E-commerce live streaming blurs the line between shopping and entertainment

Singapore actress Constance Lau showcased various products during a LazLive livestream on 6 September, ahead of its 9.9 Big Discovery Sale. (PHOTO: Lazada)

By Linette Heng

SINGAPORE — With overstuffed cardboard boxes as her backdrop, 26-year-old Zynny Do sits on a stool in a HDB living room and runs her live fashion sale, simultaneously streamed to Facebook Live and Shopee Live with the help of two mobile phones.

Over a three-hour period, the mother of three pulls everything from children’s outfits to sports bras out of plastic coverings, demonstrating the fit and providing basic descriptions. She imports them from Vietnam, where she moved from in 2013, and they sell for $3 upwards.

Her customers snap up the items via the comments, and send her questions. She notes the orders, and a relative arranges for delivery once payment is received.

By the time she’s done, Do has typically sold between 100 and 200 pieces. She runs her sale three to four times a week.

“It is a simple business (to operate), and it is easy for buyers as well,” explains Do, who started selling on Facebook Live two years ago and added Shopee Live to the mix three months ago.

Do is among tens of thousands who have capitalised on live streaming to run their sales while interacting with buyers in real time.

On Shopee, where sellers – from micropreneurs to large brands – have been able to sell ‘live’ since March, over 30,000 sellers across the region have garnered some 200 million views, says Zhou Junjie, chief commercial officer and country head for Shopee Singapore.

During its 9.9 sale earlier this month, Shopee Live’s 50 million views helped the platform towards its best-ever 9.9 performance yet. At the sale’s peak, 187,606 items were sold within a minute, says Zhou. Shopee, a homegrown firm owned by consumer internet firm Sea Ltd., was launched in 2015.

While Shopee sellers sell everything from jewellery to stationery live, fashion is especially popular, explains Zhou.

Thailand beauty blogger Archita (right) livestream on Shopee Thailand platform. (PHOTO: SHopee)

“Buyers enjoy being able to see… the colour, texture, size and fit of certain products and instantly purchase the ones they like,” he says, adding that sellers can also answer questions during the stream rather than respond individually.

Online womenswear brand Jumping Around, which joined Shopee Live a few months ago, holds two-hour sessions up to four times a week. Up to 15 products are showcased each time, and 50 to 100 pieces are sold.

“It adds a personal touch… it also allows us to interact with our customers directly and better understand their preferences. As purchasing clothing online can be tricky, I try on the designs and explain the details,” said its spokesman, who wanted to be known only as Nachi.

Lazada, which is owned by the Alibaba Group, takes a different tack, hosting livestreams only during retail events with selected brand partners or featuring sellers’ products during gameshows. Lazada’s livestreams have featured local personalities such as Patricia Mok, Tosh Zhang and Xiaxue.

The idea is to create “moments” when viewers engage with their brands, explains Lazada Singapore’s chief marketing officer Michelle Yip, adding: “Each livestream pulls in thousands of viewers… Our shoppers are tuning in to the livestreams as often as six times a day.”

For instance, the Samsung S10 and Note 10 were launched via live streaming on the Lazada app in February. In July, Lazada introduced GUESS IT, a game show where viewers guessed the price of a showcased item. Some 7 million viewers across Southeast Asia tuned in to over 672 shows.

Live-streamed retail is also big in countries like Vietnam, Taiwan, and China. In 2018, Alibaba’s Taobao Marketplace generated more than 100 billion yuan (S$19.4 billion) in gross merchandise volume during livestreaming sessions, an increase of almost 400 per cent year-on-year, according to Alibaba figures. China has the largest livestreaming market in the world, reaching US$4.4 billion in 2018, according to a Deloitte report.

For consumers, it adds some fun to shopping, says executive Loh WX, 32, who gets her workwear from Facebook live streams. “I was drawn by the cheap prices at first, but found the livestreams quite addictive after a while. It is a more interesting version of online shopping.”


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