“In China’s online business, one or two years is not a very long time… it changes so fast.” – – Connor Li shares insights on the rapidly evolving live commerce scene in China in the latest episode of the Impulso Podcast.

Is China already transitioning into the second phase of live commerce?

Connor Li is the head of curriculum development at Ji Tang, a “S Level” MCN in China, managing 170+ influencers, with a total of more than 200 million followers. He was also a featured speaker at Momentum Works’ March Live Commerce Immersion event.

Tune in as he shares his insights on the evolution of live commerce in China and:

  • The rise of key opinion consumers (KOCs); 
  • Who do consumers trust – KOLs or KOCs;
  • Ji Tang’s approach to collaborating with KOCs;
  • Measuring the ROI of using KOCs as a marketing strategy;
  • Advice on those who want to learn about China’s live commerce ecosystem.

You can watch the full episode here:

Or if you prefer to listen on the go, the full podcast is available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Featured materials: 

Live Commerce Immersion [May], Momentum Works

Live Commerce Immersion [March – completed], Momentum Works


[AI-generated transcript] 

[00:00:00] Sabrina

hello everyone, and welcome to episode 73 of the Impulso podcast by Momentum Works. So on today’s episode, we have a special guest, Connor, head of curriculum development at Jitang joining us. So Jitang is actually an S level MCN in China, managing over 170 influencers with a total of more than 200 million followers.

And unlike most traditional MCNs, Jitang themselves do not sell physical products via live commerce, but rather they provide online courses to key opinion consumers, otherwise known as KOCs, teaching them how to do e commerce on TikTok, including live commerce. So recently Momentum Works brought 20 plus Southeast Asian delegates to China as part of our live commerce immersion.

And Connor was actually one of the guest speakers that we invited to speak during the event. So many participants found his sharings very interesting. which is why we are very happy that Connor agreed to join us on the podcast today to share his experience of MCNs in China with the rest of us.

So hi Connor, and thank you for joining us today. 


[00:01:04] Connor

Thank you. Thank you. I’m also honored to be invited to this conference online because last time when I was invited to participate in your event, I think that concept was a little bit complicated that I didn’t have enough time to introduce the whole concept, the whole business model from our company.

So I’m also honored to having this another opportunity to introduce my company or myself. 


[00:01:32] Sabrina

So maybe to start, maybe you want to introduce a little bit about Jitang and what you guys do especially from the perspective of key opinion consumers, right? 


[00:01:42] Connor

Hello guys. I’m Connor. My Chinese name is Jianwei. You can call me Connor or Jianwei. Actually, I’m currently working in Jitang this company as a curriculum designer, as you just mentioned in the very beginning in this Episode Jitang actually is a combination of MCN and a com and education company.

So I work in the curriculum design department. I’m the head of this department for myself. Actually I was an English teacher and I was a Chinese teacher as well. Actually this sounds like a little bit like a job interview already. I actually graduated from a foreign studies university and my major was teaching Chinese as a second language.

So when I was doing my internship, I actually worked in Hungary for one year , to teach Chinese to some Europeans. And then I moved back to China. I Participate in the online education industry and I taught English to Chinese students, especially the secondary school students for some common people or for other people.

Maybe I have changed my subject thoroughly, but for me my major was teaching second language. Okay. So for me, I didn’t change my subject. I was doing the education thing and afterwards maybe some of, you know, the double reduction policy in China. And so afterwards I luckily I gained a lot of online education experience.

And that’s why I chose Jitang. Okay. I was still doing the online education thing afterwards.

So I took advantage of my education experience and then JiTang also needed some educators or some teachers to give or deliver the lessons they want to give.

That’s how to do e commerce or live commerce. Because JiTang actually just. Turned to the phase two, I call it phase two of e commerce in China, because actually there are two phases and the phase one would be the very traditional or the so called MCN they will use their big influencers, they will use that giant influencers to do the services.

Make short videos or do live commerce or just do other advertising movements for the brands, but actually, when we were at that time, maybe around 2022,

many companies were trying to find other ways to do more service to the brands. And one of the model or one of the ways that we found was to. Cultivate or to train KOCs instead of hiring or just talking to more giant, KOLs to join the MCN. We started to train or educate KOCs to serve the brands.

This is one of the most innovative ways for MCNs to make the growth, I think. 


[00:04:54] Jianggan

So we talk about in 2022, when people started trying different ways to grow, to try different models. What was the reason for that? Is that because the first wave became too competitive or, yeah, 


[00:05:07] Connor

yeah, actually I think there is not a very clear time that when MCNs started to grow so fast, I think it was around 2018 or 2019, many, MCN companies set up.

And they did not encounter with many competence. It was not very competitive in the market back then. So I can say that the numbers of MCN companies was far less than the number of brands. So the brands were, yes. So it was not very big a challenge for the MCNs to find the Clients or brands.

But after 2020 or 2021, there were too much. There were too many companies already. And people already know that maybe the common people, even the common people know how the MCN works. So it was a little bit like the rat race started. 


[00:06:12] Jianggan

That was interesting because from 2018 to 2020, that’s like three years, three or four years then from something which is, you know, just emerging, you have a lot of opportunities, you have lots of clients, to it became a Deep red ocean with lots of competitors in your opinion, how did it happen so fast?


[00:06:36] Connor

Well maybe we have to determine the term. Maybe we have to define how fast maybe in China’s Online business one year or two year is not a very long time. 


[00:06:51] Jianggan

Okay. Yeah 


[00:06:53] Connor

so From my perspective. It was not a very long time. So it changes so fast to consider the characteristics of this industry Three years is already enough for a comp for companies to Thrive and die for three times maybe.


[00:07:12] Jianggan

Yeah. So, of course. So from 2018 to 2021, it became so competitive and people started looking for different ways of further growth, right? I mean, you guys have identified KOC Mm-Hmm, . How did that process work like, right. I mean. How did you discover that, okay, this is the way to go?

 Did you try many things or 


[00:07:31] Sabrina

Before that, I think maybe to set some context for our listeners, right. Maybe we can explain what KOC is. So KOC is key opinion consumers, and I think this is a term that’s used, is it used prevalently in China because outside of China, I think it’s not as well known yet.

We know key opinion leaders, but the term key opinion consumers.

[00:07:48] Jianggan: I think KOC I hear lots of brand talk about it, but I don’t see many brands actually practice it. Right. I mean, they say that, okay, we should turn customers into our advocates, but quite often I see that in strategic planning. So like planning marketing. So we need to like, you know, Turn customers into our brand advocates, but I don’t see many things being actually done.

So it is there, but I don’t see much action. 


[00:08:16] Connor

Actually back in China it’s the same. Not a lot of companies have found this model. I think we are one of the first maybe we are the first to really actually use this model.

Well, if I tell the truth, I don’t know other companies that are using this model.

Maybe they are still in the very first phase. They are trying to take the most use of the big influencers. They are trying to find better ways to make better contents for the brands. They are testing how to get more traffic on every single short videos taken by the big influencers or every Live studio, what words would be better for selling this product or what images that they would give to the customers when they are selling a certain product.

So they are starting the rat race literally in that to genre, maybe but. In that other way my company has already found another way to work on, which is the KOC model 


[00:09:24] Jianggan

and can you talk a little bit more about the KOC system? I mean, who are these people and why would they the incentive to actually do it.


[00:09:32] Connor

Yeah, that’s a good question. For those of you who don’t know the definition of KOC, I just want to, make it clearer. Let’s define what KOC is. Actually, it’s an acronym for Key Opinion Customers, right? And we all know the KOL, maybe KOL is the Key Opinion Leaders.

Well, if the very difference is the last word, customer versus. Leader, right? Well, customers like they are more opinioned. This is the group of influencers who maybe have, yeah, they have less followers, but deeper influence, I think, because maybe in the phase one, I always mentioned this concept in the phase one, people try to believe, or they tend to listen to the big influencers, what they say, what they wear, what they are talking about, and. They can have the trust when they are posting their short videos or do the live partners, right? But after several years, maybe people are tired. Maybe just consider the industry of maybe the stars or the influencers in the traditional way. Like the movie stars, like the other entertainment stars, we start to realize that their words were their images are driven by some brands. This is clear, maybe. But if we are talking about your friends, your maybe your parents, maybe your sisters, they are trying to post some content. And in their content they are selling something where they are just giving their own comment, or their own feeling about one product or one service.

And it’s more trustworthy. And that’s also some basic business, Logic for maybe Xiao Hongshu app, because maybe the KOCs, they have less followers, , I wouldn’t say they have more influence, but they have deeper influence, because they tend to influence different people.

The big stars or the big influencers, they influence a very vague world, but the whole group of people, a huge group of people, but the KOCs, they tend to influence their friends. And they have very vertical niche followers. Once they started their account, maybe, maybe one KOC it’s account started from she was introducing maybe a kind of book or a kind of drink, and maybe they have less followers after several years when she started this whole account, but all the followers, all the fans, she accumulated after all the work.

They are very loyal. They have more trust in that KOC. So China’s e commerce has entered a phase two, or let’s say maybe one phase one and phase two, they co exist right now, but the advantages of KOCs are that yeah, just like I mentioned they are your friends. They are some normal people like you and me.

So when they are talking about something, when they are. Trying to give you the image, trying to give you some information about a kind of service or a certain product is generally more trustworthy. Maybe that’s the change of people’s mind, but it’s predictable.


[00:12:54] Jianggan

And how does that differ from what people have been talking about, like social commerce, like, you know, somebody Sending something on WeChat or as you mentioned, Xiaohongshu and you mentioned that there’s quite a bit of trust in terms of that trust. Is that similar kind of trust when you see I share certain things about certain brand on my WeChat?

Is that similar? It’s just that now it’s produced in video. 


[00:13:16] Connor

It’s indeed similar. It does not differ too much because when we’re considering about the WeChat or other social media app that we use when you are turning on where, where you are opening this social media app, you know that you are trying to contact with your friends.

Some people you trust, some people you already know. And yes. But when you are opening the TikTok. That may be generally maybe naturally you are trying to look for some entertainment or you will have this prediction that you will encounter with some big giants that trying to propaganda something, but once you see a norm, people trying to talk about something.

Naturally, you will have more trust in them. I would just give you a fresh case that I encountered with today. I was trying to pick up my English these days. And I, I just want to do one more time for the IELTS test. So I, I searched IELTS test, some related information on TikTok, on Douyin in China.

And then after I scrolling up, up, up, up for some videos and I, Suddenly see an overseas student posted a content that she’s saying that congratulations to myself. I have passed the IELTS test and I’m going to England. I’m going to UCL for my. International study life. But I worked very hard for the whole preparation for the IELTS.

And my learnings materials, my whole thing was a waste. It will be a waste. So I’m going to give my stuff to those who are preparing IELTS right now, for free. So that is a real case. I think that I’m having a conversation. I’m going to talk to a real person.

He’s not a model. He’s not a big star that I cannot talk to him. He is a real person that I really added him. And I just trying to can you give me the materials? So naturally, I think people wouldn’t give it a second thought. We would just have a natural connection with the normal people like you and me, and naturally we’ll have more trust in KOCs.

Nevertheless, I have this Prediction that maybe in some step or maybe in the next three steps and she will suddenly jump out to say that you need to pay some for more expensive materials. And then I will stop. But anyway, I was invited to his or her or I give him a chance to listen to him.

We’ll give him a chance to listen to his introduction to his Maybe his products hidden behind this from the very first content that I encountered with. So this is a good model to establish trust in the very first place.


[00:16:09] Jianggan

And we look at these people so these are the real customers who talk about their experience, right? And they don’t promote products full time, right? They just do it as part of their So free time or as additional income? 


[00:16:24] Connor

Yes, they do it as their part time job. And if we look at their accounts, , they do not just post content that related to the progress where the service they are selling.

They are also posting something that are related to their own life.

So in our lessons, we also teach the kocs not to, just to post. The product related things, we also need to post something about yourself. You just do it like it’s your WeChat, it’s your Facebook, it’s your Instagram. So that people consider you as a real person, not just a machine or just some other sellers. 


[00:17:02] Jianggan

So if a KOC, and because of whatever that person posts suddenly gets lots of attraction. Does that person turn into a KOL or would the person remain a KOC? 


[00:17:12] Connor

We wouldn’t recommend that, but if you can become a KOL,  

 But we really wish that you can be a bigger and bigger successful KOL.

But in our from our experience, few people can do that. And I think the whole industry or the whole market has already tested or proven this. Just a few people can become KOL. But it doesn’t mean that everybody has to become KOL. I think people have this Wrong concept about the more followers you have, the much influence you have.

No, this, there is not a positive correlation with those two things.  


[00:17:53] Jianggan

Mm mm-Hmm, . And how does GT work with the Kocs? , so you teach them how to basically manage their accounts and stuff. And brands will work with you to reach out , to this KOCs or brands will reach out to KOCs because KOCs are small, right?

It’s the brands probably don’t have the ability to reach out to each of them. 


[00:18:12] Connor

Yes. Actually back in 2022, there was no brands that know how the KOC model works. So we were also trying to convince where to find some. Brands or companies who can see and understand the value of KOCs.

So we also talk them into this and then we want to make our lessons more competitive. So what is a competitive lesson for us? First of all, we have this basic understanding or we have the basic skills about how to do the short videos, how to do the live shows or the live commerce, right? We have this group of knowledge that we can make sure that this is the most scientific one. This is the most useful knowledge for our students, but this is not enough for a lesson to be competitive. We also need to find some brands for our KOCs, just like we need to find some brands for the KOL, right? But we have more KOCs. So let’s consider why KOCs should choose your lesson instead of choosing others.

Because your lessons is more competitive because you have the brands if I don’t sign up for your Lessons, we don’t have the authorization or I can’t sell the products For some brands, for example, we have very famous short reels company. Yes. They do the short episodes where the short reels on Tik Tok for themselves.

They do the advertising, but they also can get another way of. Getting the traffic, for example, the KOCs. So we found this chance. We talked to them. We introduced the value of KOCs to them and then they chose to give us the exclusive authorization of their short reels. If normal people or the KOCs Become the students of our lesson, and then they will get the exclusive authorization to introduce or to sell the virtual product from that short video company.


[00:20:17] Jianggan

so basically in a way that when they when they choose the courses from you in addition to just just learning, they actually have the real brands that they can actually work on to gain experience. 


[00:20:29] Connor

Yes. So we all know that there are some brands that really hard, really famous that so that their brands are easier to be sold. 


[00:20:36] Jianggan

So was it hard to convince brands to work with the Kocs because. I mean, they can say that KOCs are great, but how do I make sure that they don’t give a negative image to my brand, etc.? 


[00:20:50] Connor

Well, it depends. It really depends. Because some companies, , maybe the time that we talk to them They are busy on something else, and they don’t have much energy to understand this whole complicated KOC model.

We spent much time to talk to them to introduce this model that will convince them like, you don’t have to spend much time on doing any other thing because we will do the education and we will do the connection thing. We will introduce this Model or introduce your brand to our kocs What you need to do is just to give us the exclusive authorization and there’s no hurt for you It doesn’t bite you can just have a try and you give this to us and what will you have you will have A bunch of KOC in the future, they will post videos, they will just speak for you on this whole Tiktok or on other platforms, even, maybe you don’t even have to pay for 1 dollar

so they will think about it and I don’t think there is any challenge for them. So we just basically introduced the whole model and let them understand. Once they understand this model, they are interested.

So that’s why we , can always find famous brands to work with us on this KOC model Well, that’s for the hardest cases for some easier cases once we Contact them. They have already known our reputation in this industry. They have already known KOC model and they Are also friends with some brands that we cooperated with in the history, so they know, Oh, can we cooperate together?

I also want to have a trial because they didn’t give much time or money. They don’t have to put in even not a single person into this industry, into this new business, I think. And then they get the result freelu freely so why don’t we? 


[00:22:51] Jianggan

So we say that they get results free. I mean, how would the ROI be measured then?

I mean, if you don’t invest much but you see the results. How do you measure the results and how do you measure the ROI? 


[00:23:03] Connor

How do we measure the ROI? Well, maybe I can explain this in Chinese and I hope Okay, sure, sure. 


[00:23:12] Jianggan

So, we were actually in Shenzhen and Guangzhou for three days of live immersion. I was translating for almost everyone, except for Conor. Conor was like the only person who could speak English and I could sit down and have a coffee because this translation requires lots of context. Yeah.


The question was was how would the brands measure ROI, ‘ because this is a new model, right? And especially they don’t have to invest much.


[00:23:07] Connor [Translated by Jianggan] 

So Connor said that to understand this, there’s a quite a bit of context because first, lots of brands are making investments and advertising investment onto Douyin or TikTok and quite often, it’s because it’s so competitive. You see negative ROI. And the thing is that I mean, they’re also trying to find different ways to make their overall ROI make sense. So when Jitang has the opportunity to explain to these brands about exactly what the KOC model is, they’re willing to have a try because first it’s zero investment and any return out of this would be a positive return and they’re willing to give a try.

 So obviously the next related issue is that why would the KOCs do that? Because from the KOCs point of view. I mean, now Douyin is, and live commerce widely recognized in China. And many people try to participate that, but how do they participate in it? If they’re not a KOL, how do I participate in there?


Right. And, but they want to express themselves. They want to maybe earn some side income. so here they come to Jitang, they learn the skills. And they also have the ability to sell for some of the bigger brands. And then they can showcase to people that are saying that, Hey, I’m not just a random guy like trying to broadcast myself and nobody wants to listen or watch.

And I actually have experience actually selling for good brands. And then it basically lowers the barrier for both sides, right? I mean, for brands, it’s easier to try different model and for the KOCs, I mean, it gives them opportunity to actually practice with real brands and actually help them actually participate in live commerce.


Is my translation okay? 


[00:25:28] Connor

Yes. An expert is an expert. Thank you for it. Your translation.


[00:25:34] Sabrina

Actually I have a question. So when you say that for the brands to use this KOC model, there’s no investment on their end, right? So for these KOCs, when they start selling this products, do the brands give them the products for free? Or are these products that they have already purchased by themselves?


[00:25:54] Connor

Well this is the part that we do. Jitang will take . This part of job, because we will take the photos, we will take many footage or scenes of the products. If they are selling some certain products, we will talk to the brands. Can you give me some samples? We will just use some samples and we’ll pay the fee for the samples and we’ll will use some AI tools to generate more materials for our KOCs to edit, to use the product for their account.


[00:26:25] Sabrina

Then your give, this is some samples and the marketing materials to the KOCs which they can use in their 


[00:26:30] Connor

Yes. , we will build a database for the materials of the products or the virtual products we will be selling.


[00:26:37] Jianggan

It’s not a big investment. 


[00:26:39] Connor

Oh, It’s not a big investment. 


[00:26:41] Jianggan

So obviously as you said that things move very fast do you see the model that you have with KOC become very competitive as well? Many other companies doing the same thing? 


[00:26:52] Connor

Yes it’s becoming more and more competitive, but to this question, we are not Anxious? We’re not afraid, because , we were the first one to find, to maybe invent this KOC model, and we know the very core of this business model. It’s about the brands, it’s about working with valuable, qualified, market tested brands. And another thing that makes this company or this model from our company more competitive is the education.

Because we, Will give the best education we can or one of the best education in this industry in this market so we will always make our lessons more competitive And we have a nickname in this industry is the phenomenal lesson maker


[00:27:46] Jianggan

Got it. Very interesting. Related issue since you speak English very well and you can see what’s happening outside China and now live commerce is also growing quite fast in many places in Southeast Asia and now in the U S and we see, I mean, last week I was talking to some friends in Brazil and many of them actually trying different kinds of live commerce there as well.

So you do see that this is becoming a trend elsewhere. And in your opinion, so for somebody who is coming from outside China, when they try to understand exactly how live commerce has evolved for them to take a practical lessons to understand how they should do it. Do you have any advice?

Because. I see that, okay, people look at China, oh, amazing, but when I come back, look at my market, so not everything that they have, I can do it immediately because the market is not there, but I don’t know when the market will be there. It may be very fast. It may be very slow. 


[00:28:40] Connor

Yeah. So what, what advice would I give them?



[00:28:43] Jianggan



[00:28:45] Connor

Yeah. First of all, please keep subscribing and keep listening to this channel because we’re sharing some of the most valuable information from China, and maybe this is the most advanced e commerce, live commerce market. In the world, so be a listener stick to our channel.

This is a first advice and the second one is that Maybe yours you guys are using tik tok and please download Douyin Which is the mainland version? And you can know some information. Please just trust the algorithm back there. Please trust the algorithm of Douyin it because it always gives you what you want.

If you have done some searching, if you have watched something, you give some interaction to the content. It will constantly give you more information that you are interested in. So just trust that.

Advice number three, please try to after knowing all the information that you got from Douyin try to look for maybe the immersion or the offline events held by companies who are platforms like Momentumworks, you are the very first this type of company I know, and I think you are, you guys are one of the best.


[00:30:05] Jianggan

Thank you. 


[00:30:06] Connor

And if you’ve yes maybe number advice number four, if you have known the industry that you want to work on, and then you have known somebody from the offline events that you participate in just to have a try because like we mentioned in the earlier part of our episode in China, especially in the online industry, online business, e commerce industry, one year or one month is relatively a short time because every company in China, they are trying to do.

New business in a minimum viable product way. It won’t do a much investment in the very first day. . We will talk about this and then we build this prototype or this mold and give it a try in a very short time. And we will test the KOC or the return from it. So you don’t have to be anxious or afraid if you have an idea and you have someone you want to work with.

And that’s it. You maybe have done some searching on Douyin, you think somebody has already started and are doing it, and you have a very good feeling about it, just have a try. Because maybe when you are thinking about it for one month, this chance has gone. 


[00:31:20] Jianggan

True. So actually it’s very good set of advice, right?

I mean, first, get the insights. Second, I mean get a chance to talk to stakeholders like download Douyin so that you can see what other people have been doing. And fourth is that you have an idea, just try it out because only when you start trying, they can start iterating and they get a real feel of how it is like or whether the model will work.


[00:31:39] Connor

Yes, yes, yes. True. 


[00:31:43] Sabrina

Thank you, Connor, for doing some marketing for us. So, like you said, one way to learn a lot more or really get to see what’s happening in China is to actually go to China and see for yourself. And. Yeah. It just so happens that Momentum Works will be doing another live commerce immersion this time round in May.

So we’ll actually be going to Hangzhou for three days. And like Connor mentioned, we’ll bring you to meet a few companies who are key players in the ecosystem in live commerce in China. So you’ll really get to learn a lot and see what’s actually happening on the ground, as well as hear from experts speakers like Connor, who know a lot about these industries and who can share their insights and experience on how to actually run and operate these businesses.

Right? Yes. So I will put a link in the show notes down below. You guys can check it out if you’re interested. So thank you, Connor, for joining today’s podcast. And for our listeners, thank you for tuning into another episode of the Impulso podcast. We hope that you guys enjoyed today’s episode, and if you did, do like our podcast and for us on Spotify, apple Podcast or your preferred podcast platform to stay up to date on the latest happenings and trends in tech, new retail, and the broader digital economy.

Thank you. 


[00:35:20] Connor

Thank you. Thank you.


Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].