Livestream shopping in China is huge. Even rural farmers are doing it. There was $240B in social commerce GMV in 2020, accounting for 11.6% of total retail ecommerce sales in the country.
Apps like TaoBao Live, Baidu, JD.com, and Douyin are popular in China. But what about the US? Livestream shopping is still in its infancy in the US.
In 2019, the U.S. accounted for just $1 billion of the global $60 billion ecommerce livestreaming market. But that number is expected to grow to $25 billion by 2023
There are a handful of apps in the US that each take their own approach to livestream shopping. These apps generally fall into 4 categories:
Mobile app marketplaces
- Facebook Live apps that automate the invoicing and inventory management of FB lives
- Social media platforms that want the livestream transactions to stay on their own platforms
- E-commerce companies that aren't ready to completely democratize selling, but are making entries into liveshopping
Mobile app marketplaces
These marketplaces are the closest thing to what's happening in China and Taobao Live (80% of ecommerce livestreaming in China happens through Alibaba’s Taobao Live).
But the American take on this is different. In China, less than 10% of livestream customers make repeat purchases. Whereas many of the livestream marketplaces below focus on the $6B collectibles market, where most customers are repeat purchasers.
- Whatnot - Live auctions and unboxing of Pokemon cards, Funko Pops, and sports cards. Whatnot was founded in 2019, has 43 employees (as of May '21), and has $25M in funding from YC and A16Z. They charge an 8% transaction fee plus CC processing fees (2.9% + $0.30) and free shipping for the seller.
- Popshop - Specializing in comics and collectibles, Popshop was recently valued at $100M by Benchmark Capital. The company was founded in 2016 and is headquartered in LA with 23 employees (as of May '21). Popshop charges 9% transaction fees (including credit card fees) to the merchant.
- ShopShops - an iphone app that brings sales consultants into B&M boutique stores in the US to go live to shoppers in China. Company was founded in 2016, headquartered in New York and Beijing with 70 employees (as of May '21), and received $20M in funding (Union Square Ventures). ShopShops charges 15-25% in transaction and processing fees per this article
- Ntwrk - a mobile-first video shopping platform. Only their selected brand and celebrity influencers can sell. Company was founded in 2018, raised $10M (Foot Locker), and has 109 employees (as of May '21) headquartered in LA.
Facebook Live apps
Because most of the estimated $5B GMV (per Coresight) is happening on Facebook, there are several apps to automate sales through FB lives
All of these apps use Facebook's commenting system to indicate the item to purchase, and Messenger to send the invoice. The checkout happens outside of Facebook. Only a couple of these apps work in private FB groups and have an overlay to display the text to comment.
Social media platforms
The social media platforms themselves are rolling out their own solutions to what will likely be a $100B industry in the next few years
- Facebook Shops. Facebook knows that commerce is already happening through private groups and live videos. FB Shops is providing basic inventory management and in-app checkout functionality.
Since Facebook's main goal is to drive ad revenue, conversions and transactions are not their top priority. And that's what we're seeing so far. Most big brands are using Facebook Shops as a showroom with minimal focus on conversion
- Instagram Live Shopping has been in beta since June 2020. Similar to Facebook Shops, there's light inventory management and Instagram's own click-to-buy checkout button. This article explains how beauty brands are experimenting with it.
- Youtube is testing video-shopping features, letting some of its creators track the products featured in their videos which link back to Google Shopping. Youtube also released a shoppable ad unit in Jun '20, which makes video ads more “shoppable” by adding browsable product images underneath the ad to drive traffic directly to brands’ product pages.
There is no indication that Youtube is providing in-app checkout functionality however.
- QVC - the original pioneers of live shopping, they have adapted over the decades to internet/mobile and are the 7th largest e-commerce player
- Amazon Live - after cancelling its QVC-like show Style Code Live in 2017, Amazon relaunched a live selling program dedicated to live sales from its influencer affiliate network. "With live video, influencers can bring their product picks to life and engage with shoppers using features like live promotions and chat. When an influencer starts streaming, their livestreams appear on their Influencer storefront and on Amazon.com/live"