Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Live Shopping: the trend all online retailers should know about

By Yuval Ben-Itzhak, Chief of Strategy at Emplifi

First launched in the 80’s, QVC was considered the next frontier in shopping. Over thirty years have passed since then, and the novelty has worn off. However, there’s a new kid on the block, and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Live shopping is the next big thing for modern retailing, where brands and influencers go live on social media to demo and display products to customers. Already making up 9% of all ecommerce sales in China, it hasn’t quite made real waves yet in Europe and the US. You might not have heard of it, and it might seem like one step too far in the digitization of the everyday shopping experience but Forrester predicts ‘shoppertainment’ will grow fast in Europe in the coming years – with 70% of Europeans interested in it.

A new dawn for online retailing

After a tumultuous year for retailers in the UK and Europe, we’ve seen retail largely shift online – two-thirds of those surveyed by Forrester said they have been buying more online, 31% significantly more. This means high street retailers have been feeling the pain, closing stores, and even shutting up shop completely. So, a new way to see big returns via e-commerce is a welcome relief.

Brands such as L’Oreal have already seen success from live shopping. Early in the pandemic, L’Oreal launched shoppable live streams using the app Livescale. Its experience features presenters that give live makeup tutorials and answer audience questions. Customers can also receive discounts and purchase products without leaving the platform. By September 2020, the brand’s e-commerce business had grown more than 60%.more than 60%.

There are a few factors that make for this live shopping success. The first is creating meaningful, personalised experiences with live video streaming 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. The second is 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. Customers can see an influencer or spokesperson interact with the product and demonstrate its use, prompting immediate action and enhanced community participation.

Given Forrester found electronics, fashion, and cosmetics are the top areas online shoppers would be keen for ‘shoppertainment’, it’s no surprise that ecommerce brands such as Estee Lauder are working with live streaming apps that incorporate product purchasing into one platform. Brands like Walmart and Tommy Hilfiger are testing the waters as well, with Tommy Hilfiger hosting live shopping sessions and Walmart testing out live video shopping on TikTok. The proof is in the ROI: one platform calculated an average conversion rate of 9.5% for its clients’ shopping events.  

Scaling live stream

Fortunately, brands already have most of the technology at their fingertips with their existing social channels and product catalogues to take advantage of the latest trends like live streaming, but there are other tools necessary to bring live streaming to scale. They need the right measurement tools, promotional materials, and content development to make live events successful. Rather than using point solutions for various functions, brands who are using one unified CXM 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, during the live shopping experience, brands will need to master social media interactions with advanced customer data management technology. 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.

The future is live

As much as the pandemic shifted consumers’ buying habits, it also changed their mindsets. The lines between social media and shopping are increasingly blurred – for example, TikTok is launching an in-app live shopping feature – but this varies from country to country, and industry to industry. According to Forrester, UK consumers are less open to shoppertainment, but trustworthiness and entertainment value – as well as mobile-friendly streams – are top of their list. In France, influencers are an important part of the puzzle, while Spain is all about the deals.

Brands need to plug into what their customers crave if they want to make the most of the opportunities live shopping presents. Only then can they engage customers in new and exciting ways of reaching customers and streamlining the sales process – ultimately providing a much-needed revenue boost.