China’s retailers, big and small, focused on selling online out of necessity during the COVID-19 crisis – and livestreaming of content to sell goods proved a huge success.

While livestreaming has been established in China for years, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown clearly underlined its massive commercial potential.

So much so, reports the South China Morning Post, that the rise in “shoppertainment” that allows retailers to interact with customers in real time is a trend that’s booming even post-lockdown.

Some of the country’s largest e-commerce players have experienced phenomenal traffic, with Alibaba’s Taobao Live platform seeing more than a seven-fold lift in first-time business customers in February. And Pinduoduo’s livestreaming sessions rose fivefold between February and March, reports the Post.

E-commerce revenue through livestreaming is set to double in 2020 to $135 billion, according to market intelligence company, iiMedia Research.

Celebrity influencers are also finding the trend highly lucrative, as they can earn large commissions on sales to their audiences, which can number in the millions.

As a result of the boom, online search giant and artificial intelligence company Baidu has announced it will invest a further $70.5 million to grow its livestreaming offering and has plans to cultivate 1,000 star content creators, following a surge in online users during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Baidu executive vice-president Shen Dou said the company’s apps and platforms had seen an average of one billion daily visits at the peak of the virus pandemic in China. And Baidu believes it has a big advantage in the sector: “Data gleaned from our search engine gives us a clearer understanding of the types of livestreaming content users want,” Shen said.

Other major players will be eager to leverage big spikes in users over the lockdown period. At the end of January, during Chinese New Year, users of Douyin, the country’s version of TikTok, spent an average of 99 minutes on the app each day. That compares to 67 minutes over the festival period the year before, a QuestMobile report in February said.

Earlier this year, a WARC Trend Snapshot on the potential of livestream commerce concluded that influencers in Western markets may well become more enthusiastic about hosting livestreaming events in coming months as many may find the appearances at brand events they rely on may not be possible due to cancellations because of the pandemic.

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