Here’s what we know about live stream shopping

“Back in 1986, television shopping was hailed as ‘the future of shopping.’ Now, 30 years since it was first introduced, a new way of buying from a screen is gaining in popularity: enter live stream shopping.

“Yes, this relatively new phenomenon sees shoppers buying on social media. The streams can be anything from a live fashion show to a celebrity showing off their favourite products; what they all have in common is that they encourage shoppers to purchase items in real-time directly from the app.

“Live stream shopping is so popular in China that it’s already making up 9 per cent of all e-commerce sales. In Europe and the US, it hasn’t yet generated the same results. And that’s possibly because the technology isn’t yet available via popular social media apps such as Instagram and TikTok (any brands currently using it as part of their strategies are enlisting other live shopping solutions). But with many UK fashion indies finding great success with online videos during the lockdowns, this way of shopping promises to be a big hit with boutique customers.

“Indeed market research firm Forrester predicts this so called ‘shoppertainment’ will flourish in the coming years. In fact, it’s widely tipped as the next frontier of e-commerce. Brands such as L’Oreal have already seen success from live shopping. Early on in the pandemic, the beauty giant launched shoppable livestreams of live make-up tutorials using the app Livescale. Customers receive discounts and can purchase products without having to leave the platform. By September 2020, the brand’s e-commerce business had increased by more than 60 per cent.

“The aim of live stream shopping is to create meaningful, personalised experiences with live video to sell products. Live stream shopping enables brands to deliver a more personal experience for those tuning in from their phone or tablet – replicating the in-store experience from the comfort of home. This new form of shopping is a two-way communication. Live shopping allows consumers to interact with brand representatives in real-time to ask questions and add comments before making a purchase. Meanwhile, customers can see an influencer or spokesperson interact with the product and demonstrate its use, prompting immediate action and enhanced community participation.

“Forrester’s research found that electronics, fashion and cosmetics are shoppers’ preferred categories for ‘shoppertainment.’ So it’s no surprise that brands such as Estee Lauder are working with live streaming apps such as Swedish platform Bambuser, which incorporate product purchasing into one platform. Global brands like Walmart and Tommy Hilfiger are also trialling the technology, with Tommy Hilfiger hosting live shopping sessions and Walmart testing out live video shopping on TikTok. Live stream shopping is delivering on ROI: Livescale calculated an average conversion rate of 9.5 per cent for its clients’ shopping events.

“Many brands already have most of the technology needed with their existing social channels and product catalogues to take advantage of live streaming. But there are other tools that are essential to bringing live streaming to scale. Retailers need the right measurement tools, promotional materials and content development to make live events successful. Rather than using point solutions for various functions, brands that are using one unified CRM platform that can track audience engagement on various social media channels, provide customer insights and give a complete picture of the end-to-end customer journey will come out on top.

“This is because brands will need to master social media interactions with advanced customer data management technology during the live shopping experience. Brands often go into ‘live’ experiences unprepared to quickly sort messages into marketing, sales and care inboxes. This means customers’ queries go unanswered and sales are missed out on as a result. If brands can’t provide simple and seamless experiences throughout the customer journey, they won’t be able to make live shopping a success. Every piece of the puzzle from the research and purchase stages, all the way to post-purchase support, must work in harmony.

“It’s also important for brands to optimise their social media strategy to take advantage of that network’s social commerce features. Regardless of whether they point visitors back to their site to complete their shopping experience or leverage the native social commerce features for a given network, retailers must always have the customer experience in mind. Taking advantage of artificial intelligence within CRM platforms can help online teams analyse all social media interactions and sort them into marketing, sales and care categories. These can then be responded to accordingly in a timely manner – keeping customers happy and loyal.

“The pandemic has not only shifted consumers’ buying habits – it has also changed their mindsets. The lines between social media and shopping are now blurred and whether consumers will embrace live shopping will vary from country to country.

“According to eMarketer, social shopping grew by 35 per cent in 2020 while the live streaming industry is expected to be valued at $184.27 billion USD by 2027. For brands to make the most out of livestream shopping, they’ll need to ensure they tap into what their customers want. Only then can they engage customers in new and exciting ways and streamline the sales process – ultimately providing a much-needed boost to revenue.”

Written by Yuval Ben-Itzhak, chief of strategy at Emplifi, a leading unified CX platform that brings marketing, care and commerce together to help businesses close the customer experience gap.