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Seeking beauty advice in chat rooms from a distance
From:ChinaDaily   |  2020-05-06 10:44

It was 7:30 pm on Monday. Wang Ming, a medical aesthetic physician at a public hospital in Beijing, returned home after work, sat in front of his webcam and prepared for his livestreaming instructional debut.

He warmed up his livestreaming chat room audience with case sharing. Within a few minutes, those seeking a few strategic nips and tucks began flocking into the chat room one after another, lining up to ask about how to become more attractive through medical intervention. The chat room became so busy that 30 seconds before the livestreaming ended, users complained that they did not get a chance for consultations.

The 90-minute session attracted 61,000 visits. Via video connection, 10 users had their queries answered by Wang. Seeing their faces, Wang offered his medical aesthetic expertise to them, either on facial fine-tuning, or plastic surgery repair. The livestreaming consultation went viral, as beauty seekers were offered detailed explanations on medical aesthetic issues they were interested in, even though some of them didn't get a chance to virtually interact with the doctor.

Wang is among a growing group of medical aesthetic doctors who are engaging in livestreaming consultations. As COVID-19 has forced tens of millions of people indoors, the medical aesthetic sector-which normally requires face-to-face beauty consultations-is finding a new way forward.

"Our medical aesthetic department resumed operations on Feb 3. However, as people were jittery about coming to hospitals, there were only a few visits a day. That was why my colleagues and I started to think of livestreaming beauty consultations," Wang said.

"Due to the epidemic, countless opportunities regarding bringing services online emerged in the medical aesthetic industry. The changes may even upend the business mode of the sector," said Mu An, general manager of BeauCare Clinics Medical Investment Co Ltd.

"We are wondering who will be the first 'Li Jiaqi' in the medical aesthetic livestreaming sector," said Jin Xing, CEO and founder of Soyoung.com, an online medical aesthetic platform.

Li Jiaqi is a livestreaming celebrity who first made his name selling lipstick on Taobao. He has more than 15 million fans on several major livestreaming platforms and lifestyle apps.

Lin Yiling, a healthcare analyst at Beijing-based think tank Equal-Ocean, said due to the epidemic, offline business in the medical aesthetic sector has been forced to shut down, which boosted online beauty consultations.

"Normally, offline consultations are a must for plastic surgery. However, the contagion gives market insiders new insights, which may break the industry's entire closed loop from offline to online," she said.

Liu Di, founder and CEO of cosmetic surgery platform Gengmei, said one lesson learned from the COVID-19 epidemic is that medical aesthetic institutions, which used to acquire customers through offline channels, should consider bringing the channels online.

"They should look for breakthroughs during the crisis," Liu said.

Market consultancy iResearch said that currently the expense of acquiring customers accounts for 30 to 50 percent of the total costs for medical aesthetic institutions.

In 2019, among China's over 10,000 qualified plastic surgery institutions, only 50 percent were using online marketing platforms, said Xiang Xiaoqin, founder and CEO of medical aesthetic platform yuemei.com.

Compared to traditional offline consultations, online video consultations seem to be more effective. Normally it takes 15 to 30 days for a customer to revisit after a brick-and-mortar consultation. However, they typically pay another visit three to 15 days after conducting online video consultations, said an industry insider.

"In the past, medical aesthetic institutions mainly relied on beauty counselors to sell their products and services. However, due to refined operations in the sector, a single offline channel no longer meets the demand from different consumer groups. The future trend will be based on the integration of online platforms and professional expertise," said the report from iResearch.

Li Bin, chairman of BeauCare Clinics, said online video consultations are an inevitable trend. However, for the domestic market, the phenomenon is in an embryonic stage. Whether the practice fully takes hold remains to be seen.