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Apple to sell products via live streaming on Alibaba platform during midyear online shopping festival

US tech giant Apple will host its first live-shopping event on China's Tmall marketplace this week, embracing a sales practice that has drawn more than 500 million users in the world's largest internet market.

Apple's official store on Alibaba Group Holding's Tmall posted a teaser about its first live streaming-shopping event, which kicks of at 7pm local time on Wednesday, saying it will include products such as iPhone 14 and iWatch. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

Chinese internet platforms, from short video app Douyin to e-commerce giants like JD.com, regularly sell products through live-streamed video, where shoppers interact with the brand and place orders in real-time.

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Apple's move is timed with China's annual "618" shopping festival, the second most important e-commerce event in the country after Singles' Day, which is held every November. The 618 festival used to take place on June 18, to mark the anniversary of its initiator JD.com, but it is now embraced by rival platforms and runs for about a month.

This year's JD.com and Tmall 618 campaigns began last week, when customers were able to pay a deposit to secure the goods they wanted.

Apple's Tmall store has cut the price of an iPhone 14 Pro with 128-gigabyte storage to 6,499 yuan (US$917), from the original 7,999 yuan, with the offer available Wednesday night, while its JD.com store is offering the same model for 6,498 yuan, valid until Thursday.

Apple is seeking to boost sales in a market where its foothold has been slipping. For the Greater China region, which includes mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the company reported revenue of US$17.8 billion in the first quarter, nearly 3 per cent down from a year before.

In a visit to China in late March, Apple CEO Tim Cook met Chinese Premier Li Qiang and other top officials to reaffirm the company's commitment to the market amid geopolitical uncertainties.

Apple CEO Tim Cook posted this photo on Chinese social media on March 30, 2023, showing him (centre) meeting the creators behind award-winning iPhone and iPad games like Genshin Impact. Photo: Photo: Weibo alt=Apple CEO Tim Cook posted this photo on Chinese social media on March 30, 2023, showing him (centre) meeting the creators behind award-winning iPhone and iPad games like Genshin Impact. Photo: Photo: Weibo>

Apple is not alone when it comes to Western brands trying China's live commerce market. Luxury labels such as Prada, Louis Vuitton and Givenchy, which are considered conservative in their marketing strategies, have also tested the waters with live-streamed shopping events in the country.

The online shopping trend began in China in 2016 and as of the end of 2022 had attracted 515 million users, up 11 per cent from the year before, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre.

While both online and offline sales of consumer goods dropped 0.2 per cent in 2022, e-commerce grew 4 per cent and live shopping increased by "a few fold", according to China's National Bureau of Statistics.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2023 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.