eCommerce Live-streaming in China: Live in the Time of Corona

Thomas Price
china livestreaming

Live-streaming in China has been a powerful force in eCommerce in certain sectors for years. This is certainly nothing new. But usually when we talk about how live-streaming supports eCommerce, we think of KOLs promoting cosmetics or fashion products. Less frequently do we see other product categories embrace this tool.

However, the global pandemic has had a noticeable effect on eCommerce around the world. And among the results of this has been interesting developments for eCommerce live-streaming in China.

Surging Popularity

We already touched on how popular live-streaming in China has become. But multiple platforms have stated that the Coronavirus pandemic situation has made these existing channels even more popular. We can see big boosts in eCommerce live-streaming viewership across the industry, even in seemingly mature sectors.

At a panel during Alibaba’s Tmall Beauty Awards, Estée Lauder China’s online general manager Gary Chu was quoted as saying; “Live-streaming really boomed during the pandemic. Like it or not, we’re looking at a new paradigm that’s here to stay, and we have to consider how to adapt accordingly.” He pointed to self-produced streams as well as influencer-led sessions as ways the company has successfully engaged with the technology.

china livestreaming

Fresh food has also been quick to embrace live-streaming. Certainly these sectors had some presence on such platforms before, but the pandemic has pushed even more hesitant merchants to consider adopting live-streaming as a sales channel. Alibaba’s Rural Support Program has helped farmers and fisherman to brave this new frontier, making Taobao Live available to them for free and supporting their getting to grips with the service. Farmers have been live-streaming their fresh crops and products while fisherman show buyers the catch of the day live.

Interest From New Sectors

Besides fashion, cosmetics, and other market sectors that are already well-established in eCommerce live-streaming, other sectors have during the pandemic looked to the technology to help keep their business stable or explore new profit avenues at what has otherwise been a very trying time.

Notably, the auto sector has jumped on live-streaming as a way to push sales at a time when showrooms are closed. With live-streams, car salespeople can share ‘digital showrooms’ with thousands at a time. Alibaba’s live-streaming platform Taobao Live reported that sellers have hosted over 15,000 live-streams selling cars to date.

Another such sector is, interestingly, gaming. Live-streaming is no stranger to the video-game world, and this sector embraced eCommerce long ago. But what we’re seeing more of today is the combination of the two. Chinese video platform Bilibili and its integrated eCommerce arm Bilistore has been using live-streamers to provide shoppers with the entertainment equivalent of checking out fresh farm produce before making a purchase. Such promotions have featured regularly on the Bilibili live-streaming front-page during the pandemic months.

china livestreaming

Giving Offline Retailers New Direction

High street stores have been among the hardest hits businesses during this time. Especially those with no online presence to fall back on! While robust delivery infrastructure meant that many stores were able to stay open in China for most of the pandemic, those with no online presence at all still felt the strain.

So some previously offline retail brands began retraining their store clerks in using technologies like live-streaming to generate sales even with the doors closed. One Chinese shoe seller had to close the doors of its 4,000 brick and mortar stores. Despite this, it still had bills to pay, from factory fees to store rental. Therefore, it took the ambitious step of mobilizing its store clerks to take to live-streaming platforms and sell online. Its first such event on March 8th was such a hit, it immediately began planning for its next such event.

Taobao Live has also announced a training initiative. The platform is unsurprisingly keen to encourage the adoption of live-streaming eCommerce. As such, it aims to train more than 10,000 store clerks to become live-streaming hosts and salespeople.

Interested in learning more about Chinese eCommerce? Check out our free China eCommerce Market Starter Guide today!

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