Tech

How AI Anchors Are Helping Chinese E-commerce Companies Expand Live Shopping Globally

  Tech companies have been trying to take this lucrative business beyond China, and it’s easy to see why. As early as 2020, media reported on this move, when Alibaba’s overseas subsidiary AliExpress was hiring foreign talents to create similar live broadcasts in English, Russian and other languages. Despite continued efforts by Chinese companies, the idea has never been embraced by mainstream audiences overseas.

  Recently, the international version of Douyin has officially launched the live shopping function in the United States. This gives me a sense of deja vu, though, since this is something the company has been saying it would do since 2021.

  But it can be said with certainty that there is still no widespread demand for live streaming shopping in the United States. Marketplace Pulse founder and e-commerce analyst Yusas Kaziukenas said on X (original Twitter) that even avid fans of the international version of Douyin are not necessarily excited about this new feature, and To quote another tweet from last week: “The international version of Douyin Store ruined the entire app, full of ads and reviews instead of silly little videos.” In
contrast, with the help of artificial intelligence, China’s The anchors who bring goods have ushered in unprecedented breakthrough opportunities.

  On China’s e-commerce platforms, cheap and convenient artificial intelligence tools are using “deep forgery” technology to help brands create countless virtual (avatar) anchors. Developers only need a one-minute video to train a “virtual anchor” and charge about 8,000 yuan for an artificial intelligence-generated avatar. They are almost like real people and can talk and act in front of the camera. There are more than 400,000 such virtual anchors, and they have been deployed in thousands of shopping live broadcasts.

  This may help eliminate one of the biggest obstacles to expanding Chinese-style live-streaming shopping overseas: the lack of foreign salespeople who understand how live-streaming e-commerce works, behave naturally in front of the camera, and are willing to spend ten hours a day chatting with everyone. Anchor. Because the work is largely repetitive. In China, there are some schools that specialize in training anchors interested in the industry, but the same ecosystem does not yet exist overseas.

  Sometimes, e-commerce brands adopt innovative measures to address talent gaps. Chen Dan, CEO of Quantum Planet, a Chinese artificial intelligence anchor marketing company, said he saw a Chinese Bluetooth headset brand hire Thai voice actors to record the audio, and then play a video of a hand demonstrating and testing the product, which looked like a demonstration The product people also speak Thai.

  But with large language models and text-to-speech technology, these AI anchors can speak any language you want.

  Recently, a new artificial intelligence translation product has become popular on social media. Los Angeles-based HeyGen has launched a tool that can translate videos into seven different languages, while cloning the speaker’s voice and synchronizing the speaker’s lip movements so everything looks natural. The finished video looks surprisingly good.

With these tools, finding local on-air talent may no longer be necessary. “Language is actually the advantage of virtual anchors (compared to humans). Many of our customers are interested in cross-border e-commerce in Southeast Asia, and the demand is very high,” said the virtual influencer live broadcast business director of Chinese artificial intelligence company Xiaobing .
  Xiaoice and Quantum Planet are now working together to market these AI anchors to Chinese customers. Their virtual anchors can speak 129 languages, including English, Vietnamese, Thai and Indonesian.

  In March 2023, they used a Thai artificial intelligence anchor to sell furniture for a Chinese company for the first time, selling $2,000 worth of products in one hour. Native Thai speakers watched a clip and rated the quality of the AI. He said that the intonation of the virtual anchor was so natural that he almost thought it was dubbing.

  Obviously, AI can’t do everything a human anchor can do, especially testing products in real time to answer viewers’ questions, but it’s suitable for companies that just want to break into new markets but don’t want to spend too much money. According to reports, the monthly salary of local anchors in Indonesia is almost the same as the cost of customizing artificial intelligence anchors, and in the long run, the cost of reusing artificial intelligence is much lower than the cost of retaining real people. Plus, the results from using artificial intelligence are better than most people expect.

  Does this mean that live streaming e-commerce will finally become popular overseas? It’s not certain at the moment. We probably won’t see livestreaming e-commerce take over Western markets anytime soon. But artificial intelligence can help Chinese companies overcome language and cultural barriers and achieve global expansion. Either way, it’s clear that synthetic media technology is advancing at an incredible pace, so it’s probably only a matter of time before Chinese e-commerce companies are finally able to make money from it.

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