While there’s no doubt about Alibaba’s lead position in overall ecommerce… the future of livestream commerce isn’t as certain.

That’s because people follow people in China and KOLs are at the heart of livestream commerce.

Livestream has merged the battlefield for ecommerce and entertainment. Every ecommerce platform has adopted livestreaming and content platforms are all building up ecommerce capabilities.

If you look at the livestream commerce landscape… you can categorize the platforms based on 2 criteria:

  1. Purchase intent
  2. Type of livestream (KOL content vs Branded content/infomercial)

Within this mix, people on traditional ecommerce platforms like Taobao & JD have high intent of purchase. Their livestreams are very brand-driven as the platform itself is structured to help sell products. At the core of the platform, Taobao is still a product centric platform even though its content has become super rich over the years.

On the other hand, video platforms like Douyin & Kuaishou are centered around content. The livestreams are completely KOL-driven. By nature, these streams are not necessarily geared to sell. Naturally, it has lower conversion rates but it has still proven to be super effective for selling in some categories.

Do you know who started livestream ecommerce? It wasn’t Taobao. 

It was Mogujie, an ecommerce platform specializing in fashion. It’s the only one where livestream is the main source of income: 50% of total GMV.

Mogujie’s community started off purely with content for consumers. Since the beginning, the platform empowered KOLs to provide fashion services to its viewers, essentially becoming like personal stylists and image consultants. This created a strong community so livestream ecommerce became an immediate success.

Its strength is also its weakness as an ecommerce platform. It is extremely focused on women’s fashion so expanding beyond that is almost impossible.

Similarly, Xiaohongshu is also a content-centric ecommerce platform driven by KOLs. People go there to see genuine thoughts on new and unique brands and products.

The problem here is that when people expect genuine content from streamers, selling too much can backfire. The viewers aren’t stupid. They can smell brand-sponsored content from a mile away and too much of it will undermine trust in the KOL. That’s why some streamers on Xiaohongshu do much better monetizing through ads rather than products.

In the end… trust is the prerequisite before a purchase. KOLs build that trust by continuously producing valuable content. Livestream has paved way for a consumer journey completely different from traditional ecommerce.

Mogujie and Xiaohongshu may have users with high purchase intent but they cannot match the traffic of Taobao or Douyin.

In the coming years it’s worth looking out to see how the roles of content driven platforms and product driven platforms change.

Do you think a single platform other than Taobao can dominate the livestream commerce landscape?