One of the most important developments for e-commerce was the growth of live streaming during the mobile phone era. For years, retailers have used live streaming to sell goods via localised streaming platforms.

If we think more deeply, the business model is old, it just has been redressed for a mobile audience who can more directly interact with the seller. But people have been “live streaming” commerce on television for decades (the ‘Home Shopping Network’ was launched in 1977).

However, what has changed is the democratisation. Marketplaces themselves can now launch their own channel and sell directly to their user base.

This is the revenue stream Shopee plans to attack with its new product called Shopee LIVE.

Shopee LIVE is essentially a walled-garden live streaming product that allows merchants to start their own shows and sell goods via the brand.

The neat thing about Shopee LIVE is that it is designed so people can buy something without disrupting the stream. On the bottom left-hand corner of the live stream is little shopping bag icon. When someone clicks the bag, they are given a list of items they can buy and can purchase the product instantly. The livestream never stops during the process.

“This offers a variety of content because different sellers can make their own content,” said Zhou Junjie, the Chief Commercial Officer of Shopee.

When asked if Shopee will be courting influencers, Shopee made it clear that would be the decision of the individual brands but they will certainly embrace that hypothetical development.

I think more and more merchants, be it brands or sellers, they will increasingly utilise influencers to better interact with their buyers. Whether they do it is the merchant’s choice,” said Zhou. 

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For Shopee, it is part of a larger strategy of increasing app engagement as an ends, not a means. Per that logic, the company also has an online quiz product (with rewards) and various different mobile games (including one that looks a lot like Fruit Ninja). 

The company sees a correlation between how long people in the app and their increased likelihood to buy something. 

While the Shopee app is neat, they are not first-movers in the space.

Lazada launched their own live streaming platform in Thailand last year. It is now live in the Philippines and Malaysia with more markets coming.

Recently, they ran a show called “See Now, Buy Now” in Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.The company claimed had the three versions of the show had 300,000 viewers across the three countries.

The launch of live streaming is another battle between two brands that have emerged as the top-two platforms in the Southeast Asian e-commerce industry. Both companies offer statistics that prove they are the most popular brand and while the numbers are true, statistics are often used to fit a narrative.

What is fairly clear is the two companies are neck-and-neck and if this were a horse race it would be impossible to predict the winner.

Shopee LIVE is another data point that shows that, while a late-comer to the game, Shopee has to be viewed as one of the most important brands in Southeast Asian e-commerce.

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