The growth of livestreaming in China is entering a third phase, with a range of traditional sectors adopting it as an effective marketing channel, a new report says.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, livestreaming was evolving rapidly in China; lockdowns have further accelerated that process.

The China Internet Report 2020, from SCMP Research, highlights the numbers:

• 613 million livestreaming users in 2020, a 29% increase on 2019 (compared to 20% growth in 2018-19)

• $16.3bn market size, a 54% increase on 2019 (compared to 41% growth in 2018-19)

From its first phase as a niche market populated largely by gamers and teens, the past couple of years has seen livestreaming emerge as a shopping and e-commerce channel, particularly for FMCG goods; in this third phase, industries as varied as real estate, automotive, travel services and luxury goods are finding ways to use livestreaming to their advantage.

The auto industry, for example, has seen a huge increase in the number of livestreaming sessions – 15 times more in March than in January; the China Automobile Dealers Association reported 7,000 sessions in one day – with 23 global car brands, including BMW and Audi, leveraging Taobao Live to sell cars.

And when Louis Vuitton hosted a livestreaming session on Little Red Book, the luxury brand attracted more than 880,000 views; it now has more than 164,000 followers on the platform.

While KOLs have played an important role in helping brands shift products via livestreaming, the third phase has seen business leaders and entrepreneurs stepping into the limelight.

When Dong Mingzhu, chairwoman of Gree Electric Appliances, took part in a in a three-hour live streaming event on short video platform Kuaishou, she attracted 16 million viewers and sold 310 million yuan (US$43.8m) of goods.

Similarly, James Liang, co-founder of, helped generate $3.84m worth of transactions for the tourism platform in just one hour in a livestreaming appearance promoting discounted tourism products in Huzhou, Zhejiang Province.

In the West, livestreaming has largely been an entertainment-only format and it lags behind China in adopting this as a marketing/sales channel. A recent WARC Trend Snapshot noted that’s partly to do with technological factors, since Western platforms are less likely to offer end-to-end content and commerce solutions.

Sourced from SCMP Research; additional content by WARC staff