A brief history of livestreaming in Southeast Asia, and 4 tips to successful live commerce

Livestreaming has exploded in popularity over the last couple of years, with China’s legacy ecommerce giants Tmall and JD raking in trillions of dollars (US$11.4 trillion, to be precise) — driven by creative, real-time video content.

As more and more social channels incorporate ecommerce elements into their interfaces – TikTok and WeChat’s early adopter status has propelled their gross market values on par with ecommerce retailers.

In fact, McKinsey estimates that live commerce sales will contribute as much as $423 billion to the overall sector, a clear display of the channel’s immense potential.

Brief history of livestreaming in Southeast Asia

In 2015, enterprising content creators in the region started using live content to share snippets of their days with followers.

Gradually, a cross-section of content creators — from beauty bloggers to professional gamers — began to experiment with the “Live” buttons on their phones to stay connected with people.

As platforms like Bigo Live took off in popularity in Indonesia and Thailand, more social media and ecommerce companies began adding livestreaming solutions to their layouts.

Southeast Asia’s opportunities for live commerce

When millions of new digital consumers in APAC began online shopping for the first time during the pandemic lockdowns, ecommerce platforms experienced a 306% increase in gross market value, and a 115% increase in order value from livestreaming alone.

As of 2022, Southeast Asia accounts for 21% of global ecommerce sales, and is also home to some of the biggest movers and shakers of the digital world. Countries like Vietnam and Thailand are at the forefront of livestream adoption, with a majority of online shoppers relying on livestreams to make purchases.

Southeast Asians typically love shopping in physical stores — they will go to the mall or market for their groceries, and scrutinise every single detail of an outfit they are interested in buying. However, global lockdowns and COVID-era travel restrictions reshaped retail habits. Beyond digitally-savvy youth, older generations have also been embracing the use of the Internet and social media channels at unprecedented rates.

Even after restrictions were lifted, online shopping continued to flourish in Southeast Asia, with social channels like TikTok sitting up and taking notice of these developments. Throughout 2022, TikTok rolled out its TikTok Shop feature across a number of Southeast Asian countries, allowing brands and merchants the opportunity to sell products via a slew of videos, product showcases, and livestreams.

DAini Wang shares history of livestreaming in Southeast Asia
Daini Wang, Head of Customer Success, APAC, Ascential Digital Commerce

Brands looking to make the most of livestreaming, and want to set up a winning strategy should consider the following tips, based on current online shopping trends:

    1. Choose platforms that work for you
      With so many ecommerce and live commerce platforms, there’s something for everyone. For instance, Facebook and Instagram have a wide user base, and offer brands and marketers the opportunity to reach and discover new audiences.

      TikTok, given its primarily visual characteristics, is best for entertaining or humorous product demonstrations. Seasoned shoppers prefer to stick to ecommerce staples like Shopee and Lazada, as they have a better chance of navigating the entire shopping experience — from livestream to shipping and delivery — all in a single platform.

    2. Identify unique audiences across each platform
      Brands and sellers stand to make the most impact if they cater to the digital habits of each audience across all social and ecommerce platforms. In Southeast Asia, where Facebook and Instagram are typically used for leisure and entertainment, audiences might not be interested in online shopping. Conversely, people on Shopee and Lazada are there to shop, and find out more about their favorite brands and products.

    3. Create customer-centric content
      Developing platform-based consumer personas will help brands streamline their livestreaming strategies. In Southeast Asia, brands are finding success when they position their product or brand in response to specific challenges consumers face, and emphasize how it addresses

    4. Partner with the right content creators
      Brands stand to gain from being selective about the types of key opinion leaders they work with. While influencers with a large following can help drive brand trust and credibility, this only works if they can generate high-quality user-generated content, or introduce the brand to high-intent audiences. For example, an indie skincare label in the Philippines ran a livestream celebrating its launch on Lazada’s retail platform, Lazmall. Featuring a slew of celebrities, the livestream was seen by 15,000 people on its first day, with subsequent livestreams locking in average views of 77,000 per session.

      Livestreaming, by virtue of being a format that allows consumers to get close and personal with the items they love and hope to purchase, is poised to become a staple retail ecommerce channel in its own right. To take advantage of this emerging trend, brands will need to invest in robust digital transformation efforts that involve a better understanding of their customers.