Livestreaming: the latest trend in eCommerce

  • On April 30, 2019


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Mention livestreaming in the West, and the first thing that comes to mind is gaming. Twitch is arguably the best-known example. Founded in 2011, Twitch is the world’s most popular livestream gaming platform with more than 2 million unique streamers every month who are able to watch and chat with fellow subscribers from all over the world[1]. However, in China, livestreaming has become synonymous with online shopping and is now a “go-to” option for Chinese shoppers who use it to research new products and help them to decide what to buy.


China leading the Livestream trend

Online shopping in China is an increasingly social experience with popular celebrities livestreaming their shopping trips. The livestream format involves an influencer, often a popular celebrity, demonstrating a product and responding to questions from a digital audience. Livestreams take place in real-time, normally on a smartphone, and are proving a highly effective way of marrying the offline shopping experience with online purchasing. 


The results are impressive. Take the example of Li Jiaqi, otherwise known as “Lipstick Brother”, one of China’s top livestream influencers who regularly attracts several million viewers and is renowned for selling products worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in one session. Li Jiaqi explained to 36Kr, a Chinese news website: “We used to help others sell things offline: I would come up to you and spend an hour fixing up your make-up and then sell RMB 2,000 ($300) worth of products.  But after I became a livestreamer, I can sell up to RMB 2 million ($300,000) in an hour”[2].


China is the undisputed world leader in combining livestreaming with online shopping. More than 100 million viewers in China are watching a live online video event every month[3] and the country’s livestreaming revenue was estimated to reach $4.4 billion in 2018[4]. The livestreams take place within the eCommerce platforms enabling followers to purchase items they see immediately within the same app. Alibaba-owned Taobao, one of the biggest eCommerce platforms in China, has 4000 livestream hosts who produce 150,000 hours of content and broadcast over 600,000 products through the livestream every day.


Taobao Marketplace’s results are proof that combining livestreaming with online shopping is a successful formula: the company generated over 100 billion RMB ($15.1 billion) in gross merchandise volume (GMV) through its livestreaming in 2018 which represented an increase of almost 400% year-on-year[5]. The principal reason for this is that eCommerce platforms operating in China such as the Alibaba-owned, Taobao Marketplace are not only eRetailers but also content communities. Influencers build relationships with their viewers through the livestreams. According to Christine Mou, livestreamer for Shopshops, “When Chinese consumers watch a livestream on an eCommerce platform, they are simultaneously watching an influencer and peer whom they like and trust. They can become extremely loyal and receptive to specific livestreamers, especially those they have been following for some time and feel connected to.”[6]


US platforms incorporate livestreaming

Amazon’s decision to enter into the livestreaming space with the launch of Amazon Live earlier this year indicates that it too considers livestreaming to be an effective way of making internet shopping more personal thereby driving online sales. Amazon Live includes live video shows hosted by Amazon-recruited talent where viewers are offered a demonstration of products for sale on Amazon, similar to those seen on the shopping channel QVC, with a carousel sitting underneath where shoppers can browse product details and purchase items.

In addition, Amazon is making it easier for brands to be involved in Amazon Live via a new app called Amazon Live Creator which will enable a brand to stream its video content directly to 


Giving brands the opportunity to interact with their shoppers in real time and to chat with them during a livestream will enable brands to reach more customers. The card game maker, “Watch Ya’ Mouth”, an early tester of the new Amazon Live, is claimed to have said that livestreaming has contributed to a five-fold increase in visits to its product page and significantly grown its sales[7].

Facebook has also got involved with livestreaming by testing a new feature in Facebook Marketplace Community that will enable merchants to sell items more efficiently on a livestream. The feature, currently being trialed in Thailand, will provide customers with a screenshot button that will allow them to take photos of items being demonstrated by a seller and message the seller directly. Merchants will then send their payment requests through Facebook Messenger.

Instagram enables users to livestream with its Instagram Live feature in Instagram Stories and is also currently trialing its new Checkout feature which allows users to browse, shop and pay for products without leaving the app[8]. It would not be surprising if the Facebook-owned company also decided to open its platform to livestreaming shopping.


Interactive online shopping trips

Until now, most livestream shopping experiences had been principally focused on an individual experience. New players such as BuyWith are developing a software that enables users to screen share and chat online so that they can co-browse with their friends. The mobile shopping start-up, Dote, has just launched an exciting new feature called Shopping Party, a 15-minute event during which an influencer, or “Dote Creator”, shares live video with followers and interacts with them while browsing products on Dote. 


Originally launched in 2014, Dote is particularly popular with female Gen-Z shoppers and offers them 150 retailers in one shopping experience. The idea of Shopping Parties came from Dote CEO, Lauren Farleigh, when she overheard some “Dote Creators” online shopping and chatting together and thought that shopping parties would be an ideal way to regain the social experience that was “lost when we stopped going to the mall with our friends.”[9]

We live in an era where people want to watch and be inspired by what others do from Snapchat to Instagram Stories to Twitch. TV reality shows might have lost some of the lust because of the lower appeal non on-demand TV has, but observing the latest trends, from snapchat to live stories, live videos, everything tells us people want to step into someone else’s life.

Let us know what you think:

  • How will brands leverage data gleaned from livestreams?
  • Where does real-time engagement fit in global marketing strategies?
  • Will livestream shopping become a powerful sales channel for Fast Moving Consumer Goods?

Ratings and reviews (R&R’s) are another type of content consumers use to influence their purchases. But that is not the only reason why they are important to your business. Read our full article on why R&R really matter here:

This article was created and written by Luigi Matrone – CEO & Founder of the eBusiness Institute.

At the eBusiness Institute, we have extensive experience of working with numerous brands on their digital transformation. We understand the importance of an optimised consumer experience to drive your brand’s sales online and offline. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you.

—> Update: Following this piece on livestreaming, we explored inspirational commerce as the new chapter in the evolution of eCommerce. Read more about Inspirational Commerce.