Samantha Cheh · 9d ago · 4 min read
It’s hard to imagine that anyone would tune in to watch hour-long livestream episodes of someone trying to sell a new watch or eating an insane amount of seafood. And yet that’s exactly what’s happening now.
While livestreaming was born in the West, it’s companies and entrepreneurs in China that have made it widespread, with more than 200 livestreaming sites and over 200 million users in the country. Analysts suggest that China’s livestreaming industry will see US$5 billion in revenue this year, and could be worth US$12.6 billion by the end of 2020.
While the phenomenon isn’t new by any means – TV shopping channels were trendy in the 1980s – the rise of livestreaming portals means anyone can now sell online. As such, these real-time demonstrations are highly influential in China, where mobile devices account for 70% of all ecommerce sales.
The trend is so massive that it’s also become appealing for shoppers in Southeast Asia – a demand online ecommerce platform Shopee has been quick to respond to.
Coming to you live
In March, Shopee launched Shopee Live, its own livestreaming service, which features tools that support sellers – both official brands and micro-entrepreneurs – that want to connect with their fans and potential customers. Since inception, the app has garnered 200 million views across Southeast Asia and Taiwan.
Authenticity is what makes the livestreaming experience so enticing, points out Zhou Junjie, chief commercial officer at Shopee. “There is no editing, Photoshopping, or second takes with livestreaming,” he says.
On top of this, the platform is convenient, offering an all-in-one shopping experience. Content creators on Shopee Live can showcase products in real time and answer viewer questions about them, and audiences can then buy these items without leaving the stream.
Customers can opt to replay recent streams on the app and schedule reminders for events to boot.
These features serve to build a more engaging retail experience. And with many of the region’s shoppers accessing the internet via smartphones, it’s little wonder that ecommerce sites are working on in-app livestreaming tools to draw viewers who may eventually become customers.
“Online shopping has been an inherently transactional experience, [but] today, shoppers are looking for more than that,” Zhou says. “When [users] access the app, they are also looking to be entertained and to engage with the online community.”
To this end, he stresses that it’s imperative for ecommerce sites to enhance the shopping experience and integrate other elements, such as entertainment, social features, and the atmosphere in brick-and-mortar stores.
The human connection
Another major factor why livestreaming has made such an impact is that it creates a sense of intimacy between shoppers and sellers: it isn’t a lonely activity, and it can feel a lot like wandering a mall with a friend. And as digital increasingly becomes people’s primary experience of the world, it’s more important for platforms to foster connections, particularly for an industry as personal as retail.
“Consumers have a much more immersive, cutting-edge online shopping experience through Shopee Live,” Zhou concurs.
In turn, this trend has enabled sellers to change the way potential customers discover or interact with them as well as how they build a reputation for themselves.
Korean beauty product vendor Jae-min Kim attests to this, saying that livestreaming services have enabled his company to promote its items in a more interactive manner. “This results in more engaging and satisfying experiences for buyers, as they can see the products on video and in real time,” he shares.
Being able to form this kind of connection via online channels also helps sellers to reach beyond their borders, selling to customers from other countries.
Finding the best fit
Gaining ground in the vertical takes work, however. How well sellers do in livestreaming often boils down to how their personality matches with what consumers want. This is so important in China that trainers for livestreaming exist.
While not to that extent, Shopee – in Singapore – provides support to brand partners in the ideation, preparation, and filming of livestream episodes. This includes giving pointers on storyboard writing and strategies that livestreamers can use to achieve a particular objective. The firm also guides partners on the setup of the actual filming process – from finding a good space, conducting the session, to ensuring personnel are ready to take note of winners in the case of a live contest.
But regardless of preparation, Kim emphasizes the importance of being honest with the audience. “Viewers appreciate genuinity and truly want to know what you have to say about the product and service,” he says.
As demand for content increases and mobile penetration rises, the livestreaming phenomenon will continue to play a significant role in driving the ecommerce industry. “The opportunities are endless,” says Zhou. “Online shopping businesses with mobile platforms have to find ways to become even more interesting and appealing to users on the go.”