Bilibili is a Chinese long-form video sharing platform that is quickly becoming an important channel for brands to reach the large Gen Z consumer base.
Launched in 2009, Bilibili first gained popularity as an Animation, Comics and Games (AGC) platform.
“The emphasis was on producing something, as opposed to filming you at the very beginning. Therefore, there were a lot of online fanfiction communities around the platform, ” explains Dr Crystal Abidin, associate professor and senior researcher in Internet studies at Curtin University.
While the first instinct would be to compare it to YouTube, Bilibili has its own characteristics that make it distinctive, such as its live commentary feature, also known as danmu– curtain of balls.
“If, say, for a while in the video a lot of people are commenting, you’re going to see this stream of comments on the screen itself superimposed on the video. Commenting and watching the comments of others is a very central part of consuming videos on Bilibili ”, Dr Crystal said.
“If you were to compare Bilibili to other big international video sharing platforms like YouTube, their common aspect, the commentary aspect, the license fees, all that makes Bilibili stand out. That sense of community, scale, emphasis on comments, as opposed to being a single user, that really makes Bilibili a lot more community than we think in terms of YouTube.
Additionally, the platform is known for its high quality content as it regulates and determines who joins the platform as the creator.
“Anyone who wants to be a creator has to take a really long quiz of 100 questions. They try to keep people very creative, at a very high level in terms of their relevance to their audience and to the really trendy young audience in the community ”, said Allie Rooke, brand strategist and founder of Clean Beauty Asia.
Beauty growth on Bilibili
In recent years, Bilibili has started to expand its niche to a wider audience and now users can find just about any other kind of content from unboxing videos to makeup tutorials.
With Generation Z quickly becoming the main consumer force in China, it’s no wonder the platform is now attracting brands like beauty giants like L’Oréal Group, Estée Lauder Companies and Shiseido.
“Last year the number of beauty brands that launched Bilibili increased by over 2,000%. This is where it really changed. It’s gone from a very niche channel to a much more mainstream channel with a large number of users and brands are embracing it from an investment perspective. It has probably been a game-changer in the last 12-18 months ”, Rooke said.
At the moment, however, only the big brands are investing in Bilibili due to the high costs.
“The only problem with Bilibili is that it’s a pretty expensive platform. Instead of paying 30 seconds on Douyin, you pay 15 minutes on Bilibili. It’s expensive because it takes more time for the creator to create the content. For some brands it can be quite tricky – that’s part of the reason it has been so dominated by the bigger brands ”,Rooke said.
She added that smaller brands shouldn’t feel pressured to add Bilibili to their digital marketing repertoire.
“There are so many channels in China between the major ones like Weibo, Wechat and Redbook. It is difficult for small brands because they have to manage their profitability. Even though I think Bilibili has a stronghold, it just needs to be at the right time for the brand.
According to Dr Crystal, there is a great appetite for videos created by Chinese people living abroad.
“What is most popular in China and which might stand out from what we see on YouTube are food videos or personal videos, especially of diaspora Chinese who live in international countries, who live videos of a day in a lifetime, like cooking a meal and telling people how you do your Asian groceries.
Rooke suggests that foreign brands looking to establish a presence in China may turn to these Chinese influencers living outside of China.
“A lot of these KOLs themselves have the Bilibili channel with YouTube as the main channel. You can think of Bilibili as a natural progression for them to have a platform in China. That this can be a way for brands to take advantage of KOLs abroad.
What’s next for Bilibili?
Since Alibaba invested in Bilibili in 2019, the platform has refocused on e-commerce, like Douyin.
In the age of social commerce, Bilibili sits on an opportunity to become “A place where consumers want to be on more than Tmall”,Rooke said.
“With the destruction of the Walled Gardens there is a lot more flow of Tmall and all of the other platforms into each other. I think this would shift Tmall’s revenue to these other platforms, giving Bilibili the opportunity to gain market share. “