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Retail & E-Commerce 03.22.21 BLOG 

Live and Social Commerce: How China Is Changing Retail

Lulu Jones, Marketing Lead, Travel & Retail


Live and Social Commerce: How China Is Changing Retail

E-commerce has been on an upward trajectory for a while now, especially following 2020.

As retailers around the world scrambled to digitally transform and better serve their customers, 2020 saw e-commerce growth of 46%.

This global shift has a clear leader: China.

The Status of Global E-Commerce

In 2020, 44.8% of all countries’ retail sales came from e-commerce. And in 2021, this number is predicted to reach 52.1%. This signifies a phenomenon in which over half the world’s retail sales will come from online transactions.

In comparison, just 15% of all retail sales in the US will come from e-commerce in 2021.

Between China’s early adoption of e-commerce and its massive population, there are a few things that global brands should make note of when planning e-commerce strategies, expanding their global reach, and breaking into the Chinese market.

What Is Live Commerce?

Described as part variety show and part infomercial, China’s unique livestreaming e-commerce setup is changing the game.

Estimated to be worth $60 billion, live commerce involves influencers holding their own shows on platforms like Taobao, Douyin (TikTok in China), and Kuaishou. Manufacturers pitch their products to KOLs (key opinion leaders), who then sell these products at lower prices.

Imagine QVC on steroids. Influencers combine product reviews to hawk products during high-traffic, hard-to-land timeslots.

With the successful launch of Amazon Live in February, card game manufacturer WatchYa’Mouth has increased product page views five times over, boosting sales.

This unique strategy shows other brands a whole new way of interacting with customers. And we expect the US market to follow suit.

What Is Social Commerce?

Social commerce in China came to the forefront as a solution to the bottleneck that was facing the traditional e-commerce industry.

Considering 11.6% of total retail e-commerce sales in China come from social media, retailers should be taking note.

WeChat is one of the largest and most successful networks through which retailers are selling their wares. Though it was initially a messaging platform, their “mini programs” (third-party services that run via the app) have facilitated almost $250 billion in yearly transactions.

TikTok, known for viral videos and Gen Z influencers, also started in China, where it’s known as Douyin. This platform is leading the way in social commerce for Western brands looking to expand their reach. Since the launch of its integration with Shopify in late October 2020, there are numerous ways for brands to get their products in front of global audiences.

China doesn’t only have social/commerce platform crossovers and integrations—there are platforms that exist purely for selling products but that operate in a social manner.

Pinduoduo is an app where shoppers secure deals by purchasing items in groups. The more people a shopper gets together to buy an item, the cheaper the item is. In turn, the platform gets more users and more traffic.

How to Enter the Chinese Market

In summary, brands should be thinking about taking advantage of the innovations that we’re seeing develop in China’s e-commerce landscape.

Establishing a solid international marketing strategy that encompasses international SEO, cross-border social media platforms, and localized content will help your business grow.

If you want to know more about strategic global expansion, our experts are here to help.

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