Attractive and charming livestream anchors have won the hearts of a large domestic audience, while those who can speak foreign languages are even attracting viewers from abroad.
Huang Erxia, 38, switched from being a tour guide to a livestream anchor in May 2020, after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus virtually shut down the tourism industry. Huang's unique selling point in what has become a crowded market was her foreign language skills.
"Back then, I thought it was not going to be difficult for me as I have an advantage in speaking foreign languages, and I'd seen people do livestreaming before on Douyin," she said. "But that was not the case. It's not that easy to do the job, especially when you have such a small audience to begin with."
She said the most difficult part at the very beginning was to remain passionate and clear in introducing and describing the products she was selling－mostly women's fashion.
"But it didn't take too much time for me to get used to the job," she said. "The only difference is now I receive the foreign customers online, rather than at on-site attractions.
"It's more challenging to get people on TikTok, the short-video platform we perform our livestreams on, to purchase our products."
She said the peak purchasing time is usually around midnight, during which time she can sell products worth as much as £200($251) per hour.
Staying passionate and sincere is also the sales secret of Zhang Zhou, who has worked as a cross-border livestreaming anchor in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, since last December.
The 36-year-old finished her master's degree at Columbia University in 2019 and started her own business in New York soon after. She returned to China and took the role as a transitional job due to the pandemic.
Zhang said it's important for anchors to come across as sincere when livestreaming internationally, and not just be attractive.
"We currently sell womenswear, and selling to foreign markets is quite different from the livestreaming model popular in the domestic market. When talking to customers abroad, we simplify ordering procedures and more importantly, explain the return policy as clearly as possible to gain their trust.
"I occasionally experience racism, but most of the time I get great satisfaction and happiness from my job," she said.
"In March, we made a mess of one order, sending five or six pieces of the wrong clothing to a customer in the United Kingdom. I wrote an apology and sent her a pearl necklace as compensation. I was surprised that she replied quickly and even sent me a wedding invitation. It's really touching to win other people's trust."
Zhang said whether she continues to livestream or applies for a PhD in the future, she will remain involved in cross-border trade, as she sees there being great progress in the sector's future.
Official figures support that view. A recent report by the Zhejiang E-commerce Promotion Association showed there was a 15 percent increase in cross-border trade last year, with a total of 1.98 trillion yuan ($311 billion) in imports and exports.
Exports alone accounted for 1.44 trillion yuan, a rise of 24.5 percent compared to the previous year.
Data analysis institute iiMedia Research, which is headquartered in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, estimates in a newly released report that 2022 will be an important year for China's cross-border livestreaming industry.
It said the market volume is projected to exceed 100 billion yuan, which would represent a potential year-on-year increase of 210 percent.
Greater public acceptance of the livestreaming sales business model means that more people are applying for jobs as anchors and the openings and salaries are also on the rise.
Figures cited by Zhaopin, an online recruitment platform, show that livestreaming vacancies increased by 11.7 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of last year, while the number of job-seekers applying for jobs in the sector saw a year-on-year rise of 47 percent over the same period.
Cao Yanbin, president of Tituo Kuajing Co in Shenzhen, said that thanks to the boom, cross-border livestreaming promises great future growth, which will create more vacancies for job seekers.
"I've worked in the foreign trade business since 2009 and started this company in 2018. In April, TikTok－the short-video sharing platform－started an online shopping channel dedicated to Indonesia, and then in July, to the United Kingdom," he said.
"We plan to recruit more anchors this year. We offer free training to college students who are interested in becoming anchors."
The central government is paying close attention to the development of cross-border business and the livestreaming sector.
Three central departments－the Ministry of Commerce, the Cyberspace Administration of China and the National Development and Reform Commission－released a plan last October that placed particular focus on the development and regulation of cross-border e-commerce over the next four years.
Under the plan, China will improve the standard of livestreaming and support the development of cross-border e-commerce by encouraging platforms to improve their warehousing, logistics and payment services.