Big bets on livestreaming talent make the young medium a key avenue for future growth for giants like Alibaba and Amazon.

Though livestreaming reached enormous popularity in China some years ago, the onset of lockdown measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that the medium is drawing increasing interest about how it might speak to European or American audiences.

In China, the medium has been a key for the e-commerce company Alibaba in parrying the advances of rivals by integrating entertainment and sales.

There are some signs of promise and technical acceleration. When TikTok started to grow in the US, it wasn’t long before Facebook’s Instagram introduced Instagram Checkouts in order to connect content and commerce, Danielle Bailey, Managing VP, APAC, at Gartner for Marketers told WARC in March.

But one of the potential problems is the substantial differences between influencers as they exist in EMEA and the US compared to the vastly more famous Key Opinion Leaders.

Still, reporting by TechCrunch and the Financial Times has found that Alibaba’s global-facing service AliExpress is launching a campaign to sign up 100,000 creators worldwide in a bid to boost international sales.

This, however, assumes that the company will be able to create a set of influencers able to translate the technique to new markets, as well as influencers who will actually want to.

One consideration is whether the relatively upmarket lifestyles and tastes favoured by Western influencers can do a job for a service that boasts huge numbers of goods at very low prices. It has struggled to make inroads in Europe outside of Eastern Europe and Russia, though there is growing uptake in France and Spain. Yet, it remains a long way away from the firm’s own target of 50% revenues from outside China by 2025.

There will be challenges, too: Taobao, the shopping service whose live feature has helped to bring together content and commerce is not only widely-used, but its more than a billion users mostly speak Mandarin. There are many more languages to contend with.

Meanwhile, on established streaming platforms in the West, such as Amazon-owned Twitch, where commerce is not yet fully integrated but is never far away, the streaming platform has gone into an unprecedented exclusive deal with a musician, Logic.

It’s an acknowledgement that Twitch has a user base that goes there specifically for music, reflecting a very different pattern to the two services: one capitalises on users’ interests in the hope of showing them products. Alibaba’s streaming services in China, meanwhile, benefit from a different attitude to shopping: that it is a leisure activity in itself. Livestreaming’s fortunes will depend on just how different.

Sourced from WARC, TechCrunch, FT, The Verge