Shopstreaming: the big money-maker of live streaming

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Welcome to the world of shopstreaming.

Firstly, we all know live-streaming – the broadcasting of live video on the Internet for entertainment-related content. The audience can interact with the live host through the comments in real-time, and the host can adjust content according to the audience’s feedback.

Another ‘Made-in-China’: Shopstreaming

In China, the all-powerful e-commerce sites have pushed live-streaming one step further with shopstreaming: live-streaming shopping. This is the buying and selling of goods using interactive live video.

At present, Taobao, Kuaishou, and Douyin (Tik Tok) are the leading platforms using shopstreaming. E-commerce platforms such as, Pinduoduo, and Youzan have also begun to test the water.

Since its emergence in 2016, shopstreaming has created huge profits for Chinese online platforms, mainly e-commerce sites. In 2018, Taobao’s live streaming platform sales exceeded 100 billion CNY, with an annual growth rate of nearly 40 percent. In 2019, the live streaming session for Taobao’s Singles’ Day pre-sale had more than 30 million viewers.

The Lipstick King – Austin Li (Li Jiaqi)

Aside from pushing desirable products, live hosts are the core asset in shopstreaming.

The host of Taobao’s Single’s Day is the hugely popular Austin Li.

Austin Li

Starting as a beauty assistant for L’Oreal in 2015, Li accumulated 19 million followers on TikTok by 2019. He also holds the Guinness World Record for the ‘Most Lipstick Applications in 30 Seconds’. Naturally, Li also goes by his nickname ‘Lipstick King’ on shopstreaming platforms. A few of his achievements might help us to see why he is the ‘No 1’:

  • He did 389 livestreaming sessions in 2019, each lasting between 5 to 6 hours,
  • He once tried 380 lipsticks in one session, on his own lips,
  • His fastest sales record was selling 15,000 lipsticks in 5 minutes, and
  • At the 2018 Singles’ day shopping festival, Li Jiaqi did a shopstreaming session with Jack Ma (CEO of Alibaba) as his sales opponent. By the time Li sold 1000 lipsticks, Jack Ma had only sold 10.

Pros and cons of shopstreaming


There is a lot of potential in the world of shopstreaming. During the period of confinement, for example, numerous small Chinese producers found buyers with the help of shopstreaming, including many farmers who were able to continue to sell their produce despite the pandemic.


You need good salespeople comfortable with the format. Additionally, a few seasoned live hosts got into trouble because the products they sold were bad quality or delivered late. Therefore, when the supply chain is not reliable, a good salesperson can quickly lose their reputation.

Will Shopstreaming go global?

Now that we have seen the huge success of shopstreaming in China, we have to wonder: could it work in other countries and markets?

Definitely, but western online platforms need to adapt themselves to better fit the shopstreaming model. So far, major western online platforms do provide links to help customers shop for products. But the links are often simply photos and short videos. Shopstreaming, however, adds more urgency and an element of surprise for online shoppers, which in turn can lead to more sales.

In China, what really works is the e-commerce site Taobao, which successfully added social media functions making shopstreaming even more accessible and fun. The only comparable example in the West is Amazon, but even they are far behind their Asian competition.

At the end of the day, shopstreaming is a business model where enormous profits are possible. It is going to be interesting to see how online platforms outside of China start exploring this field with the help of integrated supply chains and a lot more technological innovation.


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Further reading :

5 things China and Switzerland do differently in business by

Huizhu Irrthum Huizhu Irrthum

From making translations and interpreting in meetings to creating, selecting and managing content on social media, what motivates me as a Communications specialist is using my English, French and Chinese language skills to facilitate relationships among businesses and individuals.

I have done this internationally in corporate communications, retail marketing and digital strategy for the lifestyle and luxury industries...and I am more than interested by the possibility of using my market research and customer service skills to help build Swiss-Chinese business relations.

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