Live-Streaming: China’s Answer to Consumers’ Need for Entertainment and Transparency


It’s not just entertainment. Live-streaming is the Chinese answer to consumer’s need for transparency. And now even WeChat enters China’s live-streaming squad, providing live broadcasts within its Mini Program platform


Live-streaming is not only the ultimate entertainment format but it is also the internet’s next form of digital communication. It is coming from China to reshape the whole e-commerce industry one stream after the other. After having pioneered social-commerce, the Dragon is now setting the model for video-driven e-commerce both at home and abroad.

According to statistics, more than 100 million viewers watch a live online video event every month while nearly 32% of users buy products through live-streaming videos. It is the “entertain-merce” era where commerce is inextricably linked to entertainment.

After Taobao revealed that goods sold via live-streaming in 2018 were worth a total of $14.9 billion, now even Tencent has accelerated the integration of live-streaming features into its WeChat Mini Program platform. The aim is clear: boosting e-commerce through real-time content.


entertainment and e-commerce in live-streaming - wechat - cifnews

© 123rf. Tencent opened up live-streaming on WeChat in early March and has already seen impressive sales results from the first tests.


WeChat is going to open up new e-commerce options by providing live-streaming features. According to a WeChat public account called Tencent Live Streaming Assistant, China’s internet giant, already started to test the live-broadcasting function with content managing companies and a limited number of e-commerce players in March. 

The sources have revealed that the firm is working to provide a smooth transition between watching broadcasts and buying online. Apparently, the user would be allowed to click the products listed on the live-streamed video and then, would be directed to the merchant’s Mini Program to finalize the transaction.

Streaming on WeChat was already possible before, but sellers had to link up with the Tencent Live app, which operates as a separate platform. Now, with the new features, merchants with official accounts will be able to live-stream their goods through an H5 marketing page – interactive pages written in HTML5 language, usually for mobile websites – embedded in their Mini Programs.


One of the best ways to gain instant reactions and engagement from the audience is to leverage live-streaming. After Taobao and, this function is finally available even on WeChat.


In addition to Alibaba’s Taobao and, Chinese vendors now have a brand-new channel to generate revenues, which among other things leverages WeChat’s enormous volume of users. With 1.1 billion monthly active users, WeChat ecosystem is, therefore, enriched by features that could turn the app into the next bigger player in e-commerce. It will become an even more powerful platform that satisfies all kinds of needs of the online community.

Nevertheless, live-streaming and e-commerce have been a winning combination in China for some time now. In late 2016, only a few hundred of Chinese mobile apps had live-broadcasting features. But today, there are an estimated more than 900 real-time video platforms and over 10 million active hosts in the country. So much so that today, experts claim that this market in China is going to be worth $8 billion in 2019.

The popularity of this new format derives from two particular features: the chance for everyone to be seen by an audience and the complete transparency of the content as it is filmed live with no post-production. Therefore, from education to entertainment, from online gaming to live shopping, real-time videos now represent the ultimate form of communication for Chinese millennials. Indeed, of the over 800 million people with internet connections in China, nearly half of them use real-time video apps.


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© Alizila. China has become the largest market for live-streaming, which is expected to be worth $8 billion in 2019.


Live-streaming’s interactive nature makes it suitable for many audiences with different purposes. And for what concerns education, real-time videos are making a life-changing difference in China’s rural areas.

CCTalk is part of a growing number of live-broadcasting services in China’s education industry. Similar to entertainment and e-commerce applications of live-streaming, educational live-streams open a real-time channel between a host and an audience, or a teacher and students. Today, over 10,000 individuals and organizations are teaching classes on CCTalk so that even larger players such as Tencent and YY now have their own live education platform as well.

However, before being China’s top form of communication, live-streaming is above all a form of entertainment. With the rising popularity of short-video apps, real-time content has quickly started to gain interest among viewers. With 59.7 million registered users, Yizhibo is one of the biggest live-streaming platforms in China, whose strength is to be fully integrated into the social network Weibo.

Even the online gaming industry is leveraging the live-streaming trend so much so that currently, the PRC is the second-largest eSports – electronic sports – market behind the United States. The two dominant players in China are Douyu and Huya where users can share and engage with videos of any sort including real-time gaming.


Live-streaming is not only booming but it is also fueling Chinese e-commerce with nearly 32% of customers now buying products directly on real-time video platforms.


Nevertheless, while many companies adapted their platforms to respond to the demand for entertainment and real-time content, live-streaming is now revolutionizing the entire e-commerce sector. As about 95% of e-commerce activity in China is made through mobile devices, live-streaming has indeed become a powerful tool for the online retail industry.

Even farmers from rural China have now become real live-streaming stars. Today, 1.15 million rural users sell local products on Kuaishou through both short videos and live-streaming. Their videos show the origin of food on sale and thus respond to the consumers’ need for transparency.

Broadcasting in the PRC, therefore, started as a non-commercial trend with young people sharing their lives and talents. However, today, e-commerce penetrates the majority of live-streams whether through fashion show broadcasts or via internet celebrities reviewing the latest cosmetic product, enabling consumers to buy what they see on the screen in real-time.

The biggest player in the business has always been Alibaba. Tencent has been trying to catch up after its own social features like WeChat public accounts and Moments started seeing declining numbers of views. Moreover, short video sites such as ByteDance’s Douyin – known as TikTok outside China – and Kuaishou, have both leveraged on live-streaming as a way to boost e-commerce.


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© Abacus. Kuaishou live-streams. Even farmers stream on real-time video apps thus showing the origin of food on sale and becoming real live-streaming stars.


Live-streaming is working so well for e-commerce because very often, the result of instant interaction is impulse shopping. According to Jing Daily, the return rate from real-time content could range from 15% to 50%, with strong evidence that the higher the prices are, the higher the return rate is. This is because young luxury shoppers demand transparency. Therefore, live-streaming is the perfect channel for brands to give consumers what they demand while also being creative and entertaining.


Broadcasting allows room for spontaneity, giving the illusion of bringing the host and the audience closer through real-time interactions. In a country where the customer gives extraordinary importance to building relationships and sharing interests, live-streaming is certainly a powerful tool.


The real-time video trend has shown how in the Middle Kingdom, entertainment goes hand in hand with digital commerce. Live-broadcasts provide people with entertainment and a glimpse into the lives and experiences of others, attracting both viewers and consumers.

According to a report published by the China Internet Network Information Center, at the end of 2018, China hosted 397 million users on multiple live-stream websites while demonstrating also tremendous purchasing power. Therefore, the PRC is not only the first and largest live-streaming market in the world but its netizens’ purchasing experience is getting more fun, more efficient, and thus more productive year after year.

Today, in China, it is almost impossible to separate entertainment from commerce, but live-streaming has so much potential that probably we have not seen it realized to the fullest yet.



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