Live-streaming helped China’s farmers survive the pandemic. It’s here to stay

When coronavirus ground the country to a halt, the agricultural industry could no longer sell its produce. E-commerce giants used the chance to bring the sector online.

Amid the devastation, e-commerce giants also saw an opportunity. Farmers were desperate to try new sales channels, and consumers were being forced to shop online. An entirely new industry was there for the taking if the companies could help the farmers out.

Both JD.com and Alibaba-owned Taobao quickly launched rural live-streaming initiatives, building on the engagement-centric format that had skyrocketed in popularity in China over the previous few years. The companies helped farmers and merchants set up online stores with expedited approvals and showed them how to design the content of their broadcasts. They made their apps more intuitive and used their logistics networks to ship the products directly from farm to home.

The push was largely a bet: rural live-streaming had existed before but hadn’t truly taken off. In 2019, Taobao’s goal was to attract a mere 1,000 farmers to its platform. “Most farmers didn’t know how to live-stream; even fewer understood e-commerce,” says Zhang Guowei, the head of JD Live.

But the pressure of the crisis—and the unique scale of China’s consumer base—provided the necessary catalyst. Taobao now has over 50,000 rural live-streamers and aims for at least 200,000 more within the year. Growers who had once sold 90% of their products offline have now flipped to selling 90% online. Live-streaming has not only helped the industry weather the crisis—it’s forged an entirely new way of business that is likely to continue long after the pandemic is over. full article MIT Tech Review here . . . .