When I say live shopping, you probably think of those retro teleshopping channels that run exclusively in the early hours of the morning, offering everything from costume jewellery to novelty kitchen appliances. Like ordering from a catalogue, the QVC experience is surely on its way out. Or is it?
With a change in online consumer habits comes a change in online retailer behaviours. We’ve seen it time and time again with the rise of Youtuber sponsorships, influencer marketing, and more concepts that would sound like absolute nonsense to a marketer of 10 years ago.
Users already gather information and inspiration about products from Instagram, TikTok, Youtube and Pinterest. Why not make these platforms a destination for shopping too? While social-media integrated shopping is nothing new (see the Instagram shop tab), the inclusion of an interactive live video format is.
Over the last few years, both video and live streaming content have risen to supremacy. The pandemic and the demand for ‘face time’ generated, no doubt accelerated this. It isn’t a surprise that retailers have started to notice and capitalise on the opportunity.
Live shopping, first pioneered by The Home Shopping Network in 1982, is undergoing a makeover for the digital age. Let’s explore live stream shopping.
So, What is Live Stream Shopping?
Exactly what it says on the tin – a combination of live streaming and online shopping.
Live stream shopping may make you think of MLM yummy mummies desperately touting their wares to unsuspecting Facebook friends, but it’s on its way to bigger and better things.
Livestream shopping capabilities are now available on Amazon, Instagram, Youtube and TikTok, as well as the aforementioned Facebook. They can be run by brands themselves or by affiliated creators, seamlessly aligning with the usual content that fans tune in for.
The uses and formats of shopping live streams currently include:
- In-house broadcasts offering behind the scenes access.
- Podcast-style discussion content.
- Takeover-style app partnerships.
- Tutorials and product demonstrations.
- Influencer-led content and interviews.
“The most successful brands often work with influencers and treat the technology as an “e-commerce amplifier” more than an event tool.”
Where Did it Come From?
Live stream shopping has emerged almost organically to fill the human-interaction gap left by the move from in-person to online shopping. No longer content left entirely to their own devices (pun intended), users are seeking out a digital alternative to the sales assistant that once defined the consumer experience.
All this is more than just theory. Live stream shopping is already a $63 billion industry in China, with western economies predicted to follow suit in the next few years.
As with most new technologies in their infancy, live stream shopping isn’t entirely sure of its long term identity. Let’s take a look at one of the latest examples to grace our pocket-sized screens.
A Case Study: Pinterest TV
The newest development in the growing trend of live stream shopping, Pinterest’s recently announced Pinterest TV feature offers a series of ‘shoppable episodes’ featuring popular content creators.
Famous faces involved include Olympic diver, Tom Daley, whose personal brand recently took a swerve into knitting and crafts, beauty Youtuber and entrepreneur Manny MUA and fashion designer, Christian Sirian.
Episodes will be released daily, each focussing on a different topic and different brand collaborations. They can be watched live, or tuned into at a later date via both iOS and Android.
On a functional level, Pinterest TV episodes operate through the creator’s access to a ‘shopping toolbox’ and ‘product drawer’. These include prices and details, as well as the time and inventory left and a discount tool, all of which can be used to inform, build a brand-consumer relationship, and push to purchase. Creators can showcase and tag products, linking viewers live to the retailer’s site.
This isn’t Pinterest’s first foray into online shopping. They’ve been keen to make a name for themselves as a functional retail space for some time, adding features like ‘shopping list’, which allows Pinners to save products and be notified if they change in price. They’ve also collaborated with brands to produce features like the IKEA interactive catalogue, AR try-on tools, and more.
Pinterest TV is yet another example of how the aspirational aspect of social media shouldn’t be ignored by brands. If managed properly, aspiration can easily be monetised by streamlining ideas and aesthetics into purchasing opportunities.
Potential Benefits of Live Stream Shopping
As we’ve already touched on, live stream shopping is perhaps the closest to a real-life conversation that consumers can have in the online retail world. This personalised touch gives an air of exclusivity, care and attention to detail, yet the format is inclusive and accessible.
Unlike previous commercial uses of live-streaming, which were mostly event-based and ticketed, while the products advertised in a shopping live stream aren’t free, the content and interaction are. In this sense, they provide a ‘try-before-you-buy’ experience. Consumers can interact with a brand on their own terms before committing.
The digital generation are far from passive purchasers. They do their research before patronising a brand and thrive off the community and identity-building project that is digital consumption. Live stream shopping has the potential to add even more dimension to the digital experience, something we predict Gen Z will embrace with a passion. Some companies are already seeing their share of younger audiences increase by up to 20% with their embrace of live commerce.
Live stream shopping not only attracts a digitally-minded audience, it also accelerates their conversion by streamlining the consumer journey. If done successfully, the live stream shopping path to purchase is both a sped up and condensed version of online shopping. By keeping the consumer entertained and immersed, they are less likely to drop off and have to be enticed back via another platform.
The modern digital consumer is attracted to the convenience of not having to leave the platform they are on to shop. As we’ve seen with features like shoppable story links on Instagram, users appreciate social media-integrated retail that complements their existing, carefully curated content experience, rather than distracting or diverting from it.
Live stream shopping could be an innovative opportunity to boost brand awareness and keep your products in the public eye during the busy and competitive Q4 period. This is especially relevant this year, as 48% of UK consumers plan to shop exclusive online in the run-up to Christmas 2021.
Currently, fewer than 30% of businesses that sell directly on social media are taking advantage of live streaming commerce to do so. This makes the sector ripe for staking a claim and making your brand known as a trailblazer.
While live stream shopping has already cemented itself in the Chinese market, that popularity remains to be seen in the UK and US. While it looked set to be matched during the height of the COVID 19 pandemic, when people were constantly seeking more innovative ways to shop, interest has since dropped.
Going forwards, live stream shopping is like any technology we’ve recently seen emerge. Consider QR codes, order for pick up in-store, live chat customer services, shopping tabs – all were met with speculation and slow uptake at first, but are now part of the everyday scenery of the digital commerce landscape. It will take both consumer awareness and brand enthusiasm to launch this latest online shopping revolution into the mainstream.
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