Live Streaming E-commerce Development in China:

A Historical Overview of Live Streaming Business in China

Live streaming e-commerce emerged in China in 2016, progressing through three key phases: initial establishment, gradual maturation, and rapid expansion.

In 2019, the sector experienced an unprecedented surge. Numerous celebrities, governmental entities, and television networks embraced live streaming, igniting widespread interest and engagement among Chinese consumers. Statistical data underscores this growth, revealing a total transaction volume of 451.29 billion yuan in 2019, marking a remarkable 200.4% year-on-year increase. This surge exemplifies the rapid advancement of the live streaming e-commerce industry during this period.

China’s Live Streaming E-commerce

Today, China’s live streaming e-commerce sector has witnessed the gradual completion of its industrial chain and the establishment of industry standards. Additionally, both anchors and audience demographics have become more diverse. Recent findings by CNNIC reveal that the number of users engaged in live streaming e-commerce in China has surged to 7.65 million, accounting for 71% of the nation’s total internet users. This statistic highlights the industry’s extensive market scope and promising developmental prospects.

Consumer Preference by Category

While mass consumer goods such as apparel, daily essentials, food, and beauty products continue to attract significant consumer attention, the diversity of categories featured in live broadcasts has increased noticeably.

China’s Live Streaming E-commerce

User Analysis

As of March 2023, China has around 7.65 million users actively engaging in live streaming e-commerce, accounting for 71% of the nation’s total internet users. Female users slightly outnumber males, comprising approximately 54% of the user base.

When examining geographical distribution, second-tier cities host the highest concentration of users, closely trailed by third-tier cities. Generally, the audience for e-commerce live streaming shows a significant preference for the “sinking market.” ( “Sinking market” refers to markets in cities, towns, and rural areas below the third-tier level. These markets have a broad and scattered reach, with higher service costs being a fundamental feature.)

Looking at user demographics, most consumers are under 50, although individuals over 50 are gaining increasing purchasing influence. As this group moves into retirement, they have the time and significant purchasing power to engage with live broadcasts. Reports show that this emerging segment of middle-aged and elderly users increasingly embraces online shopping, particularly for daily necessities, clothing, household goods, and jewellery within the live broadcast format.

China’s Live Streaming E-commerce
China’s Live Streaming E-commerce

Live E-commerce Market Size

Magnitude of Chinese Live Streaming E-commerce Enterprises

The scale of Chinese live streaming e-commerce enterprises is considerable. Currently, 534,700 such businesses operate in China. In the first half of 2022 alone, the sector added 180,100 companies, representing a 197.6% year-on-year increase.

Geographical Dispersion of Enterprises

Regarding the geographical distribution, Guangdong takes the lead, with Zhejiang and Shandong closely following in the top three positions. Hangzhou boasts the highest number of enterprises at a more localised level, totalling 21,800, followed by Guangzhou and Haikou.

Regional Distribution of Anchors

Using TikTok e-commerce as an example, we observe that e-commerce live streamers mainly originate from tier 1 cities and new first-tier cities, including Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Shenzhen, and Beijing. However, the growth in the number of anchors in tier 2 cities surpasses that of tier 1 and new tier 1 cities. This trend indicates a growing community of anchors in second-tier cities and beyond.

China’s Live Streaming E-commerce

China’s Live E-commerce Market Share:

Currently, China’s live streaming e-commerce market is predominantly controlled by Taobao, Douyin (TikTok), and Kuaishou, collectively accounting for over 90% of the market share. As of 2022, Douyin’s live e-commerce Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) market share was around 47%, surpassing both Kuaishou and Taobao. Kuaishou held a 27% market share, while Taobao accounted for 23%.

China’s Live Streaming E-commerce

Stay tuned for our in-depth analysis of the live-streaming industry in China, part 2. We’ll explore the strategies utilised by Taobao, TikTok, and Kuaishou. Subscribe now to access exclusive insights!

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