If you’re in need of a rocket launcher, Huang Wei can sell you one for roughly $5.6 million.
Known as Viya to her fans, the Chinese influencer makes a living selling her fans everything from cosmetics to mattresses to houses to doorbells. But instead of pushing products through sponsored posts or links, Viya is selling millions of dollars worth of stuff through her video livestreams.
A cross between a video stream, variety show and group chat, livestream shopping is the next big thing in interactive social commerce. In China, livestream shopping is already worth an estimated $66 billion and influencers like Viya regularly attract viewers in the millions to their streams. The pandemic further accelerated the popularity of livestream commerce. In the first half of 2020, there were more than 10 million ecommerce live-streaming sessions online and by March there were 560 million people watching live-streams in China.
Retailers and social platforms outside of China are eager to capitalize on this new commerce opportunity, with brands like the Home Depot already testing out their own livestream experiences. As retailers increasingly experiment with shoppable live video, here’s what marketers need to know about the latest social ecommerce trend.
What is livestream shopping?
Much like watching a home shopping network, livestream commerce operates in a similar fashion. There’s a host, typically an influencer or celebrity, who highlights a product on the stream and viewers can purchase said product during the broadcast. It’s also referred to as live shopping, shopstreaming or retail live streaming.
But unlike QVC, livestream shopping builds on social commerce and enables viewers to engage with the program host through features like a chatbox or poll. Viewers can ask the host questions about the product during the livestream or chat with other viewers for their feedback and opinions. Audiences can also interact with the stream in real time using Likes and reactions, helping brands further strengthen their relationships with customers.
A better way to shop from home
Livestream shopping first emerged in China in 2017 on platforms like Taobao, Weibo and WeChat, with estimates suggesting the value of live shopping to account for 20.3% of China’s total online shopping GMV in 2022. It remains a popular form of ecommerce, with roughly 265 million Chinese shoppers making a purchase from a livestream in 2019 alone.
While still relatively new in the US, the livestreaming market is expected to surpass $25 billion by 2023. Amazon and Facebook already enable shoppable livestream events on their platforms with brands like Petco and Sephora taking advantage of the new functionality. Facebook, for example, launched Live Shopping Fridays where consumers can enjoy shoppable live videos from beauty and fashion brands.
Other brands are leveraging video-first platforms to host their livestreams. Since the start of the pandemic, Bloomingdale’s has hosted a number of shoppable events over Zoom while Nordstrom launched its own livestream channel, taking inspiration from China’s embrace of video shopping.
The benefits of livestream shopping
Aside from profit, there are several reasons why brands should seriously consider livestream commerce as part of their strategy.
For starters, video shopping can help brands build stronger relationships with their audience. The interactivity of livestream shopping allows viewers to engage with a brand by leaving comments or asking questions in real time. After hosting a spring 2021 livestream, Aldo noted a 308% engagement rate and registered 17,000 pageviews on its website in the first five days after the event.
Livestream shopping can also help buyers make more informed purchases by showing the products in action, giving consumers the details they need before clicking the checkout button. Research shows returns are 50% lower when a product is bought off a livestream compared to traditional ecommerce channels. Someone shopping for jeans, for example, could ask the host questions they have about sizing, color and styling directly on a livestream. Or someone buying makeup can ask for a tutorial to ensure the product they see is something they’ll actually use.
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Finally, video shopping allows for a seamless customer experience. Data shows 84% of consumers say a brand’s video has convinced them to make a purchase and 96% of people have watched a video to learn more about a product or service. With livestream shopping, brands can nurture the buyer journey from awareness to decision, and customers never have to navigate away from their viewing platform.
3 types of livestream shopping platforms
Brands itching to experiment with livestream commerce have a few platform options to choose from, including:
- Social media platforms with shopping capabilities. Facebook, Instagram and TikTok lead the way when it comes to livestream shopping, already playing host to names like Walmart and Abercrombie & Fitch. For brands just starting out with video shopping, leveraging social platforms where they have a presence and their audience already lives makes sense. Data from the Sprout Social Index™ shows 78% of consumers follow brands on Facebook, meaning there’s a good chance brands can reach a chunk of their target customers via Facebook Live Shopping. And for maximum efficiency, marketers can also repurpose their livestreams on these platforms to drive sales opportunities with their existing audience.
- Dedicated commerce platforms and apps. Ecommerce sites like Amazon are also getting into the livestream shopping game, adding an interactive and personal aspect to their existing platform. Consumers already flock to ecommerce sites for their shopping needs; a livestream component can further drive sales by helping shoppers make smarter decisions. Dedicated livestream shopping platforms like TalkShopLive and Buywith are also popping up, giving brands even more options to experiment with live selling.
- Self-hosted shopping platforms. Retailers that want complete control over all aspects of the shopping experience have the option of building their own streaming platform. Nordstrom, for example, launched its own livestream shopping channel, giving customers access to employees and brand partners across the beauty and fashion categories. On one hand, building a shopping platform from scratch enables brands to customize every part of the experience and ensures buyers aren’t distracted by other featured content. On the other hand, brands also need to find a way to attract customers to a brand new, self-hosted platform.
Livestream shopping is just getting off the ground in the US, but expect the trend to become mainstream in the next few years. As brands explore new avenues to sell to their audience, marketers should pay close attention to how social livestreams increasingly influence the buyer journey. With livestream shopping, brands can foster a sense of community and trust among their target audience that is more valuable than just social or digital commerce alone.
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