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Livestream shopping: next big thing in e-commerce

Livestream shopping is one of the hottest trends that emerged from the 2020 pandemic, and obviously, it’s here to stay.

Like many things, it’s not a new concept. HSN invented live video shopping on TV about 40 years ago.

In the mid-2010s, Chinese influencers began using live video apps to take their fans on virtual journeys to exotic locations and famous boutiques in New York.

China’s e-commerce giants also began offering live events via video, hosted by celebrities, with live chat and seamless purchasing. Not surprising – with a huge success.

The livestream shopping craze is not coincidental. It reflects three megatrends.

  • The increased digital media consumption – new technologies make it easier than ever to create and share video-based experiences
  • The growing impact of celebrities and social influencers on purchase decisions
  • The push of millions of consumers to the digital world because of the COVID-19 crises

Before the Covid-19 outbreak, there was a trend towards physical stores. Digital was considered expensive and unsustainable. Even online-only retail brands (like Amazon, for example) hurried to take out leases and open physical stores as a cheaper way to acquire customers.

Then, the closing of retail shops to slow the virus spread changed everything, pushing people online. Responding to shopping restrictions, retailers and brands began to invest heavily in e-commerce and digital marketing and added live, interactive video experiences into their marketing mix.

Celebrities, influencers, and even local store owners started using live video to share products, answer questions, and close sales with customers connecting remotely to watch, chat, and buy.

Is it just a temporary craze?

The current livestream shopping craze will not slowly fade away with the world getting back to a more normal life.

If we look at what the big companies are doing, we’ll see that they are investing heavily into livestream shopping. Amazon launched Amazon Live, which hosts daily shoppable shows on fitness, makeup, and cooking. The streaming platform also offers a suite of tools that brands can use to create their own programming.

Facebook has a live selling feature on its platforms. Instagram has added shopping capabilities throughout its apps, including Instagram Live.

HSN and QVC have long put shopping broadcasts on Facebook and YouTube. They’ve also planned to launch an interactive streaming shopping service, where consumers will make purchases without leaving the stream.

Walmart began partnering with TikTok to offer its products via livestream. 

Advantages of livestream shopping

Today’s consumers are deeply distracted individuals who rarely create deep connections with the people around them. They have an attention span of a goldfish, and what’s more, they are bored.

However, it’s not the attention span that is changing. It’s the consumers who are becoming smarter. They are using the platforms to consume only information and formats they do want and like. 

Brands need to acknowledge that trend and adapt accordingly. To grab customers’ attention, and most importantly, to keep it for a longer time, companies need to form a deep emotional connection with their audiences and entertain them. Livestream shopping is doing just that. For that reason, live selling shows keep customers engaged for minutes, even hours. 

  • Buying more and more often – live selling can increase the number of purchases a customer makes because there’s more product information than traditional ads, and it’s usually coming from a host, which consumers already know and trust. Also, keeping customers engaged for more than 10 minutes increases the chance to sell them more things.
  • Emotional connection – streaming also adds an emotional connection to online shopping. Emotions are the driving force behind most buying decisions and help brands build a bond with their customers. According to research published in Harvard Business Review, maximizing emotional connection with customers leads to huge company growth.
  • Shoppable entertainment – traditionally, shopping is considered a form of entertainment. But while physical shopping is a group, entertaining activity, online shopping is a lonely experience. For that reason, it’s not surprising that 1 in 4 (25%) regularly tune into video shopping channels like QVC or HSN.

Barriers for new entries

The rapidly rising cost of attracting online traffic to live shopping is the first pitfall that newcomers should consider. Whether paying a high-profile celebrity or investing heavily in paid media, these marketing costs can quickly eat up marketing budgets. 

New players must also keep an eye on economics. Competitive prices, excellent customer service, and quick product distribution are key factors for success.

The future of livestream shopping

We do not know what the future holds, but one thing is clear: the basic needs that have always defined retail will never change. In the virtual world, it’s even more important than in the physical world the human connection and the joy of discovery – watching livestream videos, having interesting conversations, hearing the stories behind brands and products, and getting inspired. These are the basics every brand needs to stick to.

When it comes to the directions the livestream shopping is going, the possibilities are endless. It’s not that difficult to imagine that with the advancement in artificial intelligence, soon, brands will be able to provide each customer with a fully personalized channel of live, interactive streams, curated just for them. Or through virtual reality to transport a customer to a virtual seat at a livestream show, right next to a friendly host who is answering questions and taking orders.

For now, do not ignore this huge trend and see how you can tap into it quickly.

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Elena Velikova

Elena Velikova

Co-founder & CEO

Ecommerce5 min read

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