BEIJING: Both Alibaba’s Taobao and online marketplaces have integrated livestreaming platforms for merchants or influencers to market products close to the point of purchase.

This is according to a report by the South China Morning Post, which notes how one of the country’s biggest content trends, estimated to be worth US$4.4 billion in 2018, livestreaming is brushing up against ecommerce, a sector that drew just under US$ 500 billion in 2017 according to Statista.

“Live-streaming in the e-commerce industry has become similar to home shopping channels in the US … except you can engage with the merchants and they can answer any questions you have live”, explained Tiffany Wan, general manager of VS Media, an agency representing live-streamers across Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China.

“E-commerce and live-streaming in China go hand in hand, where brands and merchants see the opportunity to make sales on the spot.”

To western viewers, the experience resembles something like a QVC or shopping TV channel for the 21st century, though for many the separation between entertainment and commerce is significant.

Not so in China, where companies such as Alibaba and Tencent have created services to profoundly involve themselves in consumers’ lives. “You depend on their ecosystem for services like ordering food, making payments and for e-commerce and entertainment. So it seems almost natural to blend all of this together,” Wan added.

Taobao’s integration of streaming into the ‘Taobao Live’ feature tailors content to the user, though it now features a colossal list of livestreams from fruit-sellers to jewellery dealers.

“There are thousands of merchants selling the same thing and it’s difficult to stand out, but Taobao Live lets me engage with viewers and there is a higher chance they will purchase something”, Wang Hao, a 19-year-old online clothing merchant from Zheijang province.

Taobao says the live platform has a conversion rate of 32%. For periods of particularly heavy usage, such as Alibaba’s Singles’ Day festival, the platform say as many as 3 billion views. The company adds that, for certain stores, as many as 90% of sales come from the livestreaming platform.

Sourced from South China Morning Post, Statista; additional content by WARC staff