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Livestream shopping: The next phase of immersive ecommerce

illustration of a person holding up a shirt while a smartphone livestreams them

With the rise of social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and more, consumers are becoming increasingly dependent on instant gratification. From posting a picture and receiving immediate likes, to seeing a product virtually and purchasing in one click, the digital age has cultivated a need for speed. 

Online shopping via social media platforms sounds futuristic, but it’s happening right now. It’s called social commerce, and it meets customers right where they are.

Did you know the average person spends 2 ½ hours on social media each day? With such substantial time being spent on these platforms, it only makes sense that brands are engaging their customers through them. 

While social commerce is steadily making waves in the digital retail space, online shoppers are expecting even more. Instead of simply browsing and purchasing through social platforms, they want an exceptionally seamless experience. But what can be more effortless than one-click buying? We have two words for you: Livestream shopping. 

What is livestream shopping? 

Remember Home Shopping Network or QVC programming? A staple in many households, this was the foundation for the social media livestreams we see today. At the time it emerged, TV shopping channels offered the most streamlined customer experience in retail. Viewers simply had to call the 1-800 number displayed on the screen to purchase a product they had just spent ample time learning about. 

Replace the television with a laptop or smartphone and the 1-800 number with an integrated ecommerce platform and you have livestream shopping. 

Fueled by convenience and comfort, TV shopping and livestream shopping have very similar structures. Falling somewhere between a live video stream and a bustling group chat, livestream shopping has a host (usually an industry expert, celebrity, or influencer) who speaks directly to the audience, highlighting various products and different ways they can be used. 

The host acts very like a sales associate you’d see at a brand’s flagship store or in the mall, speaking about the product, answering questions, and doing demonstrations. While the stream is live, the audience has the option to purchase those products in real-time. 

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of livestream shopping is shopper engagement. Customers can message in, ask questions, react with emojis, and interact with each other – all while learning about a product and the brand. Plus, with livestream shopping’s mobile and laptop-friendly interface, they don’t have to leave the comfort of their own home! 

The history of livestream shopping 

“Live streaming” is currently trending in the social media world, with celebrities and influencers going “live” at any given moment in a day; however, the concept of livestream shopping has been around for quite some time. 

The first form of this type of video shopping appeared in 2017 in China with platforms like TaoBao and WeChat. In just a few years, China’s livestream shopping sales grew rapidly, jumping from $66 billion in 2019 to $150 billion in 2020. 

The livestream market is still relatively new in the US, so it’s no surprise that Western brands haven’t seen the same level of growth. But with large retail players like Sephora and Nordstrom quickly adopting this type of social commerce, projections place sales reaching $25 billion by 2023

What is the difference between livestream shopping and social commerce? 

Social commerce, also known as social shopping, is exactly what it sounds like – the ability to shop and purchase products directly through social platforms. Rather than redirecting a user to another website or third-party site, they can checkout products directly through the app for an accelerated and smooth buyer journey. 

So, where does livestream shopping come into play? 

While many livestreams can occur on social media platforms, it isn’t quite the same as simply shopping on the platform. Livestreaming is an event-based form of social commerce that offers a wonderful strategy for brands who are working on expanding their selling and marketing channels, starting new partnerships, and seeking to stand out among the highly saturated world of social and digital commerce. 

Popular livestream shopping platforms 

Taobao by Alibaba

Functioning as Alibaba’s livestream commerce channel, Taobao was an early leader in the ecommerce livestreaming space. It only requires a mobile device and internet access to start hosting or buying on the platform, and includes categories of various interests.

YouTube 

With YouTube being one of the most popular sites for livestreaming, it makes sense that the video platform is expanding into the livestream shopping sector. In December 2021, they kicked off a Holiday Stream and Shop where influencers hosted livestreams and offered discounts, giveaways, and more.

TikTok

TikTok has become somewhat of a master at video content, with its users gaining thousands of views and going viral at any given moment. Geared towards Generation Z, TikTok’s livestream shopping is similar to Facebook and Instagram, where products are shown via live video and viewers have the ability to click and add directly to their carts for a seamless experience.

ShopShops

Rather than taking place within a social platform, ShopShops uses its own app to host livestream shopping. ShopShops hosts in over 30 countries and partners with high-end brands like Jimmy Choo and Rebecca Minkoff.

Instagram

Instagram’s free, easy-to-use platform offers in-app purchases directly from the livestream.  Ideal for smaller businesses that don’t have an efficient website, this option offers seamless collaboration with influencers and other content creators. 

Amazon Live 

Amazon has made its way into almost every omnichannel retail experience, from brick and mortar stores to an extensive online catalog, and now to livestream shopping. Amazon Live uses the Amazon Creator app to manage and host livestreams. Viewers can see deals, offers, and products directly next to the video player. Hosting features include boosting your stream (for a price!) to reach more Amazon shoppers. 

Livestream shopping market statistics 

Though a relatively new form of social commerce, livestream shopping is already making waves in the digital atmosphere. In China, a livestream hosted on Taobao live for Single’s Day (a major Chinese shopping event) generated $7.5 billion in a matter of 30 minutes. Brands engaging in livestream shopping are seeing engagement rates and follower counts rise as well. 

Let’s take a look at Walmart for an example. When you think of Walmart, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Probably a large, physical store with a seemingly endless variety of goods and bargain deals. This retail giant is a leading omnichannel brand, but they’ve only recently begun dabbling in the digital space. 

When Walmart hosted their first shopping livestream in December of 2020, they received 7x more views than they had anticipated and grew their TikTok follower base by 25%. These numbers are incredibly important, as they’re expanding their brand’s reach to bring in more loyal customers and sales along the way. 

Why ecommerce brands should consider investing in livestream shopping 

Video is a powerful (and popular) medium

Video content is everywhere. While newer platforms like TikTok are choosing to focus completely on this content medium, older platforms like Instagram (which originally began solely sharing pictures) are developing more and more ways to share videos. 

Why? Video content is more engaging. It captures the viewers’ attention for longer periods of time – they’re watching for a few extra seconds that they would be simply glancing at a static image. This, in turn, allows video content to excel according to the social media algorithm, and is part of the reason why it seems to be the first thing we see when logging into a platform.

Social media is where consumers want to discover products and brands

Social media is the channel that all brands should be paying attention to and investing in. Customers are looking for reviews, user-generated content, and social proof to make sure that a brand is not just legitimate, but above average when it comes to the customer experience. In fact, 48% of internet users have made purchases through social media. 

If 2 and a half hours is the norm for how much time consumers are spending daily on these platforms, it’s no surprise that they want to bring shopping experiences into the mix.

Encourage impulse purchases

One of the most important factors of livestream shopping is the “live” aspect of it. Whether the host is offering a limited number of products or a discount that’s only valid during the course of the stream, there’s an added element of urgency and fear of missing out (FOMO). Shoppers are more likely to make purchasing decisions as they’re watching, especially if the host has incentives to offer or they see a good amount of other shoppers buying! 

Build brand awareness

When a brand hosts a livestream, they’re immediately expanding their reach, not just to their own customers, but to others within their customers’ networks. How? Viewers who are having fun and enjoying the livestream are able to invite their friends to join as well! 

Getting out in front of your target audience will increase the likelihood that those customers will remember you. Add a celebrity or influencer to the host, and your customers will be even keener to explore your brand and your digital efforts. 

6 tips for hosting a quality livestream shopping session

1. Know who your target audience is 

Knowing your target audience is essential for any form of marketing or communication with your customers. What are they looking for? How old are they? What are their buying habits? What forms of social media are they most likely to use? 

Questions like these (and more!) will help you efficiently analyze your audience and connect with them in a way that truly resonates. Plus, it’s a well-known fact that consumers are looking for personalization more and more. Over 90% of consumers have said they’re more likely to shop with a brand that provides personal and relevant recommendations. 

Bringing personalization into your livestreams by inviting members of your audience to specific streams based on their buying trends can help you stand out from the crowd. 

2. Choose the right format

Depending on who your target audience is, you’ll need to choose the best way to interact, whether it’s an interview with an influencer, a tutorial, or behind-the-scenes content. 

Not sure where to start? Try providing a quick survey on your socials to see what livestream your audience would be most interested in. Additionally, when your livestream has wrapped, it might be a good idea to send out a post-stream email or SMS asking for feedback. 

Continuously keeping the pulse on your audience will not only help your brand better identify their wants and needs. It will also keep you in the forefront of their mind as a loyal brand committed to providing positive customer experiences. 

3. Choose your platform

Choosing the right platform is essential to ensure a successful livestream shopping experience. You wouldn’t want to go live on your least-engaged platform, would you? The more you know about where your shoppers are spending the most time, the easier it is to build your livestream around that and meet them right where they are. Plus, every platform has its own value-adds and culture – which means your brand might fit well with some but not all! 

4. Market your livestream event

If your audience doesn’t know about your livestream, they won’t show up – it’s as simple as that! Marketing your event is imperative in getting customers interested enough to check it out. 

Rather than sending out a mass email to your entire audience, you may want to use segmentation to ping only the most relevant members. 

For example, if you’re hosting a livestream on a new version of a product, you can pull up a report of customers who have purchased similar items in the past for personal invitations. Otherwise, you can make sure you’re advertising only to online shoppers who have shown an interest in these types of products. 

5. Review the success of your livestream

Improvement does not come without review! To make sure you’re continuously revamping and boosting your customers’ experience when it comes to livestream shopping, you’ll have to track your virtual events and closely analyze the results. 

How many customers attended? How many RSVP’ed? Were there any customers in different time zones that couldn’t make the stream? Did you get any feedback during the stream about the structure, connection, sound, and more? 

6. Consider how to repurpose your livestream content

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – content is king. A livestream shopping event is a perfect way to create more content for your audience and expand your brand’s reach. 

Just because it’s a livestream doesn’t mean that it has to disappear forever when it’s over. There’s an endless amount of ways to repurpose video content. From offering reruns to using clips in advertisements or social posts, consumers are always engaging with videos – so it’s important to take advantage of what you already have in your back pocket.

4 Brands who are investing in livestream shopping

Nordstrom

When COVID-19 hit in 2020, Nordstrom responded with over 50 virtual events to engage the digital landscape. Looking to scale discovery and personalization opportunities, Nordstrom launched their livestream channel last year with tips and tricks from beauty, skincare, and fashion experts showcasing products. During each show, customers can shop directly and participate in a live chat. 

Aldo

Aldo joined the shopping livestream community with a bang, securing celebrities and influencers like Mimi Cuttrell and Nate Wyatt to share tips on how to wear Aldo’s accessories and shoes. According to their global social media and PR director, the massive retailer hit an engagement rate of over 300% with 17,000 page views in the days after the livestream aired. 

Kylie Cosmetics

phone screenshots of kylie cosmetics’ website
Image Source: Glossy

After pausing her ecommerce brand, Kylie Cosmetics, Kylie Jenner recently relaunched with a livestream available directly on the brand’s website. Kylie herself hosted the stream, showcasing her products as purchase links appeared. In one click, customers were brought directly to a purchase and checkout page. After making a decision, they could pop right back onto the stream as it continued.

Sephora

Another massive beauty retailer hopping on the livestream bandwagon, Sephora took a slightly different approach. Instead of offering a livestream directly on their website, they partnered with Facebook in May 2021 for Live Shopping Fridays. These weekly livestream shopping events allow customers to ask questions, chat with other audience members, and purchase products all at the same time. 

Though it is still a relatively new concept in the digital commerce world, it’s clear that livestream shopping is here to stay. Aside from actually going to a store and talking to sales associates in person, live ecommerce offers one of the most immersive shopping experiences to date. If China’s growth in this online industry is any indicator of what live-streaming platforms in the US will bring, brands can expect some incredible results (as long as it is done right!)

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