After some time away, I am so grateful to be welcomed back to the Hacker Noon writing community. In my return to Hacker Noon, I dial in on a segment of e-commerce that first caught my attention in 2020 and ’21. So much so that I actually got in the driver seat and spent a few months playing influencer on one of the popular live-stream commerce platforms.

Two key take-aways from those few months: my quasi-QVC host experience was a lot of fun and it was a surprising amount of work. I gained valuable insights into the influencer-viewer dynamic worked, how platforms incentivize creators, and how ill-equipped I (and many, I imagine) was to handle distribution and fulfillment out of my apartment in San Francisco. 

It has been more than a year since that experience and I thought it would be interesting to explore how things look in a macro view. As I write in the piece, major live-streamers have raised a ton of venture capital and it’s no surprise the gross merchandise volume has increased to the point where live-stream commerce is the fastest-growing segment of American e-commerce, now totaling more than $20 billion and 2% of the overall market.

What is surprising is how it’s shaping up and how that looks different than the Chinese market:

There was an initial push to replicate the Chinese market where one player, Alibaba’s Taobao Live, accounts for around 80 percent of the segment’s gross merchandise volume. 

Attempts by Meta, which took place on both Facebook and Instagram, fell flat due to a struggle to capture user attention for longer-form commerce content. Live-stream shopping was shut down on Facebook in October, and on Instagram in March. 

Amazon, which quietly launched Amazon Live, has struggled to get brand buy-in for the platform which is a nice way of saying brands aren’t sure if they can trust strangers live-streaming their products.

A bevy of startups has come (and already gone) in an effort to become the American Taobao. Some, like Popshop, have shown signs of promise but such efforts to be the be-all of American live-stream shopping have not landed.

Based on platform reviews and fundraising activity, it’s clear the streaming platforms that have found traction have done so by narrowing the scope of their product offerings.

The biggest question: why?

We can’t just chalk it up to cultural differences between the Chinese and American market – instead, I think it perfectly reflects a key trend playing out in American social media. Find out what I’m talking about by reading the full story: The Great American Fragmentation of Live-Stream Commerce.