Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Live shopping can thrive in the UK and beyond

by Gilbert Corrales, CEO at Leaf 

The news that Meta / Facebook will shut down its live shopping feature in October to focus
on Reels has had commentators predicting that live shopping will “just never catch on” in
markets outside China. 

The truth is that live shopping is a nascent experience and it’s too early to tell exactly how it
will pan out across mature and growing eCommerce markets. While live shopping will
perhaps never be the same sort of phenomenon as it is in China – where it accounts for 10%
of all eCommerce revenue – if it’s executed properly by the right brands, there is no reason
that live shopping can’t thrive in the UK, US and Europe.

While live shopping is a relatively new offering, many of the components of a successful live
shopping event are simple marketing fundamentals.

The first is understanding audience. Meta / Facebook’s users in the UK and US skew older.
Many will have grown up with QVC – a television channel approaching its fourth decade.
As a result, this audience may be more comfortable with the more passive experience of
linear television. Live shopping has a distinct advantage over traditional TV shopping –
interactivity. It’s much more of a two-way conversation and is more naturally aligned with a
new generation of digitally native shoppers. Instagram say that 44% of their users use the
platforms to shop on a weekly basis and it is worth noting that Meta is shutting down the
live shopping feature on Facebook, it will remain on Instagram as Instagram Live.

The second is to understand what live shopping does (and doesn’t) do well. As with all
channels, live shopping works better for some brands than others. It is also important to
understand that QVC and a live shopping experience occupy different places in the sales
funnel.

Of course, live shopping events should generate revenue but brands should see them as an
opportunity to reward loyal customers and convert those who are considering becoming
customers – such as people who have signed up to their mailing list or followed them on
social media, but haven’t yet made a purchase.

Rather than an endlessly rolling shopping experience like TV shopping, live shopping is
executed as a time sensitive event. Brands that do it best make it a unique and enthralling
eCommerce experience that adds genuine value for those who attend.

Adding value could mean exclusive access to a new product drop or the launch of a new
range. While this will naturally lend itself to established brands with loyal customer bases,
Live shopping can work for brands of almost any size as long as they make sure they are
promoting it across their marketing mix.

If you aren’t an established brand, adding value can mean offering your customers access to
something engaging that they would normally have to pay for – for example a make-up
brand offering a masterclass from a leading make-up artist.

We’ve seen brands such as Snug Sofas do live shopping extremely well. Snug’s customers
are millennials and Gen Zs living in urban properties so live shopping is a great fit for them.
Their most recent event was an Instagram livestream with comedian Katherine Ryan. The
event saw a 450% growth in sales compared to their previous live events. It also drove a
record amount of traffic to their website resulting in a 160% increase in virtual consultations
and even increased footfall at their physical retail pop-up in Leeds.

It’s a reminder that live shopping events can continue to drive purchase long after the event
itself. While “tagging” products to appear on the bottom of the screen is a great way to
drive purchase directly from the app during the live broadcast itself, live videos can also be
saved to a profile so that customers can continue shopping even after the broadcast has
ended.

Far from being in decline, live shopping is just getting started. It won’t work for everyone
but for many brands it can be a powerful addition to their marketing mix. The integration of
emerging technology such as augmented and virtual reality will add new layers of
engagement and interactivity to the experience.

Whether it’s YouTube, Instagram or TikTok, live shopping is seeing huge investment from
both brands and the platforms that enable it. I think it’s here to stay.