Market Report

China – Ecommerce makeover

by Oliver Matthew / Nov 8, 2019


Anyone interested in the global livestreaming industry must study the Asian markets, and China in particular, where the scope of the industry is enormous in terms of the sheer number of users and range of user demographics. Domestic streaming companies are at the forefront when it comes to new technology, gamification and monetisation methods, and product design.

Nowhere else in the world have we seen livestreaming become such a mainstream phenomenon, attracting viewers and streamers from all walks of life. From glamourous celebrities attending a luxury brand’s product launch in Beijing or Shanghai, to rural farmers and fishermen selling their oranges and pearls.

Livestreaming is nothing new in China, where it has existed on desktop computers since at least 2006. Entertainment platform YY was an early mover and the big player, and while it was able to amass a large user base, its growth was limited due to it being a PC application, the lack of mobile penetration and low internet speeds at the time.

Alibaba is the key force behind the mainland’s ecommerce livestreaming trend. Back in 2016, when everyone was still focused on entertainment, it saw an opportunity for ecommerce and began developing Taobao Livestreaming. Fast forward to 2018, and 84 Taobao stores each reportedly achieved US$7.4m in sales through broadcasts. Of those, 23 hit US$15m or more.

Taobao has its own set of livestreaming influencers. Over 1,200 have more than one-million fans, and another 1,000 have over 500,000. In 2018, 81 influencers each generated over US$15m in sales through broadcasts.

The three main areas of livestreaming to pay attention to are WeChat, brands developing their own in-house hosts, and future rapid growth as an increasing number of brands set their sights on China’s lower-tier markets.