Livestream shopping on social media is totally disrupting traditional e-commerce in China. At the heart of this online craze are the top influencers who sell millions of dollars worth of products every night, especially beauty and fashion products.
The state of live stream in China in 2022
Live stream shopping, one of the hottest trends in China every night, tens of millions of people watch live shows hosted by influencers and buy the products they recommend on e-commerce and social apps like Taobao and doing the sister app of Tik Tok.
It has changed the way people shop. You can come to watch various fashion collections even if you don't intend to buy. But once you start to watch, it's likely that will buy. It's not about only shopping, it's about the experience. It's about having fun. You got to see 3-D, you got to see some kind of action. It's almost like a theatre act.
How many users have purchased items on live streams in China?
The internet craze has taken over China. By the end of 2020, the country had almost four hundred million live streamed shopping users. China's livestream e-commerce market has also grown dramatically, with an estimated value of 161 billion dollars in 2020. It's becoming popular outside China as well.
Is livestreaming the future of fashion shopping?
Live streaming is not a new thing in China, it started in 2015 with the rollout of 4G, and it was first used for entertainment and socializing. Many live streamers perform for their followers or chatted to them, making money by receiving virtual currency and gifts. In the West, livestreaming is mainly the domain of avid gamers. In China, it's broken into e-commerce.
China actually has a very big e-commerce empire, so it uses these super apps what we call that you have payment, you have search of information, you have recommendation system and you have a huge amount of goods available on the platform and as well as a lot of consumers. So with this advantage, they merge these features of livestreaming to make the influencers actually sell goods.
Traditional TV shopping involves a one way direction whereby a host introduces a product, demonstrates the things and say, call this number or something. But livestream shopping is live. That in itself is a very, very big difference that causes different psychology, and livestream shopping is a very entertaining way of actually engaging someone else.
When you shop a live streaming video will continue. It will minimize into a corner and you can like buy the items and pay on the same app. After that, the livestreaming sreen will just enlarge by itself, and the promoter will come back to screen. So it's very convenient.
Livestream shopping on Taobao
Taobao one of China's biggest e-commerce platforms owned by tech giant Alibaba, added a live streaming function in early 2026 in the following years. Other e-commerce and social platforms like JD also integrated this feature.
Over 70 billion dollars worth of goods was sold via livestream on Taobao in the year through March 2021. Latest surveys show that over 60 percent of livestream users in China were watching shopping shows, and over 65 percent of them shopped at least once via livestream. In 2020 Live Stream Shopping got a huge boost during the pandemic, when millions of people were in lockdown and many retailers were pushed online.
People during the lockdown felt like there's a need for more social interactions. This live platform creates an interesting kind of environment that gives people the sense that I'm actually interacting with you. A livestream shopping brings in a lot more variety of things that people could buy and satisfy their sense of the sense of losing control, especially during pandemic.
Who are the top Chinese influencers?
At the heart of this craze are the top influencers who have tens of millions of followers and sell products worth millions of dollars every night. They often use their star power to get bargains from retailers, which in turn boosts your own sales and influence.
So if you think about China's livestreaming, you have to know the king and queen of the influencers. The queen of livestreaming, Viya, is actually having the biggest viewership and the biggest sales volume for a long time on Taobao platform. She can sell everything from Gucci sunglasses, lipsticks, homes and cars. One time, she offered her followers to go on a Tesla ride with her and she even for once sold a rocket launch in her livestreaming room for 40 million yen. The king would be Li Jiaqi, more widely known as lipsticks brother. He used to be a cosmetic sales before he turned into a livestreaming e-commerce, and he knows a lot about the cosmetics. So he's the one that we will actually put the lipsticks on himself when he's on the show.
How much does a Chinese live streamer make?
Top live streamers like Viya and Li Jiaqi have become celebrities in China and can earn millions of dollars a year. Although not everyone can be as popular, other live streamers can earn a good income through sales commissions.
"If you only consider income, work as a livestreamer does make much more money than doing other ordinary jobs. But this job is physically and mentally challenging. You have to be highly focused for 5 or 6 hours everyday, which is exhausting. Also, within this 5 to 6 hours, your brain, your mouth, your hands and your eyes are constantly working. As a livestreamer, you need to do multiple jobs, including choosing the products for the show and other things. In fact, you don't have a personal life. It's not like if you only do something today, then you will be a KOL. Your influence depends on everyday's content output. The followers start you know you better and trust you more." said Tiffany, a fashion livestreamer.
A lot of successful live streamers are generally very good at communication. They're very good at articulating very simply what a product does, what a product doesn't do. In order for them to sell, they need to be trustworthy and appear trustworthy. And they need to show in some ways that the authentic. They are able to articulate that quite a bit through their body language, through what they say. For example, they sometimes say bad things about certain products because this is honest opinion and people want to hear that. So they seem very credible. They seem very trustworthy. Don't forget, they're also very entertaining and very interesting
So if you're able to create a lot of buzz, and got interesting things that you do, people who may not want to buy lipsticks, but also streaming just to watch what he does. And then from there, you might get hooked.
Live streamers also use sales techniques such as limited time or supply. This sense of scarcity can often encourage viewers to buy.
The platform in itself, creates and enhances some of these things. You are watching a livestream and suddenly because social proof has taken over, meaning that other people are interested, other people are joining, other people want the same product and they add it in a chat and they ask questions and say "Oh, I want this too!". What happens then? It makes the whole product even more scarce.
But it's not just influencers. Local farmers, luxury brands, even mutual funds have also started their own live stream shows.
Working with very top tier live streamers can be risky. It's not necessarily that the benefits will end up with a brand. So we see company executives opening their own shows, and we see, like P&G, have their own salesroom, which runs shows every day as well. We also have local governors in small towns to sell their agricultural products. So the livestreaming is definitely transform the way product owners can think about how to reach their consumers and enables a lot of players to actually sell.
Livestream shopping is going global.
Merchants in China have embraced this trend, and in the West, Amazon has upgraded its livestreaming function and the interactive features like chat rooms. Companies including Google and Facebook are also developing and investing in technologies to integrate video and e-commerce.
Live stream e-commerce has gone mainstream and it has huge potential to grow. People will depend more on this way of shopping. It will be part of their daily lives. Livestream shopping will be more standardized too.
You know that livestreamers can sell and you know they can generate massive revenue. Are they able to sustain it over a long period of time? It depends on how innovative they are at changing some of the things that they do.
But you can't expect consumers one day turn into virtual shopping for good. There will be the nature of us that crave to go into the store to touch the clothes and shoes and actually wear it and see how it looks like and walk around in that with our friends. And those things wouldn't be replaceable with live streaming.