com/WeChat

AI-generated hosts

WH Zones, a Beijing-based startup, is launching from August several online campaigns using virtual livestreamers modelled on human celebrities, the company told the South China Morning Post.

The company said its clients include an unnamed major domestic electronics giant and an international cosmetics conglomerate.

WH Zones chief operations officer Gao Zilong told the paper that the company believes sales can be driven by the combination of AI technology and the appeal of a huiman celebrity with an established fan base.

Baidu has also recently promoted the use of its large language model (LLM) to generate scripts to to be used by human hosts to introduce products during livestreams and other content to be used in their interactions with users, the Post reported.

Virtual host created by Chinese start-up Deep Science. Image credit: Deep Science

Generative AI

The same model also powers Baidu’s Ernie Bot, the firm’s rival to ChatGPT.

Baidu said a vendor used this AI-based workflow to boost sales of tickets to Shanghai Disneyland.

Last year JD.com used its third-generation Xiaomei AI host on a beauty products sale day to sell cosmetics from the likes of Kiehl’s, Olay, L’Oreal and YSL.

The avatar features ultra-realistic facial expressions and is able to answer questions from users in real-time.

Virtual film actors

Kuaishou has also introduced a virtual influencer called Guan Xiaofang, which attracted over one million viewers to her debut e-commerce livestream in November 2021.

Hollywood actors have taken note of the move toward AI-generated personas, with current strikes currently hinging in part on actors’ battle to maintain control over the way their images are used to create virtual performers.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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