China's booming live-streaming industry to revive economy

By Jorge Holloway
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 19, 2020
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An online host promotes leather products via a livestream platform in Xinji, North China's Hebei province, on June 5, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Live streaming during the pandemic in China has provided a much-needed lifeline for the economy. It offers a much-needed cash injection to many businesses, both big and small, and a rudimentary market atmosphere, where customers can gather online in the virtual world. On the first day of mass market live streams on April 8, nearly 17.9 million yuan was generated across Hubei province. 

Typically in Asia, streaming is a manner for generating profit from video gaming; the live streaming industry in China has shifted to take on the role provided by more brick-and-mortar businesses. For example, over 44,000 packs of ready noodles were sold on the first day of live stream trading. Across China, this innovative way of keeping the economy moving is spreading. Provinces, such as Guangxi, Shandong and Hunan, are all using live streaming to ensure that goods can be sold whilst adhering to social distancing rules. 

On the other hand, European countries have been slower on this uptake and have instead resorted to the traditional physical easing of lockdown restrictions in the hope that customers will physically return to shops to revive the economy. In the U.K., the economy is threatening to shrink by as much as 11.5%, its sharpest dip in over 150 years. Plans in the country to reduce the 2-meter social distancing rule to just 1-meter are currently being debated in parliament. The concept of live streaming sales of goods remains in the country, but the domain of fringe late-night telemarketing TV sales channels has low audience viewership numbers. 

Foreign brands have taken notice of China's success in livestream sales, with brands, such as Louis Vuitton, launching streaming events for the first time in their 30 years of operating within the country. Online platforms, such as Taobao, which are well-equipped to operate during a pandemic, have seen a jump in sellers of over 719%. 

Many industries have been saved through the quick thinking shift to live streaming e-commerce. China's agriculture industry is a typical example. So much so that both Taobao and launched rural live streaming initiatives due to the skyrocketing popularity of farmers broadcasting their products online, in ever more creative ways. China's existing strong logistics networks help shift products from the soil to the home in quantities never seen before, let alone during a global virus outbreak. Taobao now boasts over 50,000 rural live streamers, providing a silver lining for many during this state of international crisis. They have forged an entirely new way of doing business, which has the possibility of being ever more lucrative. 

Live-streamed tourism is also becoming increasingly popular, with young influencers exploring and sharing their experiences of areas for audiences itching to visit the places for real when restrictions ease. All over China, industries are being aided by the live streaming revolution in the most unlikely of places. Live streaming will likely keep its huge share of market operations in years to come and remain a staple of consumer habits. This transition will not come without challenges. There have been rising concerns over the quality control of products sold so readily and accessible, alongside a need for an increase in customer support and aftercare facilities. However, these growing pains for the industry are signs of its sheer potential, and the hope that economies around the world may watch closely and hope to adopt soon too. 

Jorge Holloway is a global technology and business commentator based in London, initially specializing in start-ups and technology PR.

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