3 Gaps that stand in the way of live stream shopping in the West

published on 20 June 2022

You can’t just copy paste what’s working in China.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Live streaming is all the rage right now. And no wonder.

Everyone is eyeing the $480 billion Chinese live stream shopping market where it drives 17% of all Chinese e-comm sales.

Compare that with the puny $17 billion US market, and you know there is huge opportunity here.

Plus, TikTok’s aggressive push into this space with TikTok Shop starting in the UK is helping propel this movement. Given its experience in this space from its successful sister app Douyin in China, other platforms are feeling threatened and on the back foot.

The issue is that everyone is just trying to copy/paste the Chinese model into their existing ecosystems.

Which won’t work.

There are three gaps that must be addressed before live stream shopping can be as big as it is in China.

1. Talent Gap

Existing platforms make the assumption that top creators will also translate to great live streaming performance — both in views and sales. 

But it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Creating videos that are edited to be consumed on demand require a very different talent on screen versus live streaming (think: Ninja vs. Mr. Beast).

Similarly, the talent that works best for influencer marketing as we know it today may not necessarily be a great sales person on live when compared to QVC presenters who have little to no following.

As awareness grows, a new segment of creators will emerge — those who can continue to engage and entertain their audience on live. This new category of creator need is a blessing for the creator ecosystem, because it enables a new set of people to monetise their skills and audience. 

2. Consumer Experience Gap

If you’ve watched any live streams on any platform, you will see that the current tech offering doesn’t help much for two-way conversations. 

Creators either need to diligently watch their live chat updating with 100s of messages per second or they simply ignore the chat because there is no easy way to manage and make sense of the live chat on the creator side.

Sadly, the ignore option is most common from my experience.

Without successful fan-to-creator communication, live stream shopping on social is no different to QVC on TV. 

Success requires better fan-to-creator comms, allowing people to be heard, their questions answered and their interests gauged so that the stream experience can be adapted on the fly to retain viewership and increase sales. 

Tools like Multytude can help here, by allowing the creator to make sense of the live chat with different analysis types including an AMA mode.

3. Culture Gap

Creators who lead the charts in the West got there because of their authentic use of content platforms. 

Most creators did not start their journey to become a million-dollar business. They started because they had something to share with the world and they had a hunch they weren’t the only ones.

Their authenticity drove their popularity. And they’re worried that live stream shopping with its blatantly commercial element will harm their long term success.

Similarly, social media users in the West aren’t used to shopping live streams, which are currently run seldomly around tentpole events with A-list creators. Not enough to build a habit for either the creator or the audience.

Compare that with top Chinese live streamers, who on average go live more than 300 times per year, averaging 8 hours per stream. Live streaming is not an add-on, but the main content for these creators.

We don’t necessarily think the same needs to apply in the West. We believe there is a happy medium in between where live streams are more common as part of influencer marketing campaigns so when the main objective becomes shopping, it is not jarring for neither the creator nor the audience. 


Live stream shopping and entertainment will surely become the best way to engage audiences and influence them to take action. 

But the above gaps on talent, experience and culture need to be addressed before we can really build our own version of what live stream shopping should be.

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