The success of live e-commerce in China illustrates key differences in how consumers in China and the West interact with online brands.
Ask someone in the West about livestreaming, and they may look back at you blankly — that is, unless they are under 25, in which case they may likely mention gaming or TikTok. Ask someone in China, and you’re more likely to hear about e-commerce.
Livestreaming simply refers to online media broadcast in real time, like a webinar (think a Zoom lecture) or game play (think Twitch). When you combine livestreaming and e-commerce, you get live commerce, where real-time interactions between shoppers and sellers take place. It is basically a refresh of the old late-night TV infomercial, except, unlike infomercials, it is dynamic, exciting, and occurs in prime time.
In China, where live commerce is huge, a good host can generate millions in sales in just a few hours. In 2019, the Chinese live commerce market was estimated to reach 440 billion yuan (around $63 billion), according to Everbright Securities. By March 2020, the number of live commerce users had reached 265 million, accounting for 29.3% of the country’s total number of internet users.