Livestream shopping was given a new lease of life during the pandemic with retailers and influencers leaning into the new craze for video entertainment. As consumers were kept away from physical stores, the surge of ecommerce activity and sales resulted in more live shopping videos online.
Live shopping is an immersive entertainment experience that keeps viewers engaged for longer, whilst tunneling customer decision journeys from awareness to purchase. By providing time-limited discounts in livestreams, brands and influencers are able to generate a sense of urgency in customers which accelerates conversions. Livestream commerce can increase conversion rates up to 30%—which is 10 times higher than traditional ecommerce.
When done well, livestream shopping can pull in additional website traffic and improve a brand’s appeal. While rising in popularity, live shopping is still a novelty to many consumers. Adopting this new shopping experience early can differentiate the brand from competitors, increasing its appeal. Providing an innovative shopping channel can strengthen the connection among existing customers and attract new ones, especially within younger audiences.
But what new shopping experiences and avenues have arisen from the rise of online shopping and livestreaming?
Have you ever watched TV before and thought “Where can I buy that?”? Well, ITV is trialling shoppable TV alongside Boots and popular reality show Love Island. The interactive shoppable TV service will be the first of its kind in the UK. Following its success in the US, the AI technology will be built directly into LG TV sets.
The shoppable TV service identifies and tags featured products during programmes and notifies viewers where they can purchase the products on screen. If a viewer is interested in a product, they can select to view more information with their remote and make a purchase through Boots’ website or through a link sent directly to their mobile phone.
The service refreshes as new products and characters are shown on-screen throughout the programme. Users can continually scroll through products showing at certain times or choose to view all available products at once from the episode they are currently watching.
While only currently available during Love Island episodes, ITV plans to roll out the service to other programmes in different genres throughout 2021.
As with ecommerce, social commerce saw a huge rise in 2020 and 2021. The sheer volume of consumers shopping online spurred social media platforms to step up their ecommerce integration by investing in different forms of in-app product delivery and purchase.
As more social platforms offer social commerce and in-app shopping, it will gradually become an expectation from consumers and adopted by the masses. This opens new opportunities for brands, but also risks the chance of businesses being left behind if they fail to adapt to the shift.
Social media is a go-to for consumers to discover brands and find out more about them. In 2020, 55% of consumers made a purchase through a social media channel and 11% were motivated to purchase by seeing a “Buy” button on a social platform.
In 2021, TikTok rolled out in-app shopping to all users and businesses. The platform had previously tested the social commerce waters in partnerships with Shopify and Walmart, but it now offers its own shopping services.
The new shopping experience gives brands their own dedicated shop tab on their TikTok profiles. The storefronts display a range of merchandise alongside product images and price. Users can click on a product to find out more information, retailer policies and shipping and size options. If a customer needs assistance with a purchase, TikTok offers in-app customer services. By clicking the headphones symbol, users can live text-chat with a brand representative without leaving TikTok.
In addition to this, TikTok also offers livestream shopping. Accessible through a brand’s TikTok page or natively within For You Pages, viewers can instantly shop products featured within a Live by clicking the cart button or through a pinned product that is viewable on screen.
Users are given the option to pick their sizing, shipment preferences and then pay within the app. Currently TikTok users can only purchase one product at a time as there is no customer cart available. However, the platform does have capabilities to offer discounts on products.
Instagram offers a set of shopping features that allow users to easily shop a brand’s photos and videos across the platform. Instagram Shopping offers brands the chance to create an Instagram storefront and connect with customers that love to shop. The storefront can display singular products or collections.
Collections allow users to shop curated products into themes such as new arrivals, gifts, seasonal trends or whatever works for a business. Brands can write product detail pages to offer relevant information on items from catalogues. Product detail pages also pull in content where the product is tagged on Instagram and drive people to your website to complete a sale.
In the US, customers are given the chance to checkout within Instagram, but this is currently only available to US businesses and creator accounts.
Users can also discover shoppable products natively in feeds. Product tags allow brands to highlight items from catalogues in images and videos so users can tap to learn more. In addition, businesses with Checkout on Instagram can announce an upcoming drop so users can preview details and set reminders for when the products are available to purchase.
Instagram also offers users a Shopping Tab. The Shop tab is a location where users can discover new brands, products and editor’s picks, and all selected products are personalised to the user through Instagram’s algorithm.
Instagram is launching a new shopping section called Drops that will showcase collections of exclusive product launches. Users will be able to browse, save items to wish lists, sign up for launch reminders and shop within the app.
Drops creates a great opportunity for brands to create a social buzz around launches and to increase shopper demand. As users are able to shop within the app, Drops adds excitement to ecommerce on Instagram with new and exclusive products. Products will be in limited supply and only available for a short period of time.
Start-up livestream app Popshop Live has dedicated itself to providing a space for businesses to focus on livestreaming shopping entertainment. Popshop gives users the chance to shop on their phones as if they are browsing through products and interacting with shop assistants in a store.
The app allows sellers to share their livestreams via their own social media accounts or to embed it online, while shoppers can purchase directly from the stream. Popshop is not revealing its exact number of sellers, but it has reportedly increased by 500% in the past three months, suggesting it is going to become a go-to platform for sellers looking to build a platform in the crowded online marketspace.
Sellers on Popshop are seeing gross merchandise value of more than $500,000 and 80% of customers returning to purchase more within 30 days. Its ethos is based around interesting people selling interesting items, socialising through a chat stream that runs alongside the live videos and an algorithmic feed that lets you watch show after show as you swipe to the right (which sounds relatively similar to TikTok live shopping).
So far, Popshop has proven to be incredibly popular with younger users and is showing signs of staying power that will make it a staple in the “new normal” of online shopping. The platform has also seen large and growing brands begin offering live shopping entertainment, including Cider, JapanLA, Mall of America and Kettle & Fire.
Popshop has recently seen new investments from huge names such as Hailey Bieber, Kendall Jenner, TQ Ventures, Sophia Amoruso and more. With such big names backing the company, it’s safe to say Popshop has popped off.
Amazon Live is a livestream shopping feature available to those signed up to the Amazon Influencer Program. Amazon sellers and influencers can promote products and drive sales by hosting live video events.
The broadcasts can be found through a dedicated Amazon Live landing page or through Amazon influencer storefronts. The Amazon Live landing page informs viewers of “Live Now” streams, upcoming streams and finished streams that may be of interest to them. Users can also discover live streams based on industries (tech, home, fitness etc), through featured creators or themes (beauty hauls, amplifying Black voices or DIYs).
During Amazon Live’s, viewers can ask questions in real-time through the chat box and hosts can answer as they see the questions. As hosts discuss products, the mentioned product will be highlighted in a live carousel underneath the video. Viewers can click on the product and be taken to the product’s Amazon page where it can be added to the viewer’s shopping cart.
Amazon influencers that make a sale through their Amazon Live’s will earn a commission for each sale. During Amazon Prime Day, Amazon offers exclusive deals to its network of influencers which they used when creating live video content for featured products. This enticed viewers to spend more time exploring the live content in hopes of finding an exclusive deal.
There are two key ways brands can get involved with Amazon Live: by creating their own Amazon Live account or having an influencer publish via their own account.
The competition between shopping avenues
As more and more shopping avenues become available to consumers, each channel will have to compete with the others in order to succeed.
The future of shoppable TVs
Shoppable TV seems like something that should have been around for a while, but is only coming onto the ecommerce scene now. While shoppable TVs lend themselves well to impulse purchasing, it’s main selling point is likely to be the novelty of buying something through a TV. As we’ve seen with entertainment shopping, users come back for the unique experience, but entertainment shopping is likely to stick around due to the fact younger generations are quickly favouring live content over TV.
Shoppable TVs will also present programmes, broadcasters and TV personalities with new revenue streams. If brands partner with TV programmes, they may be given a cut of any purchases made throughout the programme.
The issues with shoppable TVs enter when we consider the longevity of the service. Live entertainment shopping and social commerce are popular due to the fact they reduce the buying journey for customers, making a seamless experience within one online space. With shoppable TVs, users are given a link or QR code they need to scan on a mobile device before being taken to a product’s buying page. Adding an additional step elongates the buying experience, and by using two separate devices to make a purchase, it isn’t the seamless experience consumers can have elsewhere. Furthermore, TVs aren’t renowned for great user interface or speed. Putting information into a TV with a remote is fiddly and complicated at the best of times. Without an easy purchasing route, consumers won’t make a purchase.
In addition, TV shopping is interruptive. Consumers watching a programme may not want to interrupt their viewing to make a purchase. Nowadays, a large portion of TV watchers are passively watching and multitasking on their mobile devices, where they can type a product into Google and make a purchase in a traditional ecommerce way. Arguably, the fact they are on their phones could mean they are more willing to scan a QR code, but could also mean they are too distracted and disconnected from the TV to make a purchase.
A final big threat for shoppable TVs is that younger generations are moving away from TV altogether. As streaming services and social media content continues to prevail as the top sources of entertainment, many younger consumers have stopped watching TV altogether. As social platforms and live shopping entertainment platforms continue to evolve their own commerce capabilities, these generations will be less inclined to watch TV or shop through TVs.
The future of social commerce
As we have already mentioned, social commerce presents customers with an easy and seamless shopping experience. Every step of their buying journey is within one location, from discovery to purchase. Having this close journey with a brand develops the relationship between brand and customer.
For brands, social commerce is incredibly low-cost (it’s free), so they aren’t risking losing resources if it doesn’t work in the way they hoped. Listing products on social media exposes your products to new audiences if they are browsing your social media pages—if someone sees something they like, they can purchase it there and then. If not, you haven’t lost anything. Moreover, if someone makes a purchase, you gain pure profit.
In addition, due to the fact that product tags and TikTok Lives can appear natively in people’s feeds, it increases the reach of posts. Social commerce increases a brand’s visibility and allows them to sell on platforms with large potential customer bases.
Concerns for social commerce come for consumers when considering data. As many as 95% of people don’t trust social media and are unwilling to provide any unnecessary information. As internet users, we hand over large amounts of personal information to social media anyway, but it’s a different step to hand over bank details.
The more brands begin using social commerce, the more consumers feel they aren’t being given real, engaging posts. Consumers are unwilling to trust traditional advertisements nowadays and if brands abuse social commerce too much, the same will happen to social media. Authenticity is one of the most important factors to consumers so it’s important brands keep up the engaging and interesting content they would usually post. A variety of content will keep customers on a brand’s side.
A concern for brands is the loss of control over their customers. While social commerce does provide businesses with many opportunities, it does raise the question: who really owns the customer? The more control social platforms have over the buying process, the less power retailers have over their customers. When a customer checks out on a social platform, the data is owned by the platform and not the business. This can make it harder for brands to continually learn about their customers and offer personalised experiences.
The future of shopping entertainment
Shopping entertainment is still in its infancy, similar to shoppable TVs, however it has already seen significant growth and uptake. In China, live commerce has developed into an innovative sales channel, with sales expected to reach $423 billion by 2022.
Following China’s lead, Western brands and platforms have begun developing their own live-commerce ventures. The introduction of live commerce is happily met by those outside of China, with almost a quarter of adults willing to discover new products via a livestream.
One of the most appealing aspects of shopping entertainment is that hosts (brand representatives or influencers) can show a product in action and tell its story in real-time. This creates an authentic environment for viewers to learn about a brand or product. With exciting and engaging hosts, brands are able to create an interactive shopping experience that makes viewers want to invest.
Shopping entertainment is paving the way for a whole new breed of influencer. The key to solid shopping entertainment is having a power-seller. Rather than established celebrities or social media personalities, “Shopatainers” are born to sell. This new influencer will be highly relatable, trustworthy and entertaining.
It will be vital that brands select their hosts correctly. Hosts need to be able to chat through an entire live stream comfortably and answer questions (even hard and uncomfortable ones) quickly and easily. Without this upfront confidence, viewers will not be kept interested, no matter how cool a product or service.
As a result of the live nature, entertainment shopping is a great way to build an authentic relationship with customers. Shopping entertainment is particularly popular with Gen Z—the generation that demands transparency and authenticity. By connecting with a host in real time, the younger generation can form an emotional connection to a brand as they relate the host’s personality with it.
As this new method of commerce is all about entertainment, the quality of content has to be exceptional. Younger generations are pernickety about quality and won’t sit through a grainy live stream. This will mean additional investment in a good quality camera or smartphone, but as most people use a smartphone, this may not be an issue.
A risk for shopping entertainment is that livestreaming sits in an odd space between active consumption and passive consumption. The content is enough to lean in and actively listen and participate in chat conversations, but live streams are often long so many consumers multitask and have it on in the background. This means they may not be fully engaged in the content.
Another risk is that it is only currently actively being adopted by Gen Z. This means the audience is limited and might not even contain an audience relevant to a brand.