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Livestream Shopping: The Next Phase in eCommerce?

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

Filming for a livestream shopping platform

You can't always measure engagement by RoAS alone.

Innovation may be one of the key drivers in eCommerce. But for every highly publicized instance of a "game-changer" in the digital realm, there's a hundred developments which have either been forgotten or failed to live up to their potential (we won't hesitate to remind you that neither drone delivery nor whatever constitutes Web 3.0 have exactly seen widespread adoption, despite the efforts of their proponents over the past few years.)

Digital marketing is no different. But there are some strategies which not only have been widely adopted, they've quite literally altered the very foundation of marketing and retail irrevocably.

Both video and influencer marketing may be two of the most pertinent examples. But what if there was a digital marketing strategy which combined the best elements of both with the finely tuned processes of online shopping?

Compared to the hype surrounding more recent digital developments, livestream shopping may seem underwhelming. But look deeper, and you may find that it's one of the most direct strategies to encourage audience engagement and conversions.

So why are so many domestic brands hesitant in adopting live stream shopping?

Customer Experience and the Digital Shift

A livestream shopping session being filmed for e commerce

If the pandemic sparked a surge in digital commerce, it also presented brands with a fundamental question: how to fill the customer experience void left by the absence of physical retail?

It's not an easy question to ask. And it's not an easy question to answer.

Approximately 17 percent of consumers shifted their purchasing habits from their primary store as early as May 2020 as a result of both health concerns and the accessibility of online retail, while at least 60 percent of respondents in a 2020 Ipsos poll indicated their willingness to continue using eCommerce even after brick and mortar reopens.

But what gets sacrificed during the transition from physical to online commerce can often be a key driver for retail: real time live shopping.

If the chief strengths of eCommerce are accessibility and convenience, physical connectivity and discovery still remain constants in the customer experience. Yet part of any brand's appeal has always been their willingness to adapt to changes in the market—not the least of which includes changes in digital strategies.

Can livestream shopping platforms present a more engaging digital experience for consumers?

What is Live Stream Shopping?

A live shopping feature for e commerce

Live stream shopping allows consumers to interact directly with live video, drawing on the strengths of audience engagement and interactivity to create a much more realistic virtual shopping experience.

The efficacy of video as a marketing tool is hardly a recent phenomenon. With video now accounting for over 80 percent of all global web traffic, it's no longer an amenity but a vital necessity in any company's brand reach.

But if video is a well-represented resource, livestream shopping is an emerging market in the US whose potential has yet to be fully tapped. Live streaming already represents a significant share of social media traffic, with a recent survey indicating that 82 percent of respondents prefer to view a brand's live video over social postings.

While live shopping has typically been viewed as the province of social media platforms, the accessibility of solutions and third party apps can allow brands to create and curate streams for any number of digital platforms, encouraging audience participation and direct engagement.

With a market size estimated to reach nearly $224 Billion by 2028, it might only seem natural that shoppable live streaming would emerge as a leading solution for brands looking to merge the experience of real time, instant shopping with their own content marketing strategies.

When Facebook announced the launch of Facebook Shops in 2020, it emphasized the ability for shoppers to direct questions to a brand and access self-checkout options during a live stream; a feature which resulted in an estimated 300 million monthly visitors to the 1.2 million shops currently advertising on the platform.

But it’s not necessarily the US who is paving the way for the widespread adoption of shoppable live streaming.

The Livestream Shopping Market in China

Filming a live shopping event for Chinese internet users

Of the 4.20 Billion social media users worldwide, China enjoys a lion's share of almost 931 million individual accounts, roughly 64.6 percent of its population. And its digital-centric focus is reflected in its shopping habits.

Approximately $3.1 Trillion was spent via online purchases in China in 2020, with over $242 Billion spent through social media alone—$60 Billion of which was reportedly the result of live streaming.

While China may not have Facebook, they do have TikTok; currently estimated at over 689 million users and designated as the third fastest growing global brand in 2020.

TikTok isn't simply growing among users. It's growing among major retailers as well. In December 2020, Walmart partnered with the four-year old platform in a pilot test including a holiday livestream event, which resulted in a 25 percent increase in TikTok followers.

But Walmart isn't the only major retailer to capitalize on shoppable livestreams. In 2019, Amazon launched their own livestream feature Amazon Live, which allows qualified social influencers a shoppable video platform to promote items and interact with followers.

Yet there's a fundamental difference between a one hour stream and the shoppable video market in China. Chinese livestream influencers (known as key opinion leaders) aren't just influencers. They're fulltime celebrities, using their streams as both self promotional tools as well as sales platforms.

The typical stream in China might consist of a four hour self-curated segment featuring over four dozen products—many of which can sell out in a matter of minutes. The phenomenon has become so widespread that a reported 560 million households in China view live shopping videos on a regular basis.

If a live shopping stream sounds eerily similar to the home shopping television craze of the '80s and '90s, you're not too far off the bat. Except there's one detail you may have overlooked.

The primary viewership of shoppable livestreams is largely among a target audience of millennial and Gen Z followers, both of whom share a combined spending power estimated at over $3 Trillion globally in 2020—an estimate too great to ignore.

Connectivity and Content: The Two Pillars of Live Stream Shopping
E commerce sites demand connectivity with customers

Retail may have evolved into an environment which was unthinkable thirty years ago. But at the heart of both brick and mortar and online retail is customer experience. And one of the key drivers behind customer experience is a quality so subtle that it's virtually undetectable: connectivity.

Connectivity is one of the chief advantages of brick and mortar. Customers can relate to a product on a much more intimate level in person than by simply filling (and often abandoning) a cart online.

The psychology behind influencer marketing has always been one of authenticity and humanization of the digital landscape; and both social media and eCommerce has welcomed that psychology with open arms. The rise of livestream shopping is merely one step in the maturation of social commerce.

But connectivity needs content to express itself successfully. And livestream shopping depends on both equally.

It's as much a question of information as it is entertainment. Both can help fill the gap of accessibility left behind by the transition from brick and mortar to digital. But both are only as strong as the focus of any digital retail solution.

Your product.


Color More Lines provides white glove, global account management of your eCommerce platforms so mission-driven companies can focus on new product development, branding and growth strategies. Find out more at Color More Lines

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