How Well Do You Know Asia’s Surging Live Streaming Commerce Market?
Asia is arguably leading the world when it comes to live selling or live streaming e-commerce. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this more prominent. During the lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, many have turned to selling things through live video streaming, particularly on Facebook.
But why are businesses or individual entrepreneurs turning to live selling? Does it really help them sell more? Is it more effective than simply putting up ads that include photos or videos of the products, descriptions, and price and ordering details? Are there significant advantages that make it worthwhile to go online to feature products and interact with customers on live video?
BeLive, a Singapore startup specializing in live streaming solutions, is convinced that live commerce will be the future of online shopping. “The innate features of live streaming such as merchant visibility, meta-voicing, and guided shopping contribute greatly to a more immersive and authentic shopping experience and a higher purchase intention by the viewers,” says Kenneth Tan, BeLive’s CEO. The company has been providing various live streaming and interactive services to businesses, enabling them to create a distinct and memorable engagement with their customers.
The benefits of live selling
In a piece about the benefits of live streaming for brands, content marketer and influencer Steve Olenski discusses two points that stand out: better interactions with customers and a sense of urgency.
Live selling simulates the experience of going to a physical store where a salesperson provides assistance to prospective buyers. They answer customer inquiries, show different varieties of the products being sold, and sometimes do demonstrations. Live streaming effectively help presents products’ sizes in particular and other physical attributes that would not be difficult to capture in product descriptions and images.
In addition, live selling creates a sense of urgency. Because of the live interaction, buyers are compelled to make a purchase decision on the spot. Instead of simply adding an item to cart, there is a tendency for buyers to commit to proceeding with the checkout process. The seller sets the pace. Buyers have no choice but to go along.
These benefits coincide with the findings of a study on the impact of live video on purchase intention published in the Service Industries Journal. “The presented results indicate that the LVS (live video streaming) strategy can improve customers’ online purchase intention by reducing psychological distance and perceived uncertainty,” the study writes.
BeLive concurs with these points. In a blog post, the company highlights the impact of the social element of interaction: “Live commerce offers businesses the opportunity to have a dialogue with customers and provide advice and inspiration in real-time to strengthen the customer relationship.”
BeLive has been actively promoting live streaming as a highly viable way for businesses to engage their customers and boost sales. The company has helped brands such as L’Oreal as well as retailers such as Suntec City reach out to a larger audience in a more engaging and interactive manner through the BeLive Live Shopping solution. It also takes pride in being a technology provider to industry giants such as Samsung and Rakuten.
Live streaming is no longer as complicated as it was before. Through innovative services, anyone can start live streaming without the hassles of complex configurations or the need for technical expertise. Advanced interactivity features are now accessible even to non-techie users. BeLive’s live shopping through online video streams, real-time comments, shareable live links for social channels, customizable interface, audience monetization, analytics, and other features allow anyone to harness the benefits of live streaming in promotions and sales.
Asia’s massive live selling market
As a player in the live streaming industry since 2014, BeLive is familiar with how live streaming has grown well beyond the ambit of entertainment. The company expanded its live streaming offerings as a result of the interesting developments around live streaming technology.
Now, BeLive offers fully customizable white-label solutions for enterprises, allowing companies to establish their own live streaming platforms on an end-to-end basis. It also offers a one-click install live streaming SDK and a bespoke live shopping platform, which lists Singapore’s Changi Airport as one of its most notable users. iShopChangi uses BeLive’s technology to allow viewers to make purchases through live streams using their devices such as laptops, tablets or mobile phones.
These solutions from BeLive are a nod to live streaming becoming an important part of businesses’ sales and marketing strategies. As BeLive explained in its pilot blog post, live streaming is becoming an enticing way to reach out to potential customers because “people are enjoying live streaming for the same reason why they enjoyed traditional television.” It allows them to feel excited and get a sense of connection and immediacy.
The live selling industry in Asia is way bigger than what many would likely think. Those familiar with online selling through Facebook Live will probably be surprised how it goes beyond social media. In fact, it is an established social commerce practice in China.
Facebook is not available in China, but Chinese e-commerce platforms provide the live streaming tools online sellers need. Taobao Live, owned by Alibaba, dominates China’s live selling market with an overwhelming 80 percent share.
In November 2020, Alibaba reported that its Taobao Live platform generated nearly $3 billion dollars in sales for its 11.11 Global Shopping Festival alone. For the entire 2020, Taobao Live’s revenues are estimated to be around $73.4 billion according to figures from Statista, a 150 percent increase compared to 2019’s numbers. This is roughly half the total value of Japan’s entire e-commerce market in 2019.
Other players in China’s significant live streaming commerce industry include Baidu, JD.com, and Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. They provide users the option to host “shoppable live streams” within the app, wherein viewers can interact with the live stream host to ask about the products being featured and place orders.
In Southeast Asia, prominent e-commerce platforms have also embraced the live selling trend. The Alibaba-affiliated Lazada features LazLive, a live selling feature that merchants can utilize for live commerce. It is designed to provide a “see now, buy now” experience, allowing sellers to promote their vouchers, highlight their bestsellers, interact with customers, and gain more followers. Another major Southeast Asian e-commerce platform, Shopee, also provides a live selling feature, similar to what Lazada offers.
In India and other parts of South Asia, live selling is also gaining traction. Many Indian entrepreneurs are already using it to engage customers as they sell their products online. Baskar Agneeswaran, CEO of Shopify app developer Vajro, says that live selling “presents a huge untapped opportunity for Indian e-commerce giants and SMEs alike.” She says that live selling can generate up to $184 billion in revenues by 2027.
Amazon, the leading e-commerce platform in India and Japan, is relatively late in the live selling trend. It only started offering Amazon Live in 2019. However, the company appears to acknowledge the potential of this method of selling, that it has dedicated resources for it. Some say Amazon is trying to take on QVC with its live selling feature.
The 2020 China’s E-commerce Live streaming Ecology report, as presented by Statista, projects that streaming e-commerce is set to become a major component of the entire e-commerce industry. It used to be only 1.9 percent of the total online shopping market of China in 2018. Its share grew to 4.5 percent in 2019.
For the next three years, Chinese industry analysts expect live selling to grow further. The pandemic likely caused a significant acceleration for this market with projections of 10.2 percent of the total Chinese e-commerce market for 2020, 15.2 percent for 2021, and 20.3 percent for 2022. BeLive’s platform itself has seen a significant utilization and potential in the region, having served at least 100 million customers in Asia, delivering 55 million hours of live-streamed content in 2020.
Southeast Asia also saw similar growth in its live selling market. A regional survey by iKala reveals live selling’s increasing popularity across Southeast Asia. “Social commerce was growing steadily, but combined with the pandemic and the closure of malls and physical stores, it has accelerated live-selling across Southeast Asia – a trend that’s here to stay,” says iKala CEO Sega Cheng.
Across four main markets in Southeast Asia (Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand), gross merchandise value (GMV) attributed to live social media selling increased by 306 percent. Based on order volume, growth was recorded at 115 percent.
There have been no similar studies on the growth of live selling in India and Japan. However, it is safe to say that comparable expansion is very likely to happen in these other Asian markets. Citing a study by Grand View Research, Inc., BeLive says that the live video streaming market is set to grow to $184.3 billion by 2027.
The accelerated adoption of live streaming as a tool for marketing and sales is largely attributed to the growing interest of businesses in live streaming technology. However, another factor that contributes to this increased adoption is the ease of doing live streams.
“Our technology solutions have helped businesses like Rakuten, Bukalapak, Changi Airport Group, and Samsung adopt live video streaming as part of their organization’s digital strategy; increasing their reach, engaging their customers, and expanding their monetization channels,” says BeLive CEO and Co-founder Kenneth Tan.
Trend, not a fad or hype
BeLive would not have the kind of thriving live streaming solutions business it has if live selling were a temporary industry or sub-industry. Live streaming is no longer seen as a hype but a necessity for businesses. Many businesses are interweaving live streaming as part of their business strategy as well as continuity in the event the pandemic worsens. The innate characteristics of live streaming such as meta-voicing and human visibility mimics a consumer-brand interaction, that is similar to retail in-store experiences. Small vendors are already using social media and other live streaming platforms to conduct live selling. E-commerce platforms like Amazon and TaoBao, on the other hand, provide sellers the ability to hold live selling sessions. Those that do not have the in-house resources and expertise to do it can turn to end-to-end solutions similar to what BeLive offers.