What the Rise of Livestreaming Is Teaching Us About the Future of Shopping

A key factor in the relative success and expansion of livestream shopping is its ability to enable brands to have direct engagement and interaction with shoppers in real-time. And this poses a question: How is livestreaming molding new consumer expectations?

livestream shopping in a movie theatre

Consumers are hungry for shopping experiences that foster human connection. As a result of the pandemic, brands have had to get more creative about how to provide relatable, meaningful engagements. And so, livestream shopping went mainstream.

Instead of buying in-store, more consumers are turning to their connected devices for a taste of retail therapy. But along with the increase in digital shoppers comes a rise in their expectations for interactive online experiences. By offering livestream shopping, brands and retailers transcend the typical eCommerce experience, marrying the most engaging elements of social media and of their websites into a single format.

A key factor in the relative success and expansion of livestream shopping is that it provides an avenue for brands to have direct engagement and interaction with shoppers in real-time. And this leads us to an inescapable question: Is livestreaming creating new consumer expectations and molding a future for eCommerce future that’s characterized by instant, highly social interactions?

In this post, we’ll explore the background of livestream shopping, how it’s shaping eCommerce now, and what we can expect going forward.

livestream shopping

Shifting From the East to the Rest of the World

Livestream shopping may feel like a new trend, but in China, it was already becoming popular well ahead of the pandemic. In 2019, 37 percent of online shoppers in China, or 265 million people, purchased through livestreaming. About 30% of the population, mostly made up of Millennials and Gen Z, viewed livestreams. And sales made through video streaming platforms are expected to grow more in the coming years—in 2022, livestreaming is projected to make up 20% of eCommerce sales.

With the video streaming market seeing a constant increase in demand since 2020, it is expected to grow to $184 billion by 2027. The US only accounted for $1 billion of its 2019 global sales, which reached a total of $60 billion. But with the pandemic prompting new online shopping behaviors, American and global retailers from different industries—fashion, home, jewelry, cosmetics, and more—are starting to recognize the benefits of live selling and are jumping on the bandwagon.

What the Success of Livestream Shopping Has Taught Us So Far

Livestream shopping has advantages that go beyond ease of use and accessibility. The rise of this new shopping format points to key industry trends, from the importance of social shopping to the role inspiration and immediacy will play in the future of eCommerce.

Here’s a look at what we’ve learned from the newfound popularity of livestream shopping:

1. There’s no shortage of innovative ways to build trust and confidence in your brand

The inherent distance that eCommerce creates between brands and their customers will never completely disappear. However, the nature of livestream shopping helps to lessen the gap. Having a real person showcasing your products live humanizes your brand, encouraging viewers to let their guard down and enjoy the experience as they would in real life.

Gone are the days when we had to rely solely on reviews and customer photos. Now, the doors are open for brands to find new, interactive ways to add a layer of authenticity and familiarity for shoppers. Having live content where customers can ask questions and engage with real people makes your products more desirable and trustworthy.

2. Real-time, on-demand, and interactive customer engagement opens new doors

Livestreaming reduces friction because shoppers have the opportunity to ask questions and get answers on the spot. As a brand, you can also invite customers to offer recommendations and share reviews in real-time.

The potential use cases for this type of interactive shopping are limitless: Consider, for example, introducing a new product drop via livestream. You would get immediate feedback from shoppers, as well as replicate the excitement of heading to the store with a good friend to line up for the latest product. Livestreaming gives you an opportunity to feed into your customers’ needs in real-time.

3. Shoppers crave genuine connection and a sense of community

Livestream shopping is not a one-way street, but a network. Platforms that allow instant connectivity between customers brands create an environment where shoppers can be active participants in the experience. For example, your brand representatives can casually talk to viewers like a genuine friend, making them feel seen, heard, and understood. And viewers can comment, ask questions, and react as they would in a conversation.

Moreover, by producing human-centered content, you can gain loyal followers who look forward to your livestreams simply because they can relate to them and they feel a sense of belonging to the community you create through them. In China, influencers are often referred to as “key opinion leaders” or KOLs, and they have fans who show up regularly to watch their streams.

livestream shopping

Different Approaches to Livestream Shopping

There’s no one way to do livestream shopping. Whether you’re producing content in-house with top sales associates or featuring influencers and celebrities, as long as the content is authentic and tailored to your audience, you’re likely to create an engaging shopping experience.

When Amazon experimented with livestream shopping, the eCommerce giant worked with a group of influencers to advertise exclusive Amazon deals. Not only did they pitch particular Amazon items, but there were also links to other products that users saw on the stream. This way, shoppers could put a familiar face to the products that caught their eye, making the process feel personal and relatable, even though Amazon doesn’t have a traditional brand community.

In one of the first experiments with livestream selling for a Chinese audience, Kim Kardashian partnered with famous influencer Viya, who is popular on online shopping platform Taobao. Together, the two sold 150,000 fragrances in a matter of seconds on Singles Day.

Livestreams can also take the form of fashion shows. Kohl’s was one of the early adopters of live shopping, doing it as early as 2015 for New York Fashion Week. The retail chain used livestreaming app Periscope, and viewers could easily purchase items shown on the catwalk through the site. Luxury brands Louis Vuitton and Burberry used a similar format for their 2020 and 2021 collections, though Burberry streamed through Twitch, which is a popular platform among gamers.

Recently, brands and retailers based in China have branched out into the US market, adopting platforms more popular in North America for live selling. Late last year, online marketplace ShopShops hosted a livestream on Instagram Live to signal its entry into the US. Founder Liyia Wu partnered with Rebecca Minkoff to sell designer bags.

Setting Your Brand Up for Livestream Success

As you might’ve guessed, a successful livestream is about much more than just the product. The experience you create around the products you’re selling will always count for more and help you build a loyal community that looks forward to your content and that converts. We’ve rounded up some of the most important things to consider when strategizing for your next livestream.

1. Choose a relatable host

At least 44% of Gen Zs and 26% of the general population buy products based on the recommendations of influencers they trust. This means that whether you have a celebrity or micro-influencer running the show, they must be able to authentically connect with viewers. You can facilitate this in a few simple ways:

  • Don’t script them
  • Ask them to curate the product selection based on items they genuinely love
  • Give them plenty of opportunities to interact with viewers
  • Have them invite their communities to watch the stream

The mood set by livestream hosts is contagious and can have a major impact on how shoppers view your brand as well as on purchase likelihood, so be selective and set standards high when choosing a host.

2. Encourage spontaneous purchases via real-time engagement

Instant feedback and interaction is a major advantage of live selling. In addition to having your host answer common questions and address pressing comments live, ensure you have someone on staff who’s able to respond to messages in real-time.

When shoppers can have a real conversation with your brand while watching the livestream, it gives them a sense of control over the experience and allows you to provide personalized service that can encourage them to make a purchase that they might not have felt confident making alone on your site. Respond quickly and keep engagement going to turn more viewers into buyers.

3. Add value beyond selling

With all eyes and ears directed to your livestream, you have a unique opportunity to go beyond selling and provide true value. Inspire your shoppers by showing how they might style a new piece; share some information about why you created a certain product; or tell your brand story to your audience.

While you can convey some of this information on your website, hearing and seeing it directly from a real human being adds depth and context that can create a deeper connection to your brand and products.

4. Be where your customers are

Not all streaming platforms are created equal and no one platform will serve all brands equally. Check your data to better understand where your shoppers are hanging out and coming from when they visit your website, and cross-reference that information with platform usage trends so you can be quick to establish a presence on emerging platforms that are a good fit for your audience.

For example, Instagram Live saw a 70% increase in views during the first quarter of last year. For brands with high engagement on Instagram and plenty of traffic coming from that source, this presented a great opportunity to engage shoppers where they already are in a format that is at least somewhat familiar to them and that is gaining popularity.

5. Guarantee product availability and smooth transactions

Last but not least is ensuring the availability of products that you feature on livestreams and making purchase seamless. When there are roadblocks to finalizing a purchase, customers will be prone to abandoning purchases. To make the most of your livestream:

  • Make sure all product links are working
  • Remove out-of-stock item links in real-time and update your audience to avoid disappointment
  • Equip all linked PDPs with similar item recommendations so shoppers can find something they’ll love if their size or preferred color is sold out
  • With so many streaming platforms built for mobile, ensure that your checkout experience is optimized for every device
  • And finally, follow up on viewers post-stream with an inspiration gallery featuring all the products mentioned, so they can easily find and buy them whenever they’re ready

Where Livestream Shopping Will Take Us Next

Livestreaming celebrates human connection and thrives off of instantaneous inspiration and interaction. From shopping from our TVs to social shopping, the opportunities to merge community, inspiration, and immediacy are only just beginning. As eCommerce continues to evolve, the brands that play off of this dynamic by giving shoppers the ability to act on moments of inspiration as soon as they happen and to discover products in a natural, human, and authentic way, will be poised to succeed amid dense competition.

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