Live Commerce: Video Stream Shopping

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They say that fashion trends come back into style every 50 years, but is that also true for how we shop?

The Home Shopping Network (HSN) pioneered live commerce in the ’70s, which means we’re due for an eCommerce renaissance right about now. By blending entertainment with instant purchasing, live shopping offers brands, retailers, and online marketplaces the opportunity to build stronger engagement and loyalty with their audience.

What is Live Commerce?

Live commerce combines the power of live streaming with the convenience of online shopping to create a more dynamic customer buying experience. Brick and mortar stores and online marketplaces leverage live stream shopping to bolster their marketing strategies and brand loyalty and gain analytics-derived insights into their products and user base.

Social media platforms often double as a home for live stream events. Still, some companies use their websites, a custom app, or multiple channels to deliver a custom in-store experience online. Must-have features for any live commerce event include livestream chat for attendees to connect and offer instant feedback and interactive elements, like polls, to keep engagement up.

Benefits of Live Commerce

This modern sales channel complements the existing marketing strategies of physical stores in the retail industry and online shopping sites. So, why bother organizing a live broadcast if your brand already has a web presence?

Your eCommerce business can't afford to miss out on the four major benefits of live stream shopping.

1. Faster Sales Cycle

The instant purchasing nature of Livestream video shopping and the ability to reach a high volume of active customers accelerates retail sales cycles. Brands always have live stream channels at their disposal, but some of the most successful ones use them sparingly and advertise them as a can’t-miss live stream event. Attendees feel more inclined to impulse buy when the sale feels exclusive. They fear they may miss out on limited-time offers or deep discounts, making live commerce-initiated sales quicker, sales conversion rates increase, and yield a higher average total transaction value.

2. Better Product Education

By creating video shopping content, retailers have the opportunity to dive deeper into their goods and services with a captive audience. Providing product education to customers has a direct impact on return rates. Customers who tune into live shopping broadcasts are 40% less likely to send back their items than regular online shoppers because they made an informed decision to buy instead of making an impulse purchase they are bound to regret. When live stream viewers learn the unique value of a product from a shop assistant on video, they are more likely to buy rather than start the whole process over with another brand—especially when their options are endless (think, beauty products).

3. Powerful Brand Humanization

When customers connect to your brand, they buy from your brand. While a photo of a pair of jeans or a new dishwasher might not elicit an emotional response, a live stream of the denim company’s founder talking about their brand’s environmental ethos or a parenting influencer explaining over live video how their new dishwasher allows them to spend more time with their kids are sure to stir up something. Attaching a face to your brand is a powerful way to humanize it and create a great emotional connection between your viewer and your products. Livestream viewers can also chat with one another while tuning in. The more engagement and questions they see from others in the chat, the more they will trust your brand and feel empowered to engage themselves. Live commerce streams are the perfect way to create a sense of community among your customers while raising awareness and generating mass brand appeal.

4. Greater Audience Reach

The level of exposure your video shopping live stream content will gain is much higher than it would be in a static ad on a website, on local television, or in a piece of print media. By increasing the discoverability of your store you also increase your potential customer base. There are endless video channel platforms, but especially those integrated with social media apps can boost your visibility and brand awareness by meeting your prospects where they’re at—literally. By getting creative with your livestream and curating a unique and flexible shopping experience, you’ll not only cast a wider net for potential customers but also make a name for your brand with this distinctive marketing tactic.

Live Commerce Statistics

Gain a better understanding of the driving forces behind the live commerce market, its predicted growth, industry reach, and seasonal influences.

Market Size

Live commerce has evolved rapidly in China over the past five years. Its market value grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 280% from 2017 to 2020 and is expected to reach an estimated $423 billion by the end of 2022. The US has seen less explosive, more stable growth since the live commerce boom forced retailers to pivot in 2020, growing to an estimated $17B by the end of this year.

Industry Reach

Social media platforms make it easier for brands to take their in-store experience online via video shopping. Traditional retailers, like automotive and electronic stores, can leverage live video to increase sales and enhance customer experience.

Seasonality

Holidays significantly influence the buying patterns of video stream shoppers—Black Friday, Christmas, and summertime sales make for peak retail seasons in the US. But, for the leading live commerce nation of China, Chinese sales accelerate on one holiday in particular: Single’s Day. Chinese retail giant Alibaba attracts Chinese consumers for exclusive pre-sales to celebrate this anti-valentine's day with retail therapy. In 2020, Alibaba’s Taobao Live campaign generated $7.5B in thirty minutes with an ultimate sales total of $84.5B.

Top 5 Live Commerce Use Cases

Live commerce encompasses so much more than video. To create a truly educational and engaging customer shopping experience, try incorporating one or more of the following live commerce tactics with your selling strategy.

1. Live Q&A Sessions

Did you know 82% of consumers expect immediate responses to sales and marketing questions? Designating a full-time team responsible for answering queries during live question and answer sessions ensures that customers on the verge of abandoning their cart get an immediate response. These interactive live streams are the perfect way to answer FAQs about your brand and its products en masse while connecting with buyers in real-time. Add live chat functionality to your digital shopping platform so curious customers can ask your discussion moderators unique questions and get answers that will seal the deal.

2. Omnichannel Live Streaming

Developing an omnichannel marketing strategy is essential to creating a frictionless shopping experience. By leveraging multiple channels, your brand can capture the attention of numerous audiences and deliver a fully integrated customer experience across every possible device and platform they might be tuning in from. To make the most of your live stream, ensure it is shareable and available on YouTube, social media, and your brand’s website or streaming platform. You can also repost video snippets or screenshots of insightful questions from the chat on your company’s social pages to encourage your followers to attend.

3. One-to-One Video Shopping

One-to-one interactions create more meaningful moments with customers, especially for those considering a high-value purchase. Luxury good brands and big ticket item retailers, like car dealerships, can leverage private live video streams as a selling tool to connect with prospective buyers on a more personal level, answer their questions, and provide product information. Consider offering these sessions on-demand so web visitors can initiate a call as they browse your site. Even if the call doesn’t end in a sale, you are still building brand awareness and loyalty, as customers will remember the white glove service you provided.

4. Shopping with VR/AR

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are two of the latest live stream shopping trends, as they rely on cutting-edge technology and environments. VR shopping immerses users in the metaverse, where they can create avatars and visit virtual versions of their favorite stores to buy clothes and accessories for their metaverse personas—which is why developing a presence for your retail brand in the metaverse can bolster your live commerce strategy. Augmented reality blends the two worlds commonly used by makeup and home decor brands. Using the customer’s camera, they can see what furniture will look like in their homes and test out hair or lipstick colors without committing to them.

5. Product Tutorials & Launches

The more your customer knows about your product, the less likely they will be unsatisfied with or return their final purchase. Making a big splash from the get-go of a product launch can help new and existing customers become familiar with your brand and its catalog of offerings. From there, hosting live-streamed tutorials on how to use, maintain, etc., products from your brand can help build brand awareness and strengthen customer loyalty.

Live Commerce Examples

There is no right way to incorporate live commerce into your business strategy. Depending on your budget, audience, resources, and industry, your live stream shopping experience will likely look different than those you might have seen or interacted with. That’s why it is essential to know your options before deciding on a live video platform or sales method.

Below are five examples of the types of live commerce that you can use to inspire your experience.

1. Social Commerce

Social commerce allows users to buy from a brand directly through social media platforms like Instagram without having to exit the live stream experience to complete their purchase. Let’s explore an example of this type of live commerce that combines strong social media communities with shopping.

This Instagram live stream includes a real-time attendee count in the upper right-hand corner, a live chat functionality beneath the video that enables viewers to comment, react, and ask questions, as well as the option for users to add the featured product to their shopping cart in a single click.

Instagram is a social media platform, not a dedicated live selling channel—that is why it falls under social commerce. Instagram Live integrates a video live stream functionality into its social media activity feed for brands, content creators, and influencers to leverage when promoting a product or service. Social commerce allows businesses to capture the attention of highly engaged audiences they might not reach organically otherwise. Social commerce brings a brick-and-mortar shopping experience to social media. In the example above, you can see the consistency of the makeup, learn how it smells and feels on the skin, and hear any other candid details and opinions the host shares.

2. Influencer Streaming

This type of live commerce requires a partnership between a brand and an influencer. In exchange for payment and/or free products, influencers can expose brands to a new, highly engaged audience on social media—their followers. Brands can host a live stream with their new partner as a guest, but if the influencer has a wider reach on social than the brand’s page, it can be beneficial to allow them to run the shopping stream themselves.

This influencer is livestreaming to promote the tagged brand, Dime Beauty Co. The company has included an exclusive discount and free shipping for this influencer’s followers. This tactic also helps the brand attribute sales to this campaign and collect data on its efficacy to inform its future strategy.

Influencers leverage their content creation expertise to create custom social media campaigns that showcase a company’s promoted product in a way that will appeal to and persuade their followers to buy it. Influencers may dedicate posts and curate interactive stories to bolster the impact of their video live stream efforts.

As mentioned above, these brand ambassadors are compensated for their promotional content. It is common practice for influencer streaming to note that their content is an ad—their transparency in noting which products they are paid to promote and which they are not builds trust with their following. When brands include unique discount codes in their agreement, they can base the influencer’s commission on the number of products they sell which creates a greater incentive for them to market it effectively. Small brands can greatly benefit from incorporating influencer streaming into their marketing plans because of the niche and targeted audience they reach.

3. Livestream eCommerce

Livestream commerce typically does not rely on new platforms or apps but instead leverages the live video features of popular existing platforms. For example, with livestream commerce, Amazon vendors can take their online storefront to the next level. It gives context to the products and personalizes the experience for the viewer. They can form a greater connection to the brand and its team by interacting with the host and other viewers.

This live stream host is selling apparel and has set an intimate and casual mood by stationing themselves inside a closet to showcase the products they wish to sell. The items in the closet are tagged with responsive Amazon product page links. The clothes the host is modeling appear within the live video window and include an exclusive discount to live stream attendees.

Livestream commerce is characterized by four hallmark features: live video, a real-time list of products, live chat, and message reactions. These create the foundation for an interactive UX that platforms can build upon with additional features, like picture-in-picture views, coupon centers, chat polls, and one-click purchasing. Livestream commerce expertly facilitates brand awareness efforts as well as quicker sales cycles.

4. Livestream Commerce Via Partnership

Marketplace livestream commerce requires an established retailer to host the stream and a representative of the featured brand to narrate the experience and promote their goods. Like influencer streaming, brands benefit from the wide reach of marketplaces like Nordstrom and Macy’s. They allow smaller retailers to speak directly to a broader audience and automatically gain their trust, thanks to the marketplace's reputation.

This livestream features True Botanicals, but any purchases made during it will be processed through Nordstrom. The host combines product demonstration and tutorial techniques to educate customers on how to create a skincare routine with their line. By marketing the seven products as a cohesive group, customers are more likely to purchase all of them and create greater transaction totals.

The greatest asset of marketplace livestream commerce is the ability to leverage the platform's existing level of trust with its customers. This paves the way for new brands to gain the attention of a highly engaged group of consumers while eliminating the hurdles that prevent them from sealing the deal, like questions around shipping costs and return policies.

5. TV Shopping Channels

Televised shopping channels started the live commerce movement. Similar to how social commerce captures the attention of social media scrollers, dedicated shopping TV channels met customers on their preferred entertainment platform (before smartphones). These channels were revolutionary for their time and created loyal customers that still shop with them today, which is why they are best suited for a more mature consumer base.

The Home Shopping Network (HSN) is airing a segment to promote merchandise from the premiere of the new Cinderella movie. The items, colors available, and prices are listed on screen as the hosts talk about them, and there are multiple ways for viewers to purchase, including a phone number to call and the web address of the HSN site to buy online.

Televised shopping networks perfectly match the product tutorial and launch live commerce use case. They can help brands reach new audiences and build trust with them quickly, thanks to the credibility the channel’s hosts already have created. Products are thoroughly demonstrated and discussed by the hosts, but the downside to TV shopping is that viewers cannot interact with the hosts. Networks are aware of this flaw and have attempted to mitigate it by offering livestreams of the shows on their websites that provide a more dynamic experience for viewers. But, this is essentially a lesser form of livestream eCommerce due to the lack of engaging features, like live chat.

1. Amazon Live

Type: Livestream eCommerce
Available to Other Retailers: Yes
Notable Features: Push Notifications, Practice Mode, Live Chat, Chat Moderation

Amazon Live allows its online marketplace vendors to live stream directly to their respective audiences or start building them by broadcasting en masse. This digital streaming platform has multiple features specifically designed to engage viewers during live streams and even encourage them to come back if they leave via push notifications. Amazon Live is one of the most effective places to stream your business’s content because users are already logged in, with a credit card and address attached to their profile, so all you have to do is persuade them to click “buy now.”

2. Samsung Live

Samsung Live is an electronics retailer that owns a native live streaming platform and leverages it to sell and promote its Galaxy devices. Samsung Live broadcasts enable users to shop alongside streaming videos in real-time and instantly purchase the featured products as they watch, attend exclusive events, interact with influencers, and chat live with Samsung experts.

Customers can find a calendar of events based on their preferred category, like mobile accessories, watches, tablets, tv, and even smart home appliances. Even if viewers can’t attend or watch the entire live stream, recordings are available on-demand. Users can still make purchases during them, but certain interactive features like live chat, polls, and Q&A will be disabled.

3. Instagram Live

Type: Social Commerce
Available to Other Retailers: Yes
Notable Features: Group Broadcasts, Live Chat, In-App Shopping, Recording Storage

Instagram Live Shopping allows users to market their brand, sell products and interact with customers in real-time—all through an Instagram Live broadcast. Businesses can tag items from their catalog of products to appear on the bottom of the screen, where shoppers can purchase them directly from the app during the live broadcast. Brands can also save live videos to their profile so customers can continue shopping even after the broadcast ends. It’s important to note that Instagram Live Shopping is currently only available to U.S.based users and customers with an Instagram Business account and access to Instagram Checkout.

4. YouTube Live

Type: Social Commerce
Available to Other Retailers: Yes
Notable Features: Livestream Analytics, Chat Moderation, Live Chat

YouTube Live is the live stream feature of this popular video-sharing platform that businesses and content creators can utilize to stream videos in real-time to their customers and followers. Just as business platforms track metrics to measure their marketing campaigns, YouTube Live can also help you gather data on your live stream. With this, you can check how well your live shopping event performed and identify improvement areas for your next stream. YouTube Live also offers live chat moderation tools to keep your chat clean, engaged, and protected from spam, trolls, bots, and other bad actors. These tools, which include customizable block lists and moderator assignments, ensure a safe and positive chat experience for users.

5. Alibaba

Type: Out-Of-The-Box Video Streaming Provider
Available to Other Retailers: Yes
Notable Features: Automatic Translations, Picture-In-Picture, Live Chat, Moderation, Ad Insertion

The Alibaba Cloud and ApsaraVideo Live have created an all-in-one live shopping platform available to businesses that wish to quickly and simply bring an in-person shopping experience to new online audiences. ApsaraVideo Live handles the streaming side of things and offers video playing SDKs that incorporate e-commerce features like product advertisement insertion, automated real-time prompts, audio, and subtitle translation, human interaction, and picture-in-picture product promotion. The Alibaba retail group's rich experience in e-commerce is the perfect host for nearly every online shopping scenario, including shopper/seller interactions, picture-in-picture live promotion, and live stream moderation.

6. QVC & HSN

Type: TV Shopping Channels
Available to Other Retailers: Yes
Notable Features: Televised Broadcast, Purchase Over Phone

First of their kind, Quality Value Convenience (QVC) and its now subsidiary, the Home Shopping Network (HSN), pioneered live shopping on television in the 1970s. Both networks stream live for 19 hours per day, 364 days a year, on television and online. To make purchases while watching the televised programs, customers must call in. Whereas if viewers tune into their online live streams, they can also shop by category like aired this hour, host’s closet, brand, and by the department. Retailers who wish to list their products on either of these networks must apply to become a vendor, and the networks will take a small percentage of each sale. Partnering with QVC and HSN is a great way to reach a highly motivated audience, but less effective as a brand awareness play.

7. Nordstrom Live

Type: Marketplace Livestream Shopping
Available to Other Retailers: No
Notable Features: Picture-In-Picture, Live Chat, Home Screen, Reactions, One-Click Add to Bag

Nordstrom Live was introduced as an extension of the personalized in-store service the global retailer is known for. Brands the retailer carries can co-host live-streamed events on the Nordstrom Live platform to educate consumers about their products, give more color to their brand's mission, and demonstrate proper usage and care of beauty products, apparel, and accessories. Shoppers unable to attend the live events can watch recordings on-demand and still purchase the highlighted items.

8. Macy’s Live

Type: Marketplace Livestream Shopping
Available to Other Retailers: No
Notable Features: AR Shopping, 1:1 Stylist Appointments

Macy’s Live shopping encourages users to tune in and shop exclusive styles with limited-time discounts. The platform has four main content channels, Live Beauty, Live Style, Upcoming Live Events, and Live with the Style Crew, for shoppers to enjoy. Viewers can tune into the live streams or watch them later with the opportunity to shop featured styles anytime. Macy’s also offers a live personal styling service that matches customers with stylists for a one-to-one shopping experience where they can peek at new arrivals and save extra money with exclusive discounts.

9. Shopify

Type: Live Shopping App
Available to Other Retailers: Yes
Notable Features: Live Chat, Pinned Messages, Reactions, Analytics Dashboard, Embed Shopping Shows, Multi-Lingual Interface, HD Video Quality, Moderation, Production Dashboard, Broadcaster Apps

Shopify’s live shopping app provides a contextual shopping experience to customers with entertainment factors & interactive environment that ensures repeat visits. Hosts can deliver product information visually and audibly with real-time product demonstrations, promote brand awareness, and gain customer mindshare. Livestreamers can accelerate the purchase decisions of attendees with a combination of real-time product experience, product info verification & instant communication. All this buyer engagement & interaction happens right within your online Shopify store via the live streaming app. The plugin also enables simultaneous multistreaming of live shopping shows on Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube and supports multistreaming via custom RTMP.

10. Bambuser

Type: Livestream eCommerce
Available to Other Retailers: Yes
Notable Features: One-to-One Shopping, One-to-Many Shopping, Product Highlights, Live Chat Moderation, Reporting, Easy to Integrate

Bambuser is a live stream shopping provider that sells one-to-one and one-to-many video streaming components that customers can easily integrate with their websites to create their own custom live event experience. Bambuser also offers a “Phygital” solution that blends the physical with digital to take your live event up a notch. It combines the best digital retail experiences with the chance to interact with people, the product, and what you get from a brick-and-mortar retail experience—creating a way to please the hyper-connected and demanding modern consumer.

How to Integrate Live Commerce into Your App or Website

Ready-made live commerce solutions do exist, but they might not suit all of your brand’s needs. But, if you’re looking to create a custom live shopping platform, you’ll need to know your options. This section will explore how to leverage an existing channel and the advantages and challenges of developing a live stream channel from scratch.

Leverage an Existing Live Commerce Channel

Retailers looking to test the waters of live commerce might opt to leverage an existing solution or established platform, like YouTube, HSN, or Instagram, rather than build their own. By doing this, they automatically gain access to all of the features these solutions offer without needing to dedicate any development time or resources. Specific platforms also have the unique position of attracting broader audiences than a retailer could reach on their own and the ability to integrate shopping into a casual social experience. Alternatively, partnering with a company specializing in live commerce, like Bambuser, can help first-time streamers get a sense of what their live stream shopping platform could look like if they struggle with the build vs. buy decision.

Create a Custom Online Shopping Platform

Creating a bespoke online shopping stream platform has significant advantages, as retailers can curate every aspect of their user experience and purchasing process—both of which can make or break a sale. But, it does require more planning and resources than leaning on an existing solution, and common concerns include finding an effective chat moderation solution, streaming bandwidth, data and message security, and payment processing compliance. Brands can either shoulder the development burden 100% in-house or partner with a 3rd party vendor to secure the API components they’ll need to create an intuitive and successful video chat app for buyers. Video streaming can become complicated, especially when combined with interactive elements like chat, payment, and inventory management—explore this list of the top video APIs.

Live Commerce FAQs

1. Why is live selling popular?

Live selling is a popular option for retailers of most industries because it is a relatively low-lift effort for an extremely high return in the form of brand awareness, quicker sales cycles, and more engaged audiences. Creating a live selling experience is accessible because brands can leverage social media to launch their strategies.

2. How does live commerce create value?

Live commerce is a valuable marketing channel because of the level of engagement it encourages amongst viewers. Hosts can answer questions, collect feedback, discuss the benefits, and demonstrate how to use their product or service to a captive audience. This leads to a quicker sales cycle, greater brand awareness, and better product education.

3. How do I plan a live shopping event?

A lot of preparation and research goes into planning a live shopping event. A good place to start is with the timing of your event—will it align with a new product launch or a holiday? Then, set clear goals for your stream and plan a promotional strategy. Closer to the event date, prepare your streaming equipment and test your video setup. By preparing ahead of time, you can be sure to deliver an impactful, engaging live shopping experience your audience will enjoy. Wrap up your event by analyzing any feedback collected and use it to help curate your next one.

4. How can I sell online live?

To sell live online, your business will need a video live streaming platform with interactive features like live chat, Q&As, and polls and the capability to process payment and manage inventory.

5. How do I prepare for a live sale?

Preparing for a live sale will require careful planning and division of responsibilities and resources among your team. You must first prepare a schedule of items to cover during your live stream and form an intention behind it; this could mean a product launch to spike sales or a product tutorial to promote customer education. Another way to prepare for a live sale is to have your inventory and payment processing solution accounted for and ready. When it comes time to start streaming, your team will need to know who should answer live audience questions and what to say—so be sure to prepare accordingly.

6. What is the biggest social commerce site?

Instagram has become the market's biggest and most beloved social commerce platform. Users scroll through their feeds daily for hours, making live selling events feel like a natural extension of their experience. Brands can expect heightened engagement and better turnout at their Instagram Live events than if they were to host them on their platforms.

7. What is social shopping also known as?

Social shopping is also known as live commerce or Livestream shopping. All three terms describe a real-time interactive, virtual buying and selling experience over live video.

Live Stream Shopping: Fleeting Trend or Future Standard?

Given the impressive upward scale of the live commerce industry in both Chinese and American markets, this trend is looking more like the future standard of retail. But, a traditional retailer shouldn’t see it as a threat—it is meant to complement, not replace, brick-and-mortar shopping experiences.

As existing live shopping platforms continue to tweak and improve their UX, brands can learn right alongside them how to better serve their customers with live product promotion and education. But, if your business is ready to take the plunge and develop a proprietary live commerce app with all of the bells and interactive whistles, like live chat, make sure you choose the right video, payment, and chat API partner.