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Nicola Mira
Nov 10, 2020
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Livestream shopping booming in China, set to thrive in Europe, USA too

Translated by
Nicola Mira
Nov 10, 2020

Late at night, Lalo Lopez makes his way to a small film studio in Shanghai for his livestream broadcast. His job is to present scores of Chinese products, from cycling shorts to vacuum cleaners, to Spanish speakers the world over.

Lalo Lopez, 33, is one of many foreign commercial presenters hired in China for livestream selling - AFP

Lopez, 33, a Spaniard, describes himself as an artist, DJ and Youtuber, and is one of the growing number of foreign presenters hired by Chinese commercial agencies to help spread beyond China's borders the local craze for live-streamed online sales.

According to estimates, livestream shopping is worth nearly $70 billion in China, where it attracts scores of influencers who test products live, filming their sessions on social media broadcasts.

Encouraged by this sales channel’s success, Chinese businesses are hiring foreign talent to showcase their products to a worldwide audience.

Lopez moved to China nine years ago, and was contacted by Beijing-based marketing agency Linkone Interactive, when the latter noticed the videos he posted on YouTube and Instagram.

“When I speak, I look at products through my own culture, my own experience,” said Lopez, whose livestreaming sessions attract audiences of up to 15,000 viewers. He answers audience questions in real time, always injecting a touch of humour in his presentations.

For example, he dons a pink dressing gown over his clothes when demonstrating a hand-held vacuum cleaner, even going as far as applying it momentarily to his own hair.

“It’s easier for me,” to address a Spanish-speaking audience, “because we share the same cultural roots,” said Lopez, who earns up to CHY1,500 ($226) per session.

Linkone Interactive has been training foreign presenters for nearly two years, according to its CEO Zhang Zhiguo.

It already has a team of some 50 influencers - more than half of whom are based in China - targeting markets like the USA, France and Spain.

A dazzling success

Livestream selling is part and parcel of the broader field of e-commerce. Chinese state media are touting this sales channel as a way to combat poverty in rural areas, enabling farmers to sell products like tea online.

In 2020, livestream shopping is forecast to generate sales worth over CHY1 trillion ($150 billion), according to a study by KPMG and AliResearch - AFP

Evidence of the success of livestream shopping came in June, when the companies participating in a shopping festival on Chinese e-tailer Taobao generated sales of over CHY100 million ($14.9 million). There is huge expectation for the online shopping extravaganza scheduled on November 11, China’s Singles Day.

The sector has enjoyed dazzling success since 2016, when Taobao and JD.com first launched livestream shopping sites.

And it is forecast to generate a revenue of more than CHY1 trillion ($150 billion) in 2020, according to a study by KPMG and AliResearch, a branch of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Targeting Europe

Last year, a single livestream selling session “would only attract a few hundred viewers,” Zhiguo told the AFP agency. But now, Zhiguo said, “it's normal to have several thousand viewers.”

“Livestream shopping is a new way to consume” - AFP

Keane Wang, planning director at Chinese group Neusoft Cloud Technology, is looking to set up a livestream broadcasting centre in France, hiring between 300 and 500 foreign presenters over the next three years.

“Following the success of live streaming sessions on video website Douyin and on Taobao, Chinese companies are ready to try their hand at it, and to invest resources on it,” said Wang.

Livestream shopping is still marginal in countries like France, but it is making inroads in other markets, for example Russia, said Alice Roche, a Shanghai presenter broadcasting in French and English, selling products ranging from massage devices to cosmetics.

“Livestream shopping is a new way to consume. In a few years, it will become the main way for people to choose products,” she added.

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