Live shopping has transformed selling and purchasing behaviors in Indonesia, enabling real-time interaction between merchants and buyers – simply online.
Indonesia was the first and largest market for TikTok Shop, until it became the first country to ban it.
Early in October, the Indonesian government shut down TikTok’s retail feature “to protect local merchants, prevent algorithms from dominating the market, and stop using personal data for business purposes.” The closure discussion was months in the making, with the trade ministry accusing the Chinese social platform of monopolistic practices and predatory pricing that are hurting local merchants.
Since its launch in 2021, TikTok Shop has amassed 6 million sellers in the country, and last year, it captured about 5% of Indonesia’s booming $52 billion e-commerce industry.
Indonesian sellers who relied exclusively on the app to connect with customers said their sales “dropped to almost nothing,” others said they might need to redo their content to fit other retail platforms’ requirements.
But, the closure of TikTok Shop is only a part of Indonesia’s e-commerce evolution.
Live shopping is a thriving trend – and it’s here to stay
Live shopping has transformed selling and purchasing behaviors in Indonesia, home to approximately 233.73 million active internet users. E-commerce, coupled with video live-streaming, has created another shopping experience that allows for merchant-buyer interactions like those in stores but without the need for either party to leave home.
Instead of reading descriptions or searching for reviews online, customers join real-time conversations and make direct purchases from the broadcast while sellers entice them with engaging and creative content. And because it’s happening live, customers feel the sense of urgency to buy right there and then.
This business trend saw tremendous growth during the pandemic when shopping at physical stores wasn’t an option. According to the SEA Ahead Wave 5 findings, 78% of consumers are aware of shopping alternatives via live streaming, 71% have accessed it, and 56% purchased products through live streaming during the pandemic.
On the seller’s side, more MSMEs (micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises) are switching to e-commerce. In 2022, the National Bureau of Statistics in Indonesia saw an increase of 500,000 businesses involved in online selling, for a total of 2.8 million e-commerce businesses.
E-commerce giant Tokopedia was one of the first to introduce livestreaming in Indonesia in 2019, though it was only initially available to select whitelisted merchants.
On the Tokopedia Play platform alone, the average livestream can increase product viewership and shop visits by 40% and 20%, respectively, while driving 29% of orders for the day, a report by Tech in Asia read. Livestreaming can also lead to an increase of up to 625x more product detail page views, a 262x increase in shop visits, and drive up to 100% of the shop’s daily orders.
However, according to a survey conducted by consumer insights platform Populix, the primary competition in Indonesia’s live shopping market was between Shopee Live and TikTok Shop. Shopee Live, the livestream feature on the Singapore-based e-commerce platform Shopee, stood out due to its attractive promotions like discounted products, cashback, and free shipping, as well as its diverse product range. The survey revealed that 69% of Indonesians frequently use Shopee Live, compared to TikTok Shop’s 25%. Moreover, Shopee Live is more memorable to the public, with 60% of respondents recalling it, whereas TikTok Shop was remembered by only 30% of respondents.
Shopee Live’s market share is evident in transactions, capturing 56% of the volume and 54% of the value over the last six months. Local brands like BHUMI, Geoff Max, and Tally have benefited from Shopee Live, increasing their sales during campaigns like 9.9.
While Shopee Live is clearly banking on its extensive customer base and well-established marketing tools, TikTok Shop’s popularity comes from a different angle. The social media platform is centered around video content and social engagement, often leveraging impulsive buying tendencies among young Indonesian shoppers. TikTok’s social nature makes it excellent for visually appealing products, like fashion and cosmetics, and it can reach global audiences (considering the 1 billion people actively using the app). TikTok Shop also leverages the presence of influencers and content creators on the platform through campaign collaborations. During one of its campaigns, TikTok Shopping Hoki Sale, it generated IDR 70 million (~4,300 USD) in the first 19 minutes of its livestream event.
Other live shopping market players in Indonesia include Alibaba-backed Lazada and homegrown platforms Blibli, Bukalapak, and Bhinneka.
Doing live shopping right: Strategies for Indonesian brands
Indonesia’s new trade regulation of banning e-commerce transactions on social media platforms was a big blow to TikTok’s big plans in its fastest-growing market, but it is an opportunity for brands to diversify their presence and consumer engagement and leverage the thriving live shopping trend.
When done right, live shopping enables brands to expand their reach, earn trust, generate excitement, collaborate with content creators, and boost sales. Here are a few ways to do that:
Give your audience a good time
Live shopping, just like any other content on the Internet, faces the challenge of capturing the audience’s fleeting attention span. It only takes a few seconds for viewers to get hooked or continue scrolling. The main feature of live shopping is entertainment, as customers often join livestreams to watch for fun rather than with the intent to buy something. Doing Q&As and organizing games are great ways to keep a live broadcast interactive and engaging. Live shopping should be able to deliver the instant gratification customers crave, leaving them feeling satisfied with their purchases after the broadcast.
Set expectations – and make sure to fulfill them
A crucial challenge in online shopping is the inability of buyers to physically inspect the products before making a purchase. They rely on how sellers describe the products – their functionality and effectiveness, design, and material. It is, therefore, the responsibility of sellers to manage expectations about the product by being transparent and accurate about their brands. Online sellers must understand that live selling is not just about attracting audiences and generating sales but also crafting an experience that matches the customers’ expectations.
Take the soft-selling approach
Any tactic that makes consumers feel they are being forced to buy or patronize a product is likely to push them away. Sellers can use soft-selling approaches—product tutorials, buyer testimonials, or interviews with key opinion leaders—to capture the audience’s interest. The goal of soft selling is not just generating sales but rather evoking a positive emotional response from the audience. Even if they don’t buy that day, they’ll be more likely to return or recommend your stream.
Creativity draws crowd; consistency fosters loyalty
Online selling is centered around creative content — the more out-of-the-box a selling technique is, the bigger the crowd a livestream draws. Sellers often go for techniques that have the potential to go viral, like comedic monologues, talent showcases, or even cosplay, to please their virtual audience. But it’s consistency that turns viewers into loyal customers. Sellers that engage with them consistently raise brand awareness and build strong merchant-customer relationships.
Exercise responsibility and uphold ethical standards
Live shopping happens in real time and is often unscripted or unrestricted. Sellers bear the responsibility of exercising responsibility and upholding ethical standards in how they conduct their live broadcasts as well as how they select and present the products they sell. With Indonesia tightening e-commerce trade policies, it has become imperative for brands to abide by the law, consistently demonstrate ethical behavior, and make consumers who join their livestreams feel comfortable and respected.
Senior Digital Account Executive in IMC & Influence Team
Digital & Social Media Manager in IMC & Influence Team