Will Livestream Ecommerce Survive in the ‘New Normal’?

Chinese platforms JD and Kuaishou hope so

Photo of four men with flowers and stuffed animals on a table
JD will offer products for sale within the app of TikTok rival Kuaishou. JD
Headshot of Lisa Lacy

When Chinese consumers were on lockdown because of the coronavirus earlier this year, they entertained themselves with livestreams of blind dates for their pets, vicarious restaurant meals and mask makeup tutorials, to name a few activities. They also bought a lot of stuff.

Now, Chinese ecommerce site JD.com has partnered with livestreaming platform Kuaishou to take this burgeoning behavior a step forward by enabling in-app shopping within livestreams.

JD and Kuaishou are in the process of selecting products, according to a blog post, and starting June 16, Kuaishou’s 300 million daily active users will be able to purchase said products from JD in the Kuaishou app.

Fulfillment and customer care will come from JD, which will also provide insights into consumer behavior to enhance marketing to app users. It builds on a partnership dating back to June 2019, when Kuaishou announced users could view JD products in the Kuaishou app, but were redirected to JD to make purchases.

“Since the beginning of this year, short video livestreaming in ecommerce has been developing rapidly,” said Kuaishou CEO Su Hua in a statement. “This collaboration will bring an even more high-quality shopping experience to Kuaishou’s users.”

The partnership follows the intermingling of ecommerce and livestreams when Chinese consumers were on lockdown. At that time, both JD and Alibaba started using their own livestream platforms to connect merchants and consumers.

When farmers had produce that was going to go bad, for example, Alibaba invited them onto its Foodie Livestream channel and said it sold 15 million kilograms (33 million pounds) of produce like mangoes and melons in three days. As of May 15, Alibaba said 10,000 farmers are livestreaming from their fields and they’ve sold 18,000 tons of agricultural products as the supply chain remains disrupted.

Meanwhile, JD helped florists provide courses on flower arrangement and bookstores market book titles as a means to connect with quarantined consumers. It wasn’t clear how many consumers tuned in to these livestreams, but JD is leaning hard into streaming content for its June 18 anniversary celebration. It will host more than 300,000 livestreams with 100 yet-to-be-named celebrities and brand executives on its own livestream platform JD Live, as well as Kuaishou, TikTok and others.

But whether shopping within livestreams remains a permanent consumer behavior after the pandemic—or even if it has legs outside of China now—remains to be seen.

Users around the globe are certainly flocking to Kuaishou rival TikTok as sheltering in place continues. In fact, according to app analytics firm Sensor Tower, TikTok had 315 million downloads in Q1, which was the most quarterly app downloads ever. TikTok also started testing shoppable ads more than a year ago, followed by shoppable videos, but it’s unclear when—or if—shopping in livestreams will be available for U.S. consumers.

@lisalacy lisa.lacy@adweek.com Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.