Everbright Securities has issued a report on Chinese livestreaming and states that ecommerce giant Taobao has a gigantic advantage in ecommerce livestreaming and that 80% of livestreaming purchases in 2019 happened on Taobao Live, the first livestream e-commerce channel in China.
The other 20% is shared by short video platforms Douyin and Kuaishou. Douyin provides links to Taobao and T-mall, allowing direct purchases within the video-streaming app and newcomer Kuaishou does the same.
Bai Jiale, head of e-commerce operations at Kuaishou Technology told local media that, "Since early 2018 many users on Kuaishou have been asking us how to buy merchandises from livestreamers, and where they sell those products. We want to capture that demand, so we entered livestream e-commerce."
And while the Covid-19 pandemic has caused job markets around the world, including China to collapse or decline, the only industry that is hiring big is livestreaming e-commerce.
According to recruitment website Zhaopin.com, during the one-month period after the Chinese New Year holiday, which is the last week of January this year, total hiring in China was slashed by a third from a year ago, while live e-commerce job openings more than doubled.
Livestream e-commerce has ample room for growth, considering how it's only nine percent of total e-commerce sales in China for now and only one percent of retail sales.
However, the long-term revenue potential of livestream e-commerce remains uncertain. Douyin's parent company Bytedance still gets most of its revenues from digital advertising but it is also easing into e-commerce.
Consumers have wildly different opinions. The majority of people who refuse to buy from livestreamers are concerned that some of the influencers overplay the functions or quality of some products.
Li Jiaqi, the king of Taobao live, who once sold 15,000 lipsticks in five minutes, shared that concern and has acted on it. Li said that, "Recently we upgraded our product selection process to be stricter and more sophisticated with our own quality-control review team. I only carry products from brands' flagship stores on Taobao's T-mall marketplace, to ensure the quality of products and after-sales services."
While star livestreamers bring in huge sales and are paid commissions that are based upon those sales numbers, return and refund rates can be as high as 60% and therefore both sales and commissions can be unstable.
As livestreaming becomes more valuable, influencers are under increased scrutiny to verify viewing and sales statistics, since many influencers have reported fake statistics to their brand sponsors.
That's on the back of more picky, tech savvy and less loyal consumers. The lack of regulation could encourage short-term growth but at the expense of long-term health. But with more young people joining this emerging industry and heating up the competition, livestream e-commerce is expected to become a major drive of China's digital economy.
And while the great majority of livestreaming is based upon products for consumers, businesses are also beginning to explore whether influencers and livestreaming can help them to enhance their brands, bring corporate opinions into the mainstream and sell products. One corporate PR executive who is familiar with China’s corporate valuation market said that livestreaming has the ability to help raise stock prices for existing companies and create brand awareness in the market for new companies.