What is live shopping?
Live Shopping is the latest evolution of online shopping, called live-stream shopping, video shopping, or even entertainment commerce. It first made headlines in China, where it focused on making online shopping entertaining by allowing business owners, creators, celebrities, fashion designers, travel experts to go live, talk about their businesses and products, answer questions and everything that they spoke about could be added immediately to cart whilst watching the video.
Since then, live shopping has been helping brands, small business owners and creators better engage with customers to improve conversion rates through immediate add to cart functionality whilst watching interactive, engaging video. The success has not only been seen with large retailers, but owner operated businesses too, including even local farmers who were able to enter a digital farmers market for the first time.
Brands have leveraged their C-level executives, partnering with local key opinion leaders (KOLs) and owner operated businesses have told their stories by going in front of the camera themselves or by working with ambassadors or even celebrities who could confidently engage with customers. Retailers have even used their staff members as hosts to help customers learn about products in their local stores. This has started a new way of connecting physical stores with the digital world (but that’s a post for a different day).
The live shopping experience provides customers with the opportunity to ask questions which the hosts answer, it provides customers with the ability to learn about the products presented in the show and it gives viewers the ability to play games to access or win coupons or discounts. Every item that is shown or talked about on the livestream is available and can be added to cart immediately. Live online shopping has become so popular in China that some customers have even hosted viewing parties to enjoy the online shopping experience together, with some shows entertaining their audience for an hour or more at a time.
The current commerce landscape:
Online has not evolved
When online shopping started in 1999, the idea was to recreate the store through web pages for products, categories, shopping carts, and more. These pages were fine for viewing on a desktop or laptop computer, but as mobile phone adoption has accelerated, communicating details has become hard. The opportunity for consumers to purchase products that don't meet their needs or expectations has increased as specific categories require the consumer to touch and feel the item to purchase with confidence. As a result, the dependence on accurate product information has become crucial in order to overcome this hurdle. Unfortunately for online retailers, the need to touch and feel materials cannot be conveyed by text and as such, the inability to fully cater to this important need has led to unnecessary and avoidable returns.
Retail and online shopping has been dehumanized
Shopping is a social activity in which buyers and sellers interact with each other to determine the value of goods. Buyers want to know that the item they are buying is going to meet their expectations and sellers want to ensure that once a transaction is complete, there are no additional costs associated with the sold item.
In the past, customers had product conversations with retail staff, but today, most consumers will simply use their mobile phone to search for reviews, ratings, price comparisons and product information before purchasing a product.
Digital marketing is becoming more expensive and less effective
For years, brands, and retailers have found customers and converted them via social media networks and search engine marketing. In speaking to brands and retailers, it’s becoming more apparent that digital marketing is broken and simply not delivering on the investment or expectations of online marketing spend. These platforms are becoming more expensive and less effective. The tax that brands currently pay requires significant investment.
When brands sell their products via marketplaces or retailers, they lose control over the pricing and how the customer can experience the product in-store or online. Live shopping enables brands to directly engage with customers in an authentic manner where customers can learn about the item/s they are interested in purchasing.
The new horizon:
One of the fundamental changes seen in Asian consumer behaviour through live shopping is the need for brands/creators/business owners to provide entertainment first which results in increased engagement and conversion. It provides brands with the opportunity to show various parts of their business to audiences, allowing them to learn more about the people or products behind the brands they love. The authenticity and interactivity makes them feel part of the brand’s story and journey. Whether it is how products are made, behind the scenes access or even closed events, this utilisation of supply and demand principles make consumers feel special and invested in the brands they love and have relationships with. In some cases, live shopping events have also been used as a large focus group to help brands make decisions on ranges or colours that are to be available in or out of season.
The opportunity to use celebrity endorsers as special guests or have the owner or brand CEO host a question and answers session provide brands with additional opportunities to create entertaining content that allows them to reach consumers in an intimate yet large scale.
Using creators effectively
As part of the new horizon, there is a new and exciting opportunity to build relationships with customers through entertaining creators, ambassadors and hosts who engage with audiences - a far more entertaining experience than text and images. Further to this, these hosts can also become trusted partners for brands as they can be educated pre-event about the brand story, history and products.
In conclusion, live shopping provides brands an opportunity to build an authentic relationship with their customers through interactive, entertainment, and engaging content, which drives sales. Commerce is as a result of great entertainment.