After taking China by storm in 2020, the rest of the world is finally waking up to this billion-dollar industry. Now is the time to find a place for your brand before the market becomes oversaturated.
This report will provide you will all you need to know about the growing phenomenon, which retailers are already investing and the 411 on selling live.
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While livestream shopping has been around pre-2020, last year was the catalyst for its explosion into the mainstream in China as the global pandemic confined consumers indoors and retailers had to find new ways to interact and engage with their communities. Livestream shopping quickly gained popularity among younger generations, with the Chinese government even endorsing it as a "new engine" for ecommerce growth and a source of employment.
Western retailers have been slow to jump on the hype, with less advanced technology a key barrier. However, the tide is changing in both the luxury and mass market spaces, highlighting the huge potential for retailers to tap into in the near future. Live shopping cable networks, such as QVC, have been around in the West for decades, proving the premise of livestream shopping has strong foundations. However, its popularity has generally been among consumers aged 35+. Live stream shopping via social platforms opens up the space to younger Gen Z consumers and a more global audience.
So how does it work? Livestream shopping essentially blurs the line between entertainment and ecommerce, offering consumers a fully interactive experience. A host, typically a celebrity or influencer (known as Key Opinion Leaders or KOLs), will create a live broadcast, promote the chosen products, and provide tutorials and try-ons. Audience members can interact with the host, ask questions and purchase products in real-time. Exclusive discounts and deals are typically offered during the stream to whip up interest and encourage purchases over fears of missing out. This can ultimately improve conversion rates compared to traditional advertising methods.
As ecommerce has accelerated, customer reviews and authenticity have become hugely influential in the decision-making process. Therefore, livestream shopping holds big benefits for brands, offering the chance to foster loyalty and product authenticity through nurturing two-way dialogue and working with trusted creators.
While there is a large and growing number of livestream shopping platforms, see below for some of the biggest names in the game as well as those to know that are emerging in the US and UK.
Owned by Alibaba, Taobao Live is China's largest livestream shopping destination. It covers a wide range of interests, including food, travel and lifestyle, and recorded a 100% YoY increase in daily users in 2020.
Launched in China in 2016 and in the US in 2020, the platform allows consumers to shop products from trending stores, sample sales and flea markets across the globe via livestream.
The Footlocker-backed platform focuses on drops, featuring limited edition sneakers, streetwear and collectibles within its livestreams. The start up expected its 2 million users to grow to 7 million by the end of 2021.
Founded in 2020, it is the UK's first live shopping app, with over 200,000 downloads. The platform has 25 live channels and focuses on real consumers providing reviews. It has recently joined forces with I Saw It First.
Social & retailer channels
While live video has been a popular feature on Facebook and Instagram for some time, the social media giants have been advancing their technologies and experimenting with livestream shopping via their Shops features. Its rival, TikTok, has also been venturing into ecommerce, teaming up with Shopify in 2020 and recently partnering with Walmart for a live shopping experience.
Some retailers that hold the digital capabilities have been hosting and promoting livestream shopping directly on their websites. Nordstrom debuted its live shopping channel in March 2021, giving customers access to employees and experts in the field of beauty, fashion and home decor. Recent events have included a Burberry virtual styling session and an Anastasia Beverly Hills brow masterclass.
The key opinion leaders (KOLs)
Also known as China's "Lipstick King" the influencer is hugely popular on Taobao Live and provides candid reviews of beauty products. He is known for selling 15,000 lipsticks in five minutes and, in 2019, he drove $145 mn in sales for Taobao during Singles' Day. In February, TIME Magazine recognized him within its list of the emerging Top 100 Most Influential People.
The host is also hugely influential in China with her livestream events bringing in millions of viewers - she hit a high of 37 million audience viewers back in May 2020. In 2019 she partnered with Kim Kardashian West on a live event for Tmall, which was viewed by over 13 million people and saw 15,000 perfume bottles sell out in a matter of minutes.
The luxury market
Shanghai Fashion Week
As the coronavirus pandemic forced fashion weeks to cancel and go digital, Shanghai Fashion Week was a pioneer for livestream shopping in partnership with Tmall, and set the precedent for the digital runways that followed - eventually paving the way for "see-now, buy-now" collections. With physical shows back on the cards for the recent Fall 2021 runway season, organizers focused on a hybrid format with livestream shopping here to stay. As part of the event it launched Shanghai Fashion and Lifestyle Carnival, which featured KOL Li Jiaqi and received over 690 million views on Weibo, with nearly 84 million active interactions.
Back in 2020, the luxury retailer partnered with Bambuser to launch its live shopping channel Moda Live. For its first event, it showcased Johanna Ortiz's Spring 2021 collection. Products appear in the top corner of the screen, with viewers able to find product details, favorite it and add it to cart - all without leaving the livestream.
The luxury retailer launched its Gucci Live shopping service last year during the pandemic. The one-to-one personalized video consultations happen with a store expert from "Gucci 9" (its fake stores located in Florence, New York and Tokyo, among other places) with the hope of bringing the in-store experience directly to customers' homes.
Image via Shanghai Fashion Week
The mass market
The US retailer has partnered with TikTok to host livestream shopping events. Its pilot in December 2020 resulted in seven times more views than anticipated and grew its TikTok followers by 25%. In March, it partnered with creator Gabby Morrison, who has 3.5 mn TikTok followers, on its "Spring Shop-Along: Beauty Edition." During the 60-minute interactive tutorial, viewers can shop the curated assortment of beauty products, watch demonstrations and checkout during or after the event.
In March, the retailer partnered with Bambuser to debut live video shopping for its customers in the UK. The live broadcasts occur on its website, where users can engage with store experts and influencers in real-time. The move is just one of the latest innovations Ted Baker has undertaken recently. At the end of 2020, the retailer partnered with HERO® on "Ask Ted Baker." The technology allows customers to instantly connect with in-store experts via a chat service, who can then offer guidance and recommendations remotely.
The retailer first branched into live shopping back in May 2020 with the launch of Tommy LIVE. Focusing on creating engaging digital shopping experiences for its customers, the retailer partners with influencers, including Lewis Hamilton, to host events on its website, with replays available afterward. Viewers can add selections to a virtual shopping tab to purchase after the broadcast.
I Saw It First
The fast fashion retailer has become the first to partner with the UK's inaugural livestream shopping app OOOOO, launching a dedicated shopping channel on the platform. The channel will showcase the latest styles and trends directly from the retailer's headquarters and will utilize its roster of influencers as creators during the live shows.
Tommy Hilfiger Email US - Mar 31, 2021
The do's & don'ts
Pick your creators wisely
Hosts are a vital element for successful livestream shopping, yet working with big celebrities and influencer names is expensive and doesn't guarantee conversion rates. Consider working with micro-influencers who know their audience inside out. Alternatively, using your own store experts is a great way to save on cost and mimic the in-store experience. Whoever you partner with, make sure they can engage viewers from the offset to avoid them switching off.
Be careful with your discounts
Heavy discounting is a key characteristic of livestream shopping, with hosts offering limited-time deals during the show. However, this could be an issue for luxury retailers who typically avoid steep discounts. Consider other ways to create exclusivity, such as featuring limited edition or first-look products, as well as offering add-on gifts with purchases.
Listen and bounce off your audience
The appeal of livestream shopping is that dialogue is a two-way street and happens in real-time. Ensure your hosts aren't too scripted, leaving room for viewers to ask questions and aid discussion. It will also help show off their personality, making the event seem more personable and authentic.
Don't disrupt the entertainment
Make sure the whole experience is as seamless as possible, particularly for the point of purchase. Consumers could be dissuaded to buy a product if they have to leave the livestream to checkout.
Don't forget about pre-event promotion
Help foster your community by interacting and creating hype in the run-up to your broadcast. Promote teasers across emails and your social channels and consider special offers for those that sign-up early.
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