This note explores the emerging multi-billion dollars commerce trend of livestream commerce. Livestream commerce is the sale of goods or services directly to consumers via live shows on digital platforms (such as social media or e-commerce platforms). It is a form of social commerce in which consumers engage with real-time videos to complete transactions. Livestream commerce was especially popular in China, where gross merchandise value through this channel reached $316 billion USD. In the rest of the world, livestream commerce had mixed success, and has not gained traction in Europe and North America. The note explores the 3 top livestream commerce in China – Taobao Live, Douyin, and Kuaishou, to learn about the phenomenon and explore the success of livestream commerce in the future. In particular, the note allows for discussion of the following questions: How should a platform develop a sustainable business model in livestream commerce? What would it take for any of these platforms to come out on top of the competition? Are social media or e-commerce platforms better positioned to win in this market? Was the boom in China’s livestream commerce replicable in other countries? Why hasn’t livestream commerce gained traction in Europe and North America? Was it just a matter of time, or are there inherent factors that impede on the success of this shopping format?
Israeli, Ayelet, Jeremy Yang, and Billy Chan. “The Future of E-Commerce: Lessons from the Livestream Wars in China.” Harvard Business School Background Note 523-055, November 2022.