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2022, The year of live shopping?

What is it?

Quite simply, live shopping is television shopping 2.0; It's QVC on TikTok.

In China, platforms like TaoBao, JD and Douyin (TikTok's sister app) have facilitated creator-led live shopping since 2016.

In 2020, China had nearly 400 million live shopping consumers worth $166 billion annually.

Over 2021 we've seen the rise of live shopping across the West, and in 2022, many expect it will play a prominent role in brands e-commerce and social strategy. However, before we get too excited, it's essential to better understand why live shopping is so impactful in China and determine if similar trends will be replicated in different markets.

Live shopping in China

In many ways, the live shopping phenomenon across China was a natural continuation of content and technological trends in the region, which are somewhat divergent to those we see in the West. 

Firstly, unlike in the West, where live streaming is still a niche medium for communities to engage and follow specific content creators, in China, live streaming is by far the most popular format for audiences to interact with their favourite creators. Creators are expected to forego their privacy to the extreme, for the privilege of potentially becoming a superstar. From the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed, audiences can view every part of their day, and many loyal fans religiously watch this entire stream.

Secondly, super-apps like TaoBao had already created an ecosystem where users, purchase, recommend, interact and shop through one centralised platform, unlike the platform-agnostic mix we have in the West. With users already comfortable purchasing products on these platforms, live-shopping felt native and wasn't a drastic behaviour change for most users.

In 2016 this presented both a problem and an opportunity for advertisers and retailers in China. Audiences were no longer spending time with standard media channels and instead watched their favourite creators for tens of hours a week. With users glued to a single live stream, there were limited opportunities to sell to audiences. It, therefore, made absolute sense to bring the products to creators live streams and begin live shopping events periodically throughout the day. 

Today, live shopping is now prime-time entertainment in China. It's moved way beyond a creator showcasing a product behind a ring light and an iPhone. Creators are selling various products from cosmetics to cars on an hourly basis. In April 2020, 'Viya' (One of China's most popular live streamers) even sold a rocket launch in a live stream on Taobao at a "discounted price" of 40 million yuan ($5.6 million). 

Live shopping in the West

Over the past year, TikTok has invested heavily in making live shopping a reality for brands and creators in the UK. They've launched several live-shopping studios around London and released 'TikTok Live Studio', a platform that allows both creators and brands to facilitate a live shopping feed from a desktop. 

With these developments, several brands have successfully implemented live shopping experiences over the past year, and in 2022 we will undoubtedly see many more brands jump in on the action.

However, as the frequency increases, I'm intrigued to see how audiences react. 

There are considerable differences between China's tech, social and content consumption ecosystems and ours. It will be fascinating to see how consumers respond when live shopping events are no longer a novelty and becoming a daily occurrence in feed.

Will social users across the West embrace live shopping and lead to its meteoric rise? 

Only time will tell...


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