For the next big ecommerce trend, look down and east

Livestreamed ecommerce is taking China by storm. Here’s how.


February 16, 2021

To predict digital trends, the saying goes, look down and east. “Down,” as in your phone, and “east” as in China. Today, there’s yet another reason to look down and east.

Around the world, Chinese people are celebrating 2 things: the Year of the Ox and the year livestreamed ecommerce went BIG.

So big, in fact, it was the main focus at China’s New Year’s Gala…

viewed by 1B+ people. The star of the show was 36-year-old influencer Huang Wei, known as Viya, China’s livestream queen.

Spotlighting Viya shows China’s dead serious about leading the world in livestreamed ecommerce:

  • As of March 2020, 560m people were watching shopping livestreams in China, an increase of 126m compared to the summer of 2019.
  • China’s livestream commerce market reached $170B in 2020, up from $66B in 2019.

Think of China’s livestreamed shopping platforms as the intersection of QVC and TikTok. Anyone can be an influencer, offer fan discounts, and promote flash deals in real time.

China’s hoping the trend can rejuvenate its battered economy

Though influencers can sell practically anything (no joke, Viya sold a rocket launch service last year), Beijing is pushing influencers to promote nationally important products.

Many influencers promote local foods to help China’s 130m farm households. One platform says it even helped 5m sellers from China’s poorest villages market ~$3B in agricultural products in 2019.

When will livestreamed commerce trend overseas?

In the US, we’re already seeing its early stages. Amazon launched an in-house QVC platform — Amazon Live — in 2019, and Walmart tested influencer-driven live shopping on TikTok in December.

It’s a good start, but to catch up with China’s 560m viewers, there’s clearly a ways to go.

Viya, China’s livestream queen, literally selling a rocket online (Source: The Sixth Tone)

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