Live Streaming 101: Trends, Insights, and Opportunities in Southeast Asia

Live streaming — the  act of creating real-time online video content — has exploded over the last few years in Southeast Asia. Ascential Digital Commerce's recent webinar, Live Streaming 101 provides guidance on how brands can maximise their live streaming ROI. 

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Live streaming — the  act of creating real-time online video content — has exploded over the last few years.

In China, legacy ecommerce giants like Tmall and JD are reaping rich rewards through live streaming, earning a combined gross market value worth USD 11.4 trillion. Importantly, ecommerce channels like TikTok, WeChat, and Pinduoduo are emerging as unlikely contenders, with gross market values on par with traditional ecommerce retailers. 

 As a result, China’s online retail sales volume stood at an eye-watering USD 13.1 trillion in 2021 – and in 2022, live ecommerce sales are expected to contribute as much as $423 billion to the sector, according to data from McKinsey. 

“In 2022, we are seeing a convergence of online channels, where ecommerce channels are becoming content-oriented, while social channels are incorporating ecommerce elements,” said Jingyin Qiu, Senior Solution Manager, Yimian, Ascential Digital Commerce. 

TikTok especially is one to watch, with an annual growth rate of 790% in 2021. “While TikTok is less than a tenth of Tmall in terms of size and volume, it has already earned as much as 60% of Tmall’s gross market value for the beauty category — in the first half of 2022 alone,” she continued.

These live streaming insights were featured in Ascential Digital Commerce’s recent webinar on the topic, as well as guidance on how brands can maximise live streaming ROI.

The explosion of ecommerce — and live streaming — in Southeast Asia

Efforts to bring the live stream model to Southeast Asia are starting to pay off, too. As of 2022, Southeast Asia accounts for 21% of ecommerce sales worldwide, and is home to some of the biggest drivers of retail ecommerce sales growth. The Philippines and Indonesia account for 25.9% and 23% of the global increase in ecommerce sales, while other APAC countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand have experienced the highest growth in retail ecommerce sales for the same year.

In 2015, the region saw an uptick in content creators using live streaming to share snippets of their lives with their followers. From beauty bloggers to professional gamers, influencers across a multitude of verticals saw live streaming as an effective means of staying connected with people. Consequently, live blogging platforms like Bigo Live experienced a massive surge in popularity in Indonesia and Thailand. 

Social media and ecommerce companies also began to offer a slew of live streaming solutions. As millions of new digital consumers in APAC took to the Internet to make their first-ever online transactions, ecommerce platforms experienced a 306% boost in gross market value and a 115% increase in order value from live streaming alone. Countries like Vietnam and Thailand are at the forefront of live stream adoption, with the majority of digital consumers using live streams to make online purchases. 

Exploring the region’s ecommerce opportunities 

Currently, Southeast Asia is a hotbed of digital opportunities for brands to leverage: 

  1. TikTok strengthens social commerce offerings with TikTok Shop: 2021 marked the year of the “TikTok revolution”, as Nina Estenzo, VP Marketing, Intrepid, Ascential Digital Commerce put it. TikTok is currently rolling out a solution called TikTok Shop, where brands and merchants can sell products on the platform via a slew of video, live streams, and product showcases.

  2. Mobile usage extends beyond digitally-savvy youth: Older generations are embracing the use of the Internet and social media channels at a rate comparable to their younger peers. 

    Consumer goods giant Unilever worked with Grab to identify customers most likely to order dessert, and showed them a series of ‘in-transit” ads encouraging them to purchase ice cream while waiting for their food. 

  3. Pandemic-era digital habits are here to stay: “Southeast Asians love to go shopping in a physical store,” Estenzo explained. “They will go to the malls for their groceries. If they are buying clothes, they will scrutinize every single detail to make sure it’s a good fit.” 

    Global lockdowns and COVID-related travel restrictions redirected consumer fondness for retail therapy from offline to online. Even after restrictions were lifted, online shopping continues to thrive. “Live streaming comes very close to providing a shopping experience where consumers can get close and personal with the items they love, and hope to purchase,” she said.

Summary of Highlights


Choosing the right live commerce strategy

When setting up a live commerce strategy, Estenzo recommends the following best practices: 

  1. Choose the right platforms: Estenzo explained how different live commerce platforms catered to different stages of the consumer journey. “Facebook and Instagram have a wide user base, and offer brands and sellers higher discoverability and reach. TikTok on the other hand, is mostly used to deliver entertaining product demonstrations. Seasoned online shoppers prefer Lazada and Shopee as they have a better chance of not only learning about the products on sale, but also shipping and delivery mechanisms.”

  2. Identify and understand your audience in each platform: “Brands and sellers need to understand their target audience and cater to their digital habits for maximum success with live streaming,” Estenzo stated, during the webinar. “Facebook and Instagram are social platforms used for leisure and entertainment, so people might not prioritise online shopping. However, people visiting Shopee and Lazada are there to shop, and find out more information about products.  

  3. Create customer-centric content: She also encourages  brands to develop platform-based consumer personas, and streamline their live selling content strategies accordingly. “Southeast Asian consumers are looking for a solution to their problem or challenge, so be sure to position your product or brand accordingly. Along with establishing your brand voice and identity, emphasize how you can solve or address customer pain points.”

  4. Use the right influencers and celebrities: Estenzo caveats that brands should be highly selective about the type of key opinion leaders they work with. “Influencers with a sizeable following can help increase trust and credibility, especially if they generate high-quality user-generated content. However, working with the wrong type of influencer can prove to be costly, especially if they negatively impact your brand reputation, and even sales.”

  5. Maximize your live streams: Prior to the actual live stream, be sure to build up an organic following by consistently posting promotional content. Estenzo suggests teasers featuring exclusive products and giveaways and “countdown”-style posts to boost excitement. 

  6. Adopt a long-term approach towards live streaming: “Brands need to prioritise new and repeat customer purchases,” explained Estenzo, during the webinar. “Partner with influencers that best represent your brand, offer unique products at competitive prices, and focus on refining your SKU selection to only include best-selling pieces.”

    She talked about the success of an indie skincare label in the Philippines that ran a video series featuring celebrity hosts as a prequel to its official online launch. During the launch, the celebrities virtually gathered to commemorate the launch on LazMall. This live stream was seen by 15,000 people on its first day, with subsequent live streams earning an average of 7,7000 views per session.

Philippines Case Study

Live streaming best practices observed in China

In China, the combined sales revenue earned by the top thousand streamers amounted to  256 million RMB. In fact, the nation’s top twenty streamers contributed to 42% of all ecommerce sales for the year. With cult followings, popular influencers like Viya,Austin, Simba, Little Dandan and Cherie have generated billions of RMB in sales for brands:

Analysing successful live stream sessions can help brands make better decisions regarding KOL and SKU selections. During the webinar, Qiu offered an actionable, insight-rich framework that can help brands sharpen their live stream strategy:

  1. Identify the right KOLs: Qiu shared four key criteria for brands to consider when selecting an influencer or online personality to work with. “Brands need to ask themselves four simple questions: what product categories are the prospective influencers known best for selling? What type of audience do they attract? How much do they cost? Do they have a solid track record in live selling?

  2. Choose the right SKUs: Qiu recommended that brands should select “exclusive, high-quality, and unique” SKUs to feature during live streams. “Analysing past live streams has helped us realise that while some products continue to sell well even after the live stream has concluded, some are popular only when they are featured in a live stream. And some product categories cannot retain their popularity even after being featured in several live streams, likely because of copycat versions.”

  3. Create engaging content: Using Yimian’s Natural Language Processing (NLP) solutions, Qiu was able to analyse thousands of live stream videos to uncover best-selling keywords and topics. “Pay attention to the phrases live stream hosts use during the session,” she said, during the webinar. “For instance, Austin creates distinct consumer personas when selling beauty products. When selling hand cream during a live stream, he described customers who used the cream as “exquisite”, and encouraged others to do the same.”

  4. Review and monitor live stream performance: By-Health, a collagen drink maker that collaborated with Viya on a successful live commerce campaign, which saw millions of shoppers. As a result, she ended up bringing in sales worth 5 million RMB. Since her live stream, By-Health was able to expand its consumer base, effectively laying the foundation for successful live commerce campaigns in the future. 

    Qiu noted how live streaming in Southeast Asia will continue to be shaped heavily by China, given how consumers in both regions shared similar cultural backgrounds and psychological needs. “It is worth studying live commerce trends on TikTok for APAC, similar to what we have been doing for Douyin in China,” she mentioned. “The insights we uncover can help brands unlock new live streaming opportunities.”

Yimian's solution


Meet our experts 

Nina Estenzo: VP Marketing, Intrepid, Ascential Digital Commerce

A Digital Marketing leader with over 15 years of experience, Nina specializes in performance marketing. With her Statistics background, she integrates statistical and advanced data analysis to conversion rate optimization, process improvement, and performance calibration. In her current role with Intrepid, Nina is responsible for driving the success of Intrepid’s regional, cross collaborative digital marketing campaigns. Prior to this role, Nina brings onboard a wealth of agency and marketplace experience including as the Head of Marketing Operations at Propelrr and Regional Marketing Manager at Ascend Corporation

Jingyin Qiu: Senior Solution Manager, Yimian, Ascential Digital Commerce

Jingyin leads Solutions for Yimian’s digital business team, marketing, SRM, category management in F&B and skin care industries. She provide unique market insights, consumer research and ecommerce data solutions for top industry groups including P&G, Mars, J&J. Jingyin holds a MSc in Business Analytics from Imperial College London.


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