Livestreaming, TV, pharmacies: Nutrition brands’ sales channel strategies for 2022

By Guan Yu Lim, Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Complementary medicines brands can make use of the time individuals spend in pharmacies for COVID-19 vaccinations to promote their products, said George Tambassis, director of the Australian Pharmaceuticals Industries. ©Getty Images
Complementary medicines brands can make use of the time individuals spend in pharmacies for COVID-19 vaccinations to promote their products, said George Tambassis, director of the Australian Pharmaceuticals Industries. ©Getty Images

Related tags: retail channels, Pharmacy, e-commerce

With the proliferation of communication tools, brands these days can look to various tools in promoting and selling their products.

Of particular interest are the booming livestreaming channel in China, the popularity of TV home shopping in East Asia, and opportunities in pharmacy retail in Australia – which we will look into in this article.  

Brands beef up livestreaming efforts

International sellers into China is pulled into the latest consumer buying trend, video and livestreaming formats which is unlike anything seen elsewhere.

For Irish dairy start-up Grass to Milk​ which sells UHT and children milk, it is adopting a mix of livestreaming, reviews and content across social e-commerce and traditional e-commerce to market its products.

Dr Paul O’Brien, commercial director at Grass to Milk said: “It’s quite unique what we’re doing, we’re calling it the dai gou 2.0 strategy. Basically, we identify expat KOLs that have a minimum of 500,000 followers on sites like Tik Tok, Kuai Shou, Bilibili, and we invite them to our farm in Ireland which is supplying 100% A2 milk. We invite these KOLs to livestream and help people understand our farming systems and our grass-fed cows​.

I don’t think Chinese consumers have a very good understanding of the early parts of the supply chain in terms of the farm, cow breeds, and milking process.

The firm also works with a third party, live streaming e-commerce company called Shanghai Supermom.

O’Brien said the use of video and livestreaming has been transformative, which is associated to a previous driver for consumer purchase which was word-of-mouth.

I think this has been digitalised and scaled up. We see in the Chinese market where if you have a person you trust and you know is live streaming and presenting a product, generally speaking, that seems to resonate quite a lot with the Chinese consumer​.”

In addition, it’s extremely convenient to have all the digital infrastructure in place in China where cashless payments is integrated. So, from the minute you start getting interested in the product, it's all streamlined for you​.”

Asked if there was a potential for this concept to take off elsewhere in the world, he said: “There probably is, but the difference is the infrastructure just isn't there in the way it is in China. So while it might do well, there is not the seamless delivery of the service side to the consumer. I feel that's probably a stumbling block that will have to be addressed before it reaches the type of scale or growth that you see in China​.”

Other brands, such as Swisse and children’s nutritional drink brand Healthy Height have similarly jumped on the bandwagon.

Swisse said its gross merchandise value (GMV) on short video streaming platform TikTok had skyrocketed 316 per cent​ in this year’s Double 11.

Healthy Height, on the other hand, is working with KOLs​ in marketing its products on microblog Weibo, WeChat, and its Tmall flagship store using livestreaming, short video, or articles. 

The company is also expanding into South East Asia via TikTok​ livestreaming and e-commerce.

TV home shopping not going away in Japan, South Korea

The TV home shopping culture is huge in East Asia and COVID-19 has led to more consumers choosing this particular channel.

Kirin, for example, has started selling  LC Plasma supplements​ through Shop Channel in February and the program was broadcast 11 times during the year.

Shop Channel is the largest home TV shopping channel in Japan and showcases fashion, beauty, health, fitness, foods, home appliances, furniture and home products.

It offers round-the-clock broadcasting and live programs and spends about 30 to 60 minutes introducing each item and brand. Every week, about 500 items are introduced, users can call in anytime to make a purchase, and it receives about 70,000 calls on average daily.

As of 2020, 30.04 million households have access to Shop Channel. There are 50 million domestic TV viewing households in Japan.

Ayako Tsukada from the health science department at Kirin Holdings said the home TV shopping channel had the potential to cultivate core fans of the brand by communicating the company's thoughts, the appeal of the products, and the value of the research behind the ingredients.

Although the sales results vary depending on the time of the broadcast, there were times when more than 2,000 sets (8,000 bags) were sold in a one-hour broadcast.

We launched TV sales in order to capture customers with a high level of health consciousness that normally cannot be approached through online shopping alone. In addition, because it is broadcast live, we feel it (TV shopping) is extremely valuable as a test marketing measure to verify the effectiveness of key messages used in a timely manner​.”

According to Tsukada, home TV shopping was popular in the 1970s, but its growth is now slowing, although middle-aged and older women are still the biggest users.

Since the 1970s, when the number of colour TV usage in Japan surpassed 10 million, home TV shopping has expanded rapidly along with the age of television, and even now, with the popularity of online shopping, the market is growing, albeit slowly, with many fans, especially middle-aged and older women. Depending on the products the programs handle, the market is overwhelmingly female, with 90 per cent of the market being in their 40s or older​.”

We feel that women in particular often consider purchasing a product based on a recommendation from a close friend or family member, but we also believe that a product recommendation from a third party, such as a celebrity whom consumers trust and have a good feeling about, has a significant impact on purchase intention,

“There is a tendency for consumers to want to make a decision after confirming that their choice of product is correct by referring to the content of word-of-mouth sites, TV, and in stores, and there may be a psychological background to the Japanese belief that it is safer to choose the same product as others​.”

South Korean probiotic firm Navipharm​ also highlighted the importance of home-shopping channel.

Home-shopping and online channels are the predominant sales channels for the firm.

The home-shopping channel and online mall are major distribution channels of probiotics in Korea.

“Most of consumers search and get the product and related information from websites and social networking services (SNS). Moreover, the pandemic has led the consumers to choose non-face-to-face purchase,”​ Harry Lee, advisor, global business development at Navipharm said.

Next year, the company plans to further strengthen the brand’s exposure via influencers, advertisements, and product placement in TV programs.

Aussie’s vaccination drive makes pharmacies even more relevant

Elsewhere in Australia, complementary medicines should make use of the current vaccination drive in pharmacies to promote their products, said a veteran pharmacist.

Community pharmacies had been invited to join the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, alongside general practitioner clinics since last year.

This is a good opportunity for brands to expose themselves to potential consumers.

“Individuals must spend at least 15 minutes in our pharmacy after we vaccinate them for monitoring of side-effects.

“In that 15 minutes that they are spending in our pharmacy, they are usually sitting in front of all the vitamins section. It’s a huge opportunity for pharmacies to promote the healthy living, supplements for the immune system, and whatever the case may be,”​ said George Tambassis, director of the Australian Pharmaceuticals Industries (API).

Tambassis also owns shares of Tullamarine Pharmacy, Vermont South Pharmacy - both located in Melbourne, and a Priceline Pharmacy in Cowes. 

He said that almost three million vaccines have been administered across the country’s pharmacies in three months’ time.

“We've never had this before and those vaccines are not going away, given that the government is rolling out booster shots, which means the people will have to come back to us every six months or so.

“And so, I think that any company that makes complementary medicines would do very well to focus on everything around the COVID vaccination process,”​ he said.

ASX-listed EZZ Life Sciences echoed the importance of pharmacies.

Glenn Cross, chairperson and non-executive director at the firm said people in Australia and New Zealand have accepted pharmacists and healthcare professionals as an excellent source of advice and would go to them or doctors if they have any health problems.

It has been this way in these countries for many years and we don’t see that changing​.”

Some of EZZ Life Sciences’ supplements that are sold only in pharmacies are the recently launched EZZ Biotic EnGastro Capsule for digestive health, and EZZ Biotic HHP Support Probiotic for immune health.

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