Ep. 70 Livestreaming Ecommerce with Lauren Hallanan

Episode 70 of Tech Buzz China features Lauren Hallanan in conversation with our co-hosts Ying Lu and Rui Ma on the topic of livestreaming ecommerce. In addition to being a former China-based livestreamer herself, with over 400,000 followers, Lauren is a fellow SupChina podcaster at the China Marketing Podcast. Go check it out!

Today, Lauren gives a fascinating overview of China’s livestreaming ecommerce industry, including its history, key traits and differentiators, common content formats, and product design and features. Throughout, she helps us answer these questions: Why has livestreaming, specifically in ecommerce, become so explosively popular in China? How has it continued to evolve post-COVID? Can — and will — we see the same level of success here in the West?

This is the third in a series of experimental, non-scripted episodes that we will be releasing this summer. Today’s episode is a lightly edited version of a live webinar that Tech Buzz held on June 4. To hear these — and more! — as they happen live, you can sign up for free at techbuzzchina.com/events. Note that the unedited version of this episode and other tracks can be found on our Tech Buzz China YouTube channel.

As always, past transcripts and other content are viewable at pandaily.com and techbuzzchina.com. If you enjoy our work, please do let us know by leaving us an iTunes review and by tweeting at us at @techbuzzchina. We also read your emails, at rui@techbuzzchina.com and ying@techbuzzchina.com. Thank you to our growing community for your always valuable feedback!

We are grateful for our talented producers, Caiwei Chen and Kaiser Kuo, as well as SupChina production associate Jason MacRonald. Our intern Agnes Xueer Lu helped with the transcript this week. Stay safe.

Transcript

(Y: Ying Lu; R: Rui Ma; L: Lauren Hallanan)

[00:00] R: Hi everyone! Thanks for tuning in. We hope all of you are healthy and safe wherever you are. Today’s episode consists of a lightly edited version of a webinar that we hosted last month actually. It featured our friend Lauren Hallanan, a fellow SupChina podcaster — she hosts The China Marketing Podcast — and she was also a former livestreamer in China with over 400,000 Chinese followers. So she’s pretty qualified to talk about our topic today which is livestreaming and e-commerce. Anyways, do remember to give us, and Lauren some feedback!

Y: That’s right! Please write to us at ying at techbuzzchina.com and let us know what you think. Do note that all of these recent episodes — including any sections that we cut out, such as the full Q&A in today’s case — can also be found on YouTube. And, at our website above, you can sign up to be on our mailing list, subscribe to our paid Extra Buzz newsletter, or just generally keep tabs on our ventures beyond podcasting.

[01:05] R: For example, we are working on an e-book on the most talked about Chinese internet company this year — that’s Bytedance, owner of TikTok. And our latest Extra Buzz newsletter was on the 618 Shopping Festival, which was originally created by JD.com to celebrate the company’s anniversary but which has since morphed into an industry-wide event. During the 20-day festival, JD and Alibaba alone sold $136 billion worth of goods. That’s right, one trillion RMB and GMV.

Y: Yes! But for now, are you ready to hear about China’s ecommerce livestreaming industry, why its consumers love this medium, and what we can learn from China? Let’s do this!

[02:36] R: Hi everyone! We are TechBuzz China by Pandaily, powered by the Sinica Podcast Network by SupChina!
We are a biweekly podcast focused on giving you a peek into what’s buzzing within the tech community in China. We uncover and contextualize unique insights, perspectives and takeaways on headline tech news that don’t always make it into English language coverage. So you can be smarter about the world of China tech.

Y: Tech Buzz China is a part of Pandaily.com, an English language site that tells you “everything about China’s innovation.” I’m one of your two co-hosts, Ying Lu.

R: And I’m your other co-host, Rui Ma. We are a part of the Sinica Podcast Network, created by SupChina! In addition to Tech Buzz, you can also find Sinica which covers current affairs. And we are also proud to be partnered with Financial Times’ Tech Scroll Asia, a newsletter on Asia tech news from one of the best publications in the business. Go to ft.com/tech-scroll-asia to sign up today!

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[04:02] Y: Hey everyone, as you know, today we will be focusing on livestreaming ecommerce in China. Our speaker is Lauren Hallanan. Lauren was a livestreamer in China in 2016 and 2017, and she was popular on several social media platforms, so she’s got first-hand experience with the industry and knows what it takes to run a successful broadcast. Note that this was back when today’s subject — livestreaming ecommerce — didn’t quite exist, but since moving back to the States, Lauren’s continued to closely follow the overall livestreaming industry. She is currently Head of Marketing at Chatly and a Chinese social media marketing consultant, writer, and speaker. Today, she’s going to be really focused on giving you an overview of the industry, including the major players, effects of Covid, ways that brands are using livestreaming ecommerce, and her general predictions on what’s next here in the West. Alright Lauren, I’ll hand it off to you!

[04:49] L: I’m gonna start the presentation off by focusing mainly on the Chinese live commerce industry. And then in the second half, I will talk about what I see happening in the West and whether or not live commerce will take off in places like the U.S. or Europe.

So really, you know live commerce has been around for a while. Taobao started kicking off ecommerce livestreaming in late 2016, really pushed it into 2017. But it wasn’t until about 2019 that livestreaming ecommerce really started to take off in China.

So, we were seeing all throughout last year that it was becoming a very, very popular sales channel. More and more platforms, influencers, brands were adopting it. But really, what pushed the industry to become so mainstream and what everybody’s talking about right now is because of COVID-19. After COVID-19, when offline retail was shut down, consumers were quarantined and couldn’t visit stores. This was the perfect opportunity for a lot of consumers who had never tried watching ecommerce livestreaming or had never bought anything through an ecommerce livestream. This created the perfect situation for them because they didn’t have that offline alternative.

We’ve seen that multiple platforms have been adding this feature now and more and more consumers are trying it. It’s truly become mainstream in China and even though obviously China has largely recovered from the coronavirus, and offline retail has reopened. But we’re still seeing a very, very strong use of ecommerce livestreaming, now that many brands and consumers have adopted this medium.

[06:44] So you can see here that Taobao Live reported that in early February livestream sessions on the platform had increased 110 percent year over year, and the number of merchants using it for the first time grew 719 percent from January to February. So, between the time the quarantine period started, a ton of brands and people really got on the bandwagon there.

So that’s just a little bit about why so many people are interested in this topic right now, because it’s just really taking off in China. But I want to take a step back and get a better look at the industry and what is live ecommerce livestreaming.

Ecommerce livestreaming is really only a portion of the Chinese livestreaming industry landscape. There’s a lot of different formats of livestreaming. Like I mentioned, back in 2016 and 2017, I was on many of the apps shown here in the “entertainment” column, what’s called entertainment livestreaming.

Then you’re probably familiar with esports livestreaming. I think esports livestreaming has been the most successful here in the West with platforms like Twitch. We’ve seen a lot of education providers in China bring their courses online, similar to what you might find here with what we’re doing right now– we’re having a webinar online. There are many education platforms, many business learning platforms that have adopted livestreaming, also a lot of short video platforms that have incorporated livestreaming features into their platforms.

So, livestreaming is a massive industry in China and ecommerce is just a component of it. But really, as I said, 2019 and now 2020 have been the peak time where the majority of the focus is on the ecommerce livestreaming industry and less so on on the other types.

[08:24] Here I just touch on the different categories. They all have different monetization models. So, whereas we see some of the entertainment, gaming livestreaming are focused more on education or virtual gifting for monetization, with ecommerce, we’re really talking about product sales. The big difference here is the monetization formats between each of the different platforms.

I want to get into a little bit more about what is ecommerce livestreaming. I don’t know how many of you have actually seen an ecommerce livestream, how many of you are familiar with it, but just to give a little context. This is the most common comparison that I get: if you’re trying to explain to somebody here in the West or you see any article English language article here in the U.S., they always compare it to QVC or the home shopping network, right. Yes, that is a relevant comparison.

But it doesn’t capture the essence of what ecommerce livestreaming is like, and that’s mainly from an experience and a product perspective. So this is an example. I went on to try and find Home Shopping Network’s live experience. And as I highlighted here, right, they said, “always live, always interactive.” That’s really not the experience that I felt. Even though they said it was live, you could stop it, you could start it, you could move forward, move back, it didn’t feel live at all. It felt like I was watching a pre-recorded video.

And this said “always interactive.” I searched all throughout the page, could not find any way whatsoever to interact with the host. Another thing when you try to make this comparison here with QVC or HSN, you look at the hosts. And you can tell what target audience they’re going after, right? The hosts are all much older, they’re all middle aged, there’re even some hosts that I would call in the senior category. And so you can tell they’re trying to reach that target audience.

Whereas in China, livestreaming hosts, whether it’s a brand host or an influencer, they’re all young. And their target audiences are people anywhere from their 20s up into their mid-30s really are the core target audience.

And another thing I took away from this is that this experience, the way that it was shot, the way that everything is set up, it was really designed for a TV or for looking at on your desktop computer, not a mobile experience at all, whereas all of the Chinese experiences are for mobile users.

If you’ve watched this, you can just tell that it’s really not in an interactive format, not very appealing to watch. So it’s not the greatest comparison.

[11:05] So now, I want to take a look at what livestreams in China are like. We’ll start with the example on the left. This is from a very popular Chinese domestic beauty brand called Perfect Diary. They have their sales associates on multiple platforms, I think at least four different platforms that I’ve seen, posting livestreams about their products. Pretty much at any time of the day you can find somebody from this company livestreaming about their products.

While you’re watching the video, you can click right in, you can look at the product, you can still see what the livestreamer is doing. You can still hear her, you can still hear everything she’s saying. She starts talking about a new product, you can keep listening to that while you’re scrolling through the product on the product page within Taobao. You can click on the product, you can put it in your cart. You’re still hearing her the whole time, you’re still seeing the video. And you can click right back into the video when you’re done to continue watching the livestream.

Even though you may not be able to hear it unless you’re a Chinese speaker, the entire time that she was talking just now, she had key points that she’s trying to get across, she has a certain set of products that she needs to talk about today. She has key points that she needs to make about those products, but she is also very actively answering questions that are coming through right there at that moment from the audience. And she is adapting what she is going to present that day, based on the feedback from the audience, what the audience wants to see, the questions that they’re having. She’s trying on products in the moment, she’s giving them suggestions based on, somebody says “my skin is lighter,” “I’m going to this occasion,” blah, blah, blah. She is customizing her presentation to that audience, making it a very social experience.

Plus, you can see the big difference in these livestreams versus what you’re seeing from Home Shopping Network is that they’re all on mobile devices. And the host is very close to you. It feels like you’re FaceTiming with a friend. It gives it a much more intimate feel.

The other one that I’m going to show is from an extremely famous livestreamer called Austin Li, and he’s known for his very energetic streams. He really really gets the audience going and can hype them up a lot. But I think what was key about this clip here is that in Chinese ecommerce livestreams, they leverage product giveaways throughout their livestreams to get the audience excited, to keep them within the stream for a longer period of time, and to keep them engaged.

So here, he starts his stream. You can tell he’s very enthusiastic. And he starts off his stream right away with a product giveaway. And then, at the end of the stream, see this paper that he’s holding here, he’s hyping the audience up, he’s saying: “Look at all these products that we’re going to talk about today. They’re all from these top brands. We have so many products to go through.” He’s really getting people excited and wanting to watch it, it’s entertainment as well.

[13:37] Basic user experience from a product perspective. This looks pretty similar across all of the all of the platforms. Like you saw just now, it’s a vertical mobile format, the top left corner will show the name of the brand or the livestreamer. The bottom corner, you’ll see the comments from the audience. It’s very easy to type in a comment and interact with the host of the stream. Then in the bottom right corner of the stream, you’ll find a shopping cart. You can easily click on the shopping cart, you can scroll through all the items that are available during that livestream. And as I mentioned before, you click in to look at the item, but you can still watch the livestream in a floating window and still hear everything that they’re saying.

While you’re watching the livestream, you can immediately do a one-click purchase, because usually these platforms are integrated with Alipay or WeChat Pay. So you can do a one-click purchase and you’re able to buy your product while still watching the livestream.

To give you some perspective as to how many players there are in the market now in China. Taobao, as I mentioned, is really the original. They were the ones who really kicked off ecommerce livestreaming in China. And they’ve been the pioneers with this model. They’ve been doing it for going on four years now. And they’ve put on ecommerce livestreaming as a focal point of their strategy and heavily incorporated it into their platform.

But, there are many, many, many other platforms that have gotten on the bandwagon. So you’ll see now, post COVID-19, pretty much I think every large social media platform in China now has ecommerce livestreaming functions. And while none of them are quite at the market share that Taobao is, we’ve definitely seen platforms like Douyin, which is the Chinese version of TikTok, we’ve seen Kuaishou taking up quite a bit of the market share. WeChat has recently introduced Mini Program livestreaming and even though that’s very early stages, I think that has a lot of potential. All of these players are focusing very heavily on this medium. They all have slightly different target audiences, but generally the same kind of setup as far as the product, the actual user experience with the product.

[16:11] I want to talk about this because I think that this topic, why ecommerce livestreaming is so popular, can be a little bit hard for people to understand, especially if they’ve never watched it before, and aren’t able to really experience it for themselves in Chinese.

I find that there’s four main reasons. The first one is product discovery and education. One of the reasons that Taobao has been so strong on pushing Taobao Tmall, Alibaba has been so strong on pushing ecommerce livestreaming on their platform, is because they have said, for a platform like them, for an ecommerce platform, if you don’t incorporate features that allow for product discovery, you’re really going to limit the amount of sales that can happen on your platform. People are just going to come to your platform when they need to buy something, they search for that product, they scroll through the various products, they buy it, boom, they’re done. They’re off the platform.

And that’s not Alibaba’s goal. Their goal is to keep you on the platform for as long as they can. They want you to discover more and more products. They want to encourage impulse buying, right. And ecommerce livestreaming is the perfect way to do that. You get on, you start watching a stream, you maybe get on because you want to look at one product, but then you see the next product that they pull out. And you just keep watching, or maybe you keep watching because you want to win that prize that’s coming up. While you’re watching and waiting for that prize, you discover other products and you end up buying them.

There’re also a lot of consumers that are now going to these streams because they want to go to these streams and discover products. A lot of consumers, maybe in lower tier cities in China, who maybe don’t have access to a lot of these more international products from international brands, cross-border, things like that, they want to go to these livestreams, and get advice from the streamers. They want the streamers to choose the best products for them. And they want to be able to discover products from brands that they’re never going to find in the city that they’re living in.

Number two, live ecommerce livestreaming can build trust in the product. So I’m sure that if any of you have ever tried shopping on Taobao or some of the other Chinese ecommerce platforms, you’ll know that the photos of the products are often very photoshopped. Sometimes you will buy things and when it arrives, it’s not what you thought it was going to be. Consumers really need to spend a lot of time to sort through which products are actually good online. And the thing about ecommerce livestreaming is, it’s much harder to fake what a product looks like, the product’s quality in a livestream.

It’s much more real, much more raw, it’s a lot harder to hide. If somebody is trying on a piece of clothing, you can clearly see the cut of the clothing, you can see what the fabric is like, you can get a better feel for the size and the quality of it, right.

[19:01] So people also will build trust and what they see as a relationship with these livestreamers. If they come and watch them all the time, and they’ve bought one product from them and found that it was a good product, then they’ll start to develop that trust and keep going back to that one livestreamer.

Point number three is a key reason, I think, why a lot of people will watch the big livestreamers on Taobao. A lot of times to incentivize people to purchase right away, and to drive a lot of sales, brands will often provide very up intense discounts or special deals, to drive that purchase, saying that “You can only get this price during this livestream. After this livestream, this product won’t be available, it’ll be much more expensive.” They’re using scarcity to drive a lot of conversions.

That means that a lot of consumers will go to these livestreams just because they see it as an opportunity to possibly get a product for a really good price, a very good deal.

The fourth reason was extremely relevant during the COVID-19 period, and why I think it’s such a pity that none of the platforms here in the U.S. were really able to capture this the same way that the Chinese platforms did.

But the reason that ecommerce livestreaming took off so much during COVID-19 in China was because it’s the closest thing that you can get to an offline, in-store experience. Especially if a sales associate is running the stream, and telling you all about the product, it feels quite similar to going into a store and, and being able to touch and feel and see the product yourself. Right. It’s the really the closest experience that you can get.

And, I think that some people are wondering, okay, well, since the quarantine is over, is this going to be as relevant anymore? And I think in China it will be because, like I mentioned, for people living in lower tier cities — which is where ecommerce livestreaming is really the most popular in China, is among consumers in lower tier cities — even after the quarantine is over, there’s a lot of products that they don’t have access to offline. They have to go to the big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, or maybe even some of the second tier cities. But when you get to those third tier cities and lower, they don’t have as many opportunities to see products from a lot of these big international brands offline. So they like to go and watch ecommerce livestreams to try and get a better idea of what these products are like.

[21:30] When we talk about ecommerce livestreaming, there’s some different formats, and I’m going to call out three of them.

So I think the one that we hear the most about and kind of gets the most hype these days, would be the livestreams with top influencers. So you’re mainly thinking of the livestreaming broadcasters on Taobao livestream, such as the one I showed earlier, Austin Li, or there’s another one called Viya, they’re some of the top streamers.

They are able to help brands achieve massive sales numbers. They can sell out thousands of products in less than a minute, Viya sold a rocket, like an actual rocketship. They can sell anything!

But working with these streamers comes at a high cost, a very, very high cost. Brands might even lose money working with these streamers. But if your brand is looking to reach a massive Chinese audience, you’re trying to grow brand awareness, you want that great PR exposure, then working with one of these influencers is the way to go.

Another type of livestreaming that we see a lot would be the professionally generated content, or PGC type content. This would be much more like a fashion show, a product launch. It’s a much more orchestrated experience that’s being livestreamed. You have maybe a professional TV host type person. There’s usually a more professional set. It’s a little bit more stale, a little bit more like the Home Shopping Network stream that I showed you earlier.

And then the last type of format, which has become very popular recently, and is one that I highly recommend brands consider, and that a lot more brands have been getting into is building out their own internal livestreaming teams. Working with their sales associates and people internally to have them start streaming on behalf of the company. And with this, you have a lot less risk, you can be streaming on a daily basis.

And the role of this type of livestreaming is much replicating the offline experience, providing customer service, educating consumers about your product, giving them that personal touch online. So again, we saw a lot of brands that were implementing this during the COVID-19 quarantine in China.

[23:54] I know there’s probably a lot of people here today that are interested in the actual product itself. Earlier I mentioned that, yes, you can compare ecommerce livestreaming to QVC. And the Home Shopping Network, right, it is a valid comparison. But the Chinese platforms are so much more. It’s because of the features that are included.

As I mentioned, livestreaming is a massive industry in China. And so these ecommerce livestreaming platforms have taken other features from other types of livestreaming, and pulled them into ecommerce livestreaming. I think that a lot of these features are things that, when we’ll talk a little bit later about the future of livestreaming in the West, I think that even if we see some solutions coming in the West, they’re not going to be as robust and have nearly as many advanced features as the Chinese livestreaming platforms do.

I just want to go over a couple of these features. The two that I show on this page are loyalty and social sharing mechanisms. Within the platform, it’s built in that by sharing this livestream with your friends and family, you can automatically get a coupon which you can redeem right during that livestream.

Or the other type that I show here, you can share this livestream with a friend. And every time your friend watches a livestream over the next 100 days, you will receive what’s called a “red packet” in Chinese, but essentially it’s like a cashback almost. You’ll receive a very small cash reward, a random amount, every time that your friend watches a livestream over the next hundred days. So you can actually earn money by sharing the livestream with your friend.

[27:02] Some other great additional features that are built in: One of the most popular industries for e-commerce livestreaming is the beauty industry. So they have built in features into the ecommerce livestream where while you’re watching the livestream, you can click on a button and you can do an AR try-on of the products that are being featured in that stream. So here I was watching one by MAC Cosmetics. I click in, they only allow you in the AR try-on to try on the specific products that are being featured in that stream. So I can listen to what the streamer is saying, if I’m interested in a product, I can go try it on in the AR experience. And then I can purchase it immediately in the AR experience, or I can go back to the livestream and purchase it there. But I thought this was a really excellent way to combine livestreaming and other technologies together.

So we’re talking about how livestreaming can kind of replace that offline experience, add more connection and more intimacy than a usual digital shopping experience. And here, they take it to the next level. So say you’re watching the livestream, you look at a product, you really want to buy the product but you still have some questions about it. And you still want more of a personal consultation about it. You can actually go, add a beauty advisor, a makeup advisor from MAC, you can add them on your WeChat. You can add them on WeChat, and you can chat with them directly and say, “Hey, I was looking at this product in the livestream, I’m interested in buying it, but I’m not sure if it’s gonna fit my skin type” or whatever. So they’re allowing you to even take that to the next level of personalized experiences.

That’s just some of the additional features from a product perspective that I think they’ve added in that really make it so much more than just watching somebody selling a product.

[28:58] Now that I’ve talked about livestreaming in China, and given you a very brief overview of that, I know that there’s probably many of you that are thinking: Will this take off in the West? Is this something that could actually happen here something that we could see some of the big players here adopt? So I just wanted to give my thoughts on this.

One of the things that when I read some articles, or hear other people’s perspective on, can commerce livestreaming take off in the West? And one of the biggest things that I hear people say and an assumption that they make is that Western audiences won’t watch livestreams, that it’s a consumer behavior issue like this, like this format just does not fit Western consumers — they have YouTube, they have Instagram, they have so many other platforms like they, they’re just not gonna watch livestreams.

I don’t think that’s true. And at the same time, I don’t think that ecommerce livestreaming will ever take off in the West to the same extent that it has in China. I doubt that it will ever become as mainstream in, say, the U.S. as it has become in China. But I still think there is a huge space and a lot of potential for this format here here in the West.

So first of all, there is an audience for livestreaming in the U.S. Twitch, massive platform. Massive platform. YouTube has livestreaming, TikTok has livestreaming. Instagram, we’ve seen a huge uptick in livestreaming on Instagram during COVID-19. Facebook Live, right.

So there is an audience for livestreaming in the U.S. And I think a lot of people who say that there isn’t an audience for livestreaming in the U.S. — they aren’t that audience, which is why they feel that way. You’re not the target audience doesn’t mean that there isn’t a target audience.

[30:48] The second thing that I hear is that people aren’t going to want to buy products from say, Instagram or social platforms, which again, is not true. And maybe if you feel that way, you’re not the target audience.

We can see from a lot of the features that Instagram has been slowly introducing over the past couple of years, that they are making the platform more commercial and making it easier for people to buy products from the platform because there is a desire from consumers to purchase products through the platform. They just want the ability to purchase products through Instagram without it interrupting their experience. They want it to be built-in in a way that they don’t feel like ads are interrupting their experience of looking through those people that they follow on Instagram.

So, it’s not about how you monetize it, but doing it in a way that it fits consumer’s needs and preferences.

Another thing that I cite here is, you look at the popularity of unboxing videos. Unboxing videos are one of the largest categories on YouTube. And an unboxing video is essentially a recorded version of what you see going on in an ecommerce livestream.

Instagram Stories — I follow a ton of fashion bloggers on Instagram. And their stories are filled with what they call “try-on” clips where they put a piece of clothing on and they talk about the details of the clothing and they try it on in an Instagram Story and they include a swipe in the swipe-up feature a link to buy the product. How is that so different from an ecommerce livestream built into Instagram? So I think we can see that the consumer behavior is there.

[32:36] And the last thing that I want to point out is that this is already happening. During COVID-19, numerous beauty brands in the U.S. have started offering you virtual beauty consultations, and some of those are even done through one-on-one video experiences right?

The beauty brand Credo said that consumers who shop using Credo Live are more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t. Beauty brands were some of the first brands in China to adopt ecommerce livestreaming. And like I mentioned before, pretty much every international beauty brand in China is using ecommerce livestreaming at the moment. They’re really the leaders of this ecommerce livestreaming trend in China — beauty and fashion. And so to me, the fact that numerous beauty brands have already started doing this during the COVID-19 period and are seeing success from it, is a signifier that the same thing could happen here and that there’s demand for it from consumers here.

But the question is, who could do it? What would need to happen for ecommerce livestreaming to go mainstream? I think that it’s really going to take the large social media and ecommerce platforms making it a priority.

So the ones that I’m going to highlight are Amazon, Instagram, and TikTok as the ones that I think have the most potential.

The benefit for these platforms, for social media platforms, adding ecommerce livestreaming is a way to increase your advertising revenue, it increases the time that users spend in the app. And it provides another monetization method for influencers and brands.

And for ecommerce platforms, it increases advertising revenue again. It aids in product discovery, like I mentioned before, it increases the amount of impulse purchases.

And lastly, I want to make a point that I haven’t made yet, but there have been Chinese ecommerce platforms that have said that adding ecommerce livestreaming actually increases customer satisfaction and reduces the return rate, because consumers are getting able to get a much better view of the product before they buy it. I mean, this is particularly true with say the fashion industry because typically during these ecommerce livestreams for fashion, they will include different models that have different body sizes so that the consumer can really get a good idea of whether or not this clothing would look good on their body shape and size.

So, particularly when it comes to fashion, I’ve been told straight from these platforms that they’ve had a reduction in return rate after adding ecommerce livestreaming.

Amazon, I think Amazon has so much potential, so much potential. They added ecommerce livestreaming over a year ago, and they have barely improved it since adding it. The feature is completely hidden on their website and the platform, the user experience is extremely poor. It’s gotten no traction.

[35:49] And so unfortunately, even though it has massive potential, because Amazon is in a very similar situation to Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao, and we’ve seen the amazing success that they have had. It could be a huge driver of more traffic and sales for Amazon. But I think it’s very unlikely that they’re going to be the ones that really succeed at it, seeing how little effort they’ve put into it since launching it.

Moving on to Instagram. So I’m sure that all of you heard recently that Facebook just announced Shops, which will enable businesses to set up an online store that can be used across Facebook and Instagram, allowing people to directly shop for products in both of those platforms. But live commerce is only an aspect of this new Shops feature that they’re rolling out. So I still think it’ll take a while before we see them.

As I mentioned earlier, I think when you compare it to the Chinese platforms, it’s likely that Instagram’s version of live commerce will be very basic in comparison to what the Chinese platforms offer. I do think that Instagram has incredible potential for this feature. I’m just not sure how well they can execute on it just based on the way that they rolled out products in the past and and and what they’ve said so far about it. But we’ll wait and see — the verdict is still out.

And then the last platform that I want to mention is TikTok. I think that there’s huge potential for Tick Tock for ecommerce live streaming on TikTok, because as many of you probably know, TikTok is owned by Bytedance, a Chinese company. Douyin, which is the predecessor of Tik, or the Chinese version of TikTok, when it comes to the development and maturity level of the platform, Douyin is probably about two years ahead of TikTok.

And as I mentioned, Douyin has ecommerce livestreaming, and it’s become very popular, especially over the recent couple months during the quarantine period.

[37:50] So, based on the success that we’ve seen, the fact that Bytedance has already created this feature for Douyin they could easily roll it out on TikTok, the fact that a lot of TikTok’s features have been directly taken from Douyin. There’s a very strong correlation between the two platforms. So I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s something they’ll consider rolling out in the near future.

The only potential issue that I see is, over in China, Douyin has collaborations with Alibaba and JD.com, the two largest ecommerce platforms. So they would just need to figure out who are they going to work with here in the U.S., or are they just going to be working with brands on an individual basis. The commerce portion of it might be a little bit more difficult for them to figure out.

And also the second issue that I see is that right now TikTok still skews slightly younger, and the content isn’t as mature yet. I think over on Douyin, the content has kind of stepped away from all of the dancing videos. There’s much more developed content on the platform now. So I think that it might not be time yet for TikTok.

[39:00] Y: Awesome, thanks Lauren for all these great insights. Could you briefly summarize your main takeaways for our listeners who are tuning in to the podcast?

L: My main takeaways are that ecommerce live streaming has become mainstream in China. From what I can see, I don’t think that it’s going anywhere. I think it will continue to stay strong, even after COVID-19 is over.

The product is extremely advanced over there, with a very seamless and convenient user experience.

And that the U.S. is far behind, but the market definitely has potential. We just really need to see one of the big players step up and push the format before it’ll take off. And as I said, I think Amazon, Instagram, and TikTok would be the best platforms to potentially make this happen.

[39:56] R: All right! That was the end of our session with Lauren. What did you think about what she had to say? Send us your feedback!

Y: Thanks for listening and don’t forget to write us that review for your free Extra Buzz subscription. Have any questions or suggestions? Email us! We really enjoyed putting this together, and we are always open to any comments or suggestions. You can find us on twitter at thepandaily, at techbuzzchina, and my personal Twitter account is YINGLU2020.

R: And my Twitter is spelled RUIMA. Tech Buzz China by Pandaily is powered by the Sinica Podcast Network on SupChina. Pandaily.com is an English language site that tells you “everything about China’s innovation.” Our producers are Caiwei Chen and Kaiser Kuo. Thank you for listening!