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Livestream shopping, where live video connects buyers and sellers in real-time, wherever they are, has exploded in popularity in Asia Pacific. As part of The Drum’s Retail Deep Dive, we explore who is doing it best and what exactly western brands and media agencies need to know as the trend spreads across the globe.

Livestream shopping has become a massive trend in Asia Pacific because it allows retailers to be placed in front of a vast online audience while enabling them to reach out to consumers on a much more personalized note. At the same time, it presents a medium for brands to interact with new customers in real-time and increase genuine engagement.

Pioneered by China in the last few years, China’s livestreaming market is expected to yield more than $60bn dollars in 2021, as compared to the expected $6bn in the US market. 

Around the region, social commerce accounted for about 44% of the $109bn e-commerce market in 2020. This will continue to grow as 70% of South East Asia’s population shift to online, where 36% of all digital service consumers are new digital consumers and 94% of these new digital service consumers intend to continue with digital service post-pandemic.

This has seen the rise of ‘shoppertainment’ in APAC as the new model of selling in today’s increasingly digital world, as consumers these days are looking for more than satisfying a material need when they shop, and are attracted by fun and engaging shopping experiences.

For example, global brands like Cartier livestreamed on Alibaba’s Taobao Live for the first time at the Singles Day Shopping Festival in 2020, points out Chen May Yee, the director for APAC at Wunderman Thompson Intelligence.

“As livestream technology grows more powerful, selling products directly on live videos has become mainstream. Livestream shopping brings home TV shopping to the next level, with highly-interactive live video features that allow buyers and sellers to communicate in real-time and explore products together,” explains Kenneth Tan, the co-founder and chief executive officer of BeLive Technology.

“For sellers, livestreaming is an enticing way to reach out to potential new customers because of the tendency to see higher involvement and quicker purchase decisions from interested shoppers.”

As retail models continue to be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic due to consumers being homebound most of the time, the opportunity for brands to evolve and interact with new customers in real-time and increase genuine engagement has seen more investments into the livestream commerce model.

Singaporean-based online social commerce platform Mdada.live announced the official launch of its 12,000 sq ft Mdada Livestreaming Hub in August. It claims the hub is set to be the largest fully-equipped hub across SEA, capable of supporting over 10 simultaneous livestreaming sessions with a fully-functioning technology crew.

The hub will feature 11 different studio spaces (each catering to a specific product category and its needs, such as beauty & haircare), demonstrations, live cooking stations and a 1022 sq ft auditorium.

“Through livestream commerce, Mdada.live has provided brands with a platform to showcase live product demonstrations, explaining in-depth the benefits that consumers are able to enjoy from their products and services, and concurrently replying to consumers’ queries in real-time instead of making them wait three to five working days – all without the brands having to do any of the ‘heavy-lifting’,” explains Michelle Chia, one of the three co-founders of Mdada.live.

“Since our inception in September 2020, we have already amassed over 20,000 followers, seen an average of over 30,000 orders each month, achieved a monthly unique reach of over 100,000 and garnered more than 1.6m livestream views in total.”

The Drum looks at how some of the e-commerce retailers around APAC are engaging with livestreaming.

JD.com

For the Chinese e-commerce platform JD.com, live broadcast is, first of all, a marketing value and is the basic capability provided by JD.com to all merchants, including tools, functions and services.

That means live broadcast has become a standard for daily platform and merchant marketing. New product launches, daily promotional activities, 618 and Double 11 promotions and live broadcasts are some of the core actions.

“Live broadcast also has a strong channel value for JD.com. For the platform, live broadcast has built a new marketing field in addition to traditional shelf marketing, reaching more users, especially young users, which is the result of traditional marketing channels,” explains Zhang Guowei, head of content ecosystem, JD Retail, JD.com.

“For businesses, the live broadcast can precipitate more private domain users, and it is also an important channel for private domain operations. At the same time, live broadcast is an important part of the content ecology, and it also provides users with shopping scenes. In addition to shopping, making the platform playable is an important means to increase user stickiness and visit frequency.”

Zhang notes many Western brands entering the Chinese market are doing very well in the construction of new marketing channels, including live broadcasts, whether it is P&G, Budweiser or Dyson.

He explains the biggest reason for their success is that they maintain a high degree of acumen and flexibility for business and the market, have agile responses to new tools, channels and users, and continue to explore and try. For new Western brands, these are all examples to follow. 

“The most important thing is to understand the Chinese market, understand Chinese users and integrate into Chinese-style marketing. At the same time, we also look forward to the combination of Western marketing experience and Chinese consumption patterns to generate new sparks and bring users more shopping experiences,” he says.

Lazada

The Alibaba-owned platform’s livestreaming platform LazLive was initially built to hire and match livestreamers with Chinese brands who want to sell to neighboring markets in SEA.

LazLive has since become a key pillar of Lazada’s shoppertainment strategy through a curated program pipeline bringing together shoppers, brands and sellers to interact in real-time. It also provides detailed product demonstrations and allows consumers watching the livestream to purchase multiple items simultaneously.

In Singapore, it introduced the first local farmers’ livestream on LazLive to educate consumers about food security, urban farming and what it entails to cultivate and grow local produce. The likes of Sustenir and Kin Yan participated and showcased various types of produce that they sold on RedMart. It also gives local farmers a way to engage directly with consumers, create awareness and encourage consumers to support locally-grown produce.

When the pandemic saw the level of tourists dwindle dramatically in Thailand, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) leveraged LazLive as a medium for partners to experiment with alternative applications. The TAT launched virtual tours with charity programs where viewers could donate online and support the fight against Covid-19.

Lazada also leveraged the LazadaForGood digital giving platform in the Philippines by partnering with local radio stations to host a charity fundraising concert called #RadioGivesBack: A LazadaForGood Charity Concert From Home, which was livestreamed via LazLive and broadcast by radio partners to support local communities and causes in need of aid.

“When it comes to lessons for marketers, it is key to assess if livestreaming is the right tool for your brand. To establish this, it is worth asking yourself questions such as: how are your customers best engaged? What piques their interest? What is the most effective way of showcasing your products? If, once you’ve answered those questions, livestreaming is the right avenue for your brand, have a think about the approach you want to take,” explains Raymond Yang, the chief product officer and head of platform operations at Lazada.

“For example, in our experience, we found that people in the Philippines tend to be more interactive and responsive to the presenters, while viewers from Thailand might be quieter but are more decisive and likely to click and place orders. If brands and sellers are to successfully engage with their customers, they need to be experimental in their approach, and find out what works and what doesn’t for their target audience, before coming up with a tailored approach that fits their needs and wants.”

Shopee

Singapore-based Sea Group’s e-commerce platform Shopee introduced its livestreaming tool Shopee Live to help brands further deepen engagement with customers through interactive features such as auctions, giveaways and timed vouchers.

For example, FMCG giant P&G worked with Miss Vietnam H’Hen Nie, who shared her favorite P&G products on Shopee Live. Shopee claimed the livestream was very popular among Vietnamese viewers as it brought them closer to a local icon, while delivering strong engagement and sales for P&G.

Shopee has also brought together unique entertainment alongside real-time interactions and instant purchases with Shopee Live. In 2020, it partnered with South Korean entertainment giant CJ E&M to host K-CON, the world’s largest K-culture festival, online exclusively on Shopee Live.

The K-CON festival saw performances by some of today’s biggest K-pop stars, including ITZY and Stray Kids, and recorded a total of 6m views across a week of livestreams.

Shopee is also helping small local businesses, which have been impacted by the pandemic, to use livestreaming to sustain and grow their business. In Malaysia, Khairul Aming – a local entrepreneur and popular foodie – was able to utilize Shopee Live to sell 8,000 bottles of sambal chili, reinforcing the immense value and popularity of livestreaming to local communities.

“We see increasing viewership on Shopee Live, with growth fastest among viewers aged 34-50. This challenges the idea that livestreaming is mainly for younger audiences, and brands that move fast can capture a large slice of this audience,” says Pan Huiyan, the regional marketing lead for branding and partnerships at Shopee.

“Livestreaming will become a platform to showcase new influencers, ones that are well-versed in real-time online interactions. The ability to connect with the audience is a crucial component of a successful livestream. Shopee’s key opinion leader (KOL) programs across the region help to discover and train budding livestream talent, giving them the opportunity to grow an audience and eventually earn an income through livestreaming. Already we’re seeing an average of over 1,000 of these KOL streams daily across the region, many of which involve brand integrations to help brands better engage viewers and earn consumer trust.

“Livestreams will become even more social, with more brands exploring different content types to engage new and existing customers. Shopee is driving this trend with a wide range of entertainment content across our markets, such as daily talk shows with local celebrities in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and more. The shopping aspect will also be more engaging, incorporating more ways for brands, hosts and viewers to interact in real-time.”

For more on the reinvention of retail, check out The Drum’s Retail hub, where we explore everything from livestreaming e-commerce to AR shopping and conscious consumerism.