Revenues of Chinese planters and wholesalers of flowers are in full bloom on direct sales to consumers via livestreamed promotions on various platforms.
The new mode of selling is also helping reduce possible wear and tear of flowers, and lowering costs by eliminating certain layers from the traditional distribution model.
Through livestreaming on e-commerce platform Taobao, short-video platform Douyin, and online group discounter Pinduoduo among others, planters can better assess the intensity of consumer demand and predict orders more accurately. This, in turn, helps them to plant flowers in a more efficient way, industry experts said.
“Sellers can recommend flowers to consumers who live in different areas the varieties that are most suitable for the local climate and environment. The interactions with live show presenters can also provide better shopping experiences for consumers who buy flowers online,” said Zheng Wanying, an analyst of the LeadLeo Research Institute, a market research provider.
“For planters and retailers who sell flowers through livestreaming platforms, there exist a large number of competitors who do the same things. Thus, it is fairly important for them to recommend specific flowers to different consumers accurately and constantly attract new customers,” she said.
At a greenhouse that opened last year in Jinning district of Kunming, capital of Southwest China’s Yunnan province, a major place of origin of flowers in China, there were more than 800 varieties of ornamental plants. The greenhouse signed cooperation agreements with more than 90 planters and more than 200 livestreaming anchors.
Currently, Jinning, renowned for planting ornamental plants, has established eight livestreaming bases to sell flowers.
Han Jing, owner of the greenhouse, said that in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, Guangdong province, it is more difficult to cultivate ornamental plants. Customers’ repurchase rates are high, and the supply in Kunming is often inadequate to meet the demand nationwide.
“After anchors receive training in basic planting and cultivation of ornamental plants, they can start working. Live show presenters can work full-time or parttime, and set livestreaming times as per their convenience,” Han said.
“Anchors don’t have to recognize each variety of ornamental plants as they have tags and prices attached. Anchors are free to give customers some discounts.”
Last year, Han planted and sold more than 700,000 units. In the first quarter of this year alone, sales exceeded 700,000 units.
Jing Yunna, 26, a livestreaming anchor who sells ornamental plants at the greenhouse of Han, has been working independently for more than a year. During a period of nine months last year since she became an anchor, sales revenues hit 8.7 million yuan ($1.34 million), and net profit reached 2.2 million yuan, she said.
Jing, who broadcasts live for six to seven hours daily on Taobao, said her customers online come mostly from different regions nationwide, with some logging in from Malaysia and Singapore. They are attracted by the good quality of ornamental plants, various vibrant colors, and competitive prices. On a regular day that is not a holiday, sales can usually exceed 30,000 yuan.
“I learnt the techniques of broadcasting during livestreaming sessions by myself. If I talk too much, my voice tends to become hoarse. We need to pay attention to tricks of the trade－like, we can’t get angry with customers in any situation,” she said.
“Spring and autumn are the peak seasons of sales. Earlier last year, most people stayed at home to avoid contracting COVID-19, and they spent more time on mobile phones, which has helped boost sales of ornamental plants.”
Jian Minghui, 34, a livestreaming anchor in Jinning district, who started selling ornamental plants on Douyin in October, already has a team of more than 10 to assist him. Before switching to a career in presenting live shows, he worked in the internet sector.
Jian started selling ornamental plants since the outbreak of the pandemic. Now, monthly sales can pull in anywhere between 2 million yuan and 3 million yuan, and Jian said he believes there is still room for growth.
In the later half of this year, he plans to found two firms, with one focusing on promoting the culture of ornamental plants, and another one establishing a website that posts pictures and videos of flowers, and integrates planters, anchors and wholesalers together.
“In Kunming, the subtropical weather is suitable to grow ornamental plants all year round, and the quality of the plants tends to be better than those planted in other areas,” he said.
Meanwhile, some planters themselves have started selling flowers through livestreaming sessions. Han Gang, a planter of hydrangea, has sold his flowers to customers nationwide, in addition to those in overseas markets such as Europe, the United States, South Korea, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.
In the early period of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, wholesalers and florists seldom bought flowers from planters such as Han, and the flowers were unsalable for a while. Later, Han found out new business opportunities through livestreaming sessions.
During daytime, Han is usually busy preparing and selecting flowers, and between 9 pm and 1 am, he faces the camera and goes live online.
“Starting March, hydrangea in Kunming starts to bloom, while hydrangea planted in other areas usually blooms in May. The flowers also bloom between September and December in Kunming. Thus, we have an advantage in the timing. The blue hydrangea we planted can be as big as hats,” he said.
The popularity of the multibillion-dollar livestreaming market in the country has changed the ecosystem of traditional supply chain of flowers, which includes multiple tiers.
Flower sales usually need experience, like transferring from planters to first-tier wholesale market, the second-tier wholesale market and then to brick-and-mortar florists. Thus, flowers sold to consumers at stores usually carry higher price tags, according to LeadLeo.
Traditional flower shops are usually small and scattered. Store-owners are cautious about the storage and selection of flower varieties. Their supplies usually lack wide varieties so cannot meet diverse demand of consumers. Wastage of freshly cut flowers due to supply-demand mismatches are not uncommon.
Besides, in the multi-layer transportation process, there is high chance for wear and tear of flowers due to long-haul transport. For regular land transportation, wastage can exceed 30 percent of flowers packed intact initially. That proportion can reach 15 percent in air transportation, the consultancy said.
“Flower planting is usually subject to seasons, temperature and humidity. The quality of flowers could be unstable and high yields can’t be guaranteed. Besides, holidays usually see higher demand for flowers, and traditional flower planting sometimes can’t satisfy demand during peak periods like holidays,” Zheng of LeadLeo said.
“As a perishable good, flowers command relatively high repurchase rates. Sparing customers of additional costs involved in multilayer distribution can help direct sellers with higher revenues. Thus, many florists at the retail level usually offer discounts and flower subscriptions,” she said.