From being the most popular short-video app in China, Meipai lost many users in favor of the emerging Douyin. But the company managed to survive the setbacks adapting to the competitive market of e-commerce platforms
For every social media platform that found extraordinary rapid success in China, there is one that is overshadowed. This is the case of Meipai, once the top short video platform, which has recently shared many of its users with Douyin.
However, Meitu, the company behind Meipai, is not taking this failure as a defeat and has already launched its plan B, a new social platform, which already collects more users than Meipai, Douyin, and Little Red Book combined. Meipai as well has managed to survive the setback, successfully coming back as a social-commerce platform.
But what is Meipai and how did it help to spread the short video trend in the Middle Kingdom? Then, what happened to this popular app and how did it manage to take the stage back?
As mentioned before, Meipai 美拍 is a video-sharing app created by Meitu Technology Co. Ltd., a Chinese tech company based in Xiamen, which is known for its image editing apps mostly addressed to the “selfie industry.”
Launched in 2014, Meipai became China’s most popular video app very quickly, attracting young women living in first and second-tier cities. Although it started off as a 15-second short video app, a model similar to Vine, over the years, the platform gradually expanded, adding new features like live-streaming and video additions that went up to 5 minutes.
A striking example of Meipai’s boom was the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, where L’Oreal invited some Chinese celebrities, including Li Bingbing, Jing Boran, and Li Yuchun, to live-stream their personal use of the brand’s most popular products on the platform.
© China Live. In 2017, 76% of Meipai’s users were women with an average age of 23, and 60% of them lived in first and second-tier cities.
The app’s early success lasted for two years with major international brands such as Disney, Victoria’s Secrets, and Adidas running video campaigns on the platform. In June 2017, the number of Meipai’s monthly active users (MAU) reached a peak of over 152 million people but then, the decline just started.
In December of that same year, the app’s number of MAU decreased significantly to 98 million users. In the meantime, other short video apps took the market over. One of these is Douyin, which not only “stole” many Meipai’s users but it also managed to reach overseas markets by the name of Tik Tok.
Actually, the decline of Meipai was not caused by the rise of more competitive platforms only, but it was mainly determined by the app’s latest choices and it was then hopelessly affected by a ten-day shutdown. Indeed, the first dramatic decrease in the number of users came soon after Meipai launched a new set of rules for sponsored posts. These regulations not only included the obligation to register every single sponsored post by the brand through the official platform, but they also added additional fees. As a result, Meipai’s top Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) started to go through strict control by the app, sometimes experiencing their posts taken down from the platform. KOLs thus began to look for alternatives, bringing their audiences toward different shores.
In its five-year existence, Meipai went through many ups and downs. However, although some serious setbacks that favored its competitors, the short video app has been able to find its own niche in the beauty audience while also establishing itself in the Chinese social-commerce market.
In March 2018, Meipai also went offline for a complete system upgrade, a shutdown that lasted nearly ten days, leaving users and the influencers without a place to upload their high-value content. Thousands of KOLs have built massive audiences on Meipai and have thus experienced severe loss of engagement and audience.
In the meantime, Douyin became the favorite app worldwide with an estimated 104 million downloads. Therefore, when Meipai came back online, it showed many similarities with its main competitor. The app tried returning to its roots, making a heavy push to promote short vertically-shot 15-second videos and introducing lip-syncing features and other special effects that looked similar to Douyin.
Moreover, in June 2018, after the authorities criticized the app for spreading inappropriate content, Meipai was pulled from China’s iOS and Android app stores by Meitu for 30 days.
© Meipai 美拍. Meipai is one of the most popular platforms for beauty bloggers, to which Chinese consumers turn for tutorials and advice.
Nevertheless, Douyin was not the only app grabbing China’s larger market share. Other social networks were gaining popularity by addressing the same target audience, those young women from higher-tier cities.
In particular, Little Red Book 小红书 has been gaining popularity in the beauty niche, recording a 40% increase in the number of users since the end of 2017. In the beginning, Meipai was the most popular platform for beauty bloggers, to which Chinese consumers turned for tutorials and advice before Xiaohongshu took the stage over.
Meitu Technology Co. Ltd., actually owns many beauty applications and its original app is used by numerous women in China to beautify their photos. Therefore, after Little Red Book succeeded in grabbing the beauty audience, the Xiamen company has realized this should be the future of both Meipai and Meitu.
Fully aware of Meipai’s downturn, Meitu 美图 reinvented itself and launched an alternative, which is now able to compete in the Chinese social media market. The photo editing app is thus transformed into a proper photo-social platform, where users from both higher and lower-tier cities, as well as overseas users, can share their content and follow the latest trends through different kinds of contents such as photos and Meipai-like videos.
With over 455 million MAU, Meitu surely has the numbers to lead the Chinese social media scene, especially for what concerns the beauty niche, having an impact on the she-conomy as well. According to the company, which also makes smartphones that integrates its beautification apps, Meitu is going to build a whole “ecosystem around beauty,” making a foray into beauty-related smart hardware.
Nevertheless, Douyin’s rise and Meitu’s temporary focus on its original app does not preclude Meipai from keeping its position as one of the most popular short video apps in China. Many Chinese wanghongs – internet celebrities – holding thousands of followers on Weibo now use both Douyin and Meipai for their video content and tutorials, especially for what concerns cosmetics. For example, Weibo’s travel influencer 貓力 Molly also has a successful Meipai profile, which counts 418.000 followers.
© Meitu. With 455 million monthly active users, photo-enhancement app Meitu is turning itself into a photo-social platform.
The reason all these apps still find their spot in the limelight is that they still ride the wave of short video content’s success as one of the latest forms of communication. But above all, as well as many other applications, Meipai turned into an e-commerce platform, allowing purchasing functions on its videos.
Users now can create products links that pop up in the middle of videos, which are more appealing than previous product links on the platform. Similar types of on-screen product links have appeared in many live-streaming apps such as Taobao Live and Yizhibo, but Meipai has been the first to use these particular pop-up links on a video platform.
As about 95% of e-commerce activity in China is made through mobile devices, live-streaming has indeed become a powerful tool for the online retail industry.
Therefore, the video app that was formerly overshadowed by Douyin actually turned out to be a revolutionary tool for fashion and beauty brands, because of both the entertainment and the social components. Moreover, Meipai, as well as Douyin and Kuaishou, has its official sub-platform for advertisers and celebrities as part of its business, and it offers services like data analysis and resource sharing.
Meitu’s video app may have experienced some setbacks since the launch date, but while the main company is going big on social media, Meipai managed to adapt to the situation upgrading its offer with e-commerce features, rocking the competition both in China and abroad.