China’s Livestream Shopping Growth Introduces Avatars and AI

China seems to be seeing a boom in the business of livestream shopping, which has prompted companies to venture into digitally made streamers and mobile data packages.

Data from a US-based management consulting firm showed that livestreaming e-commerce sales in the country rose 19% during the 2023 Singles Day shopping festival in November, while traditional e-commerce sales fell 1%.

China’s livestreaming, particularly livestreaming commerce, has grown to a global extent that other countries have yet to surpass.

At the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020, retailers in the country raced to employ or establish their own livestream hosts to sell products. Online influencers such as Austin Li have found fame and earned millions overnight through such an occupation.

Now, companies are attempting to enter the livestream commerce space using virtual hosts in the form of avatars representing real human hosts or fully digital models.

The use of virtual hosts grew popular during Singles Day, according to principal analyst Xiaofeng Wang, stating the significantly better quality, with the digitally-created hosts from major Chinese firms including Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Inc. seeming more real.

Wang said using virtual streamers allows retailers to separate themselves from others and cut the cost and avoid the risk of working with a well-known influencer who may be involved in a controversy.

China’s Data Packages and the Potential of 3D Livestreaming

While digital live streamers can appeal to a broad audience, the success of live streaming will also hinge on a reliable video connection.

Many prospective buyers are more likely to watch through their mobile phones, while sellers may try to stream live from a rural area or a farm.

Chinese telecom companies, China Unicom Group Co. Ltd. and China Mobile International (CMI) Ltd., have started offering mobile data packages aimed at streamers in certain parts of the country.

The packages enable network splicing, providing live streamers access to priority service.

Those are based on extensive 5G connectivity, which helps with streaming outside or on different platforms simultaneously.

Hypothetically, 5.5G can boost download speeds tenfold compared to 5G and increase upload speeds two or threefold. The 5.5G connectivity is expected to be available to consumers as soon as 2025.

Artificial intelligence (AI), meanwhile, is seen accelerating businesses’ transformation of two-dimensional (2D) photos to three-dimensional (3D), signaling the facilitation of 3D livestreaming in around two years.

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