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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Social media giants are sprinting towards the live shopping market that's long been dominated by traditional television networks like QVC and HSN.

Why it matters: Tech firms have spent years building algorithms to get people to click on ads, but now they're finding that the real purchasing power on social media lies in live product reviews from people users trust.

Driving the news: Pinterest on Monday launched Pinterest TV, a video platform with live series and original content featuring Pinterest creators hawking goods.

  • Pinterest users can interact with hosts by asking them questions live via a chat function. Creators can tag products within the videos which allow Pinterest users to shop and purchase on the retailer’s site.
  • Instagram introduced live shopping in September via the Instagram Feed, Instagram Stories, Instagram Video and Reels, Facebook's TikTok knock-off.
  • TikTok rolled out a live shopping feature in September that lets brands include links to products in live videos.
  • Snapchat debuted its first "shoppable" original show in 2020. "Art of the Drop" lets users buy streetwear via a hybrid of entertainment and commerce video series.
  • Amazon launched Amazon Live, a livestream app for creators to hawk goods to followers in July 2020.

Be smart: The pandemic helped to fuel the live shopping craze, not just on platforms like YouTube and TikTok — which have long attracted creators that do product reviews — but also on traditional TV shopping networks.

  • QVC and HSN had one of their best years ever during the pandemic in 2020, bringing in $11.5 billion for QVC Inc., the video commerce subsidiary of the publicly-traded Qurate Retail Group.
Source: Statista

The big picture: Live shopping has long fueled e-commerce growth in China, but U.S. social media apps have lagged behind, in part due to supply chain differences.

  • "Unlike in China, social video platforms in the U.S. have so far not embraced the entire transaction process from awareness to fulfillment," says Humphrey Ho, managing director of Hylink Digital US, a Beijing-based digital ad agency.
  • "In China, influencers have longed embraced 'QVC 3.0' where their ability to be entertaining, relevant, and fun to their audiences creates an entertaining social shopping experience — in combination with the eCommerce platforms themselves or social video platforms that integrate well into the environment."

By the numbers: Livestream e-commerce is expected to grow to $25 billion in sales in the U.S. by 2023, according to Coresight Research, a retail and tech analysis firm.

  • In China, livestream e-commerce sales are expected to surpass $280 billion by 2023, per eMarketer.

What to watch: For tech companies grappling with instability in the advertising market, shopping and ecommerce offers a new lifeline.

  • The Information reported Monday that both Snapchat and Facebook — two of the ad-based tech platforms most heavily impacted by changes to Apple's privacy policies — are leaning into e-commerce to get ahead of those changes.

Go deeper: Live video is the next hot shopping trend

Go deeper

A Columbus-area holiday shopping guide

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The holiday shopping season is in full frenzy once again and shopping locally offers a chance to support our area's economy while crossing items off somebody's wish list.

Why it matters: This year's holiday season is one of the most important ever for Columbus' small business community according to Betsy Pandora, executive director of the Short North Alliance.

Biden administration makes first move on data privacy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Biden administration is launching its first big effort on privacy policy by looking at how data privacy issues affect civil rights.

Why it matters: An administration perspective on privacy policy could be key in developing a long-awaited national privacy law by putting the White House stamp on how to regulate privacy.

Axios Investigates

Exclusive: Airbnb hosts Xinjiang rentals on land owned by sanctioned group

Data: Axios research, Airbnb, Australia Strategic Policy Institute's International Cyber Policy Centre; Map: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Airbnb has more than a dozen homes available for rent in China's Xinjiang region on land owned by an organization sanctioned by the U.S. government for complicity in genocide and forced labor, an Axios investigation has found.

Why it matters: The listings expose Airbnb to regulatory risk under U.S. law. They also land yet another American tech company in the crossfire between the U.S. and China.