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Live shopping: a fad or the future of retail?

Live shopping has been steadily gaining traction with retailers in the US and Europe, accelerated, in recent months, by the impacts of COVID-19. However, in Asia, most notably China, internet users have been buying goods in this way for quite some time

Just a few short years ago the concept of live-stream shopping felt somewhat like an anachronism, conjuring up visions of the ‘teleshopping’ trend of yesteryear, in the days before online shopping had become the consumer norm. But, in recent years, the concept has been entirely reinvented. 

The live shopping phenomenon of today, instead, sees retailers and brands using live video on apps and websites to share products, answer questions, and ultimately sell goods to the people who join them online to watch, offer feedback and make purchases. Its fundamental purpose is to monetise consumer attention during a specific sales window, with a host or expert demonstrating how to use a product during a live broadcast. 

The growth of TikTok during the pandemic engendered a rise in influencer marketing, commonly in the form of promotional live streams. But unlike the teleshopping monologues of the early 2000s, these streams aim to maximise consumer interaction with a live comments section, facilitating exchanges between the consumer and their favourite influencer. With the ever-growing prominence of influencer culture, it is predicted that this trend will continue to prosper across what is an increasingly digital consumer landscape.

How does live shopping work?

So how does this tactic apply to brands? Retailers use live video on apps and websites to share products, answer questions, and ultimately sell goods to the online community who join them to watch, offer feedback and make purchases. Our own data indicates that merchants using the live shopping approach to sales enjoy a conversion rate of 17% – which can increase to 30% during dedicated live shopping events. This is in stark contrast to the average e-commerce transaction conversion rate of just 1-2%. Whilst the trend is focused largely on the apparel, fashion and beauty sectors, there is growing interest from other sectors including consumer electronics, home décor and fresh food.

Live shopping has been steadily gaining traction with retailers in the US and Europe, accelerated, in recent months, by the impacts of COVID-19. However, in Asia, most notably China, internet users have been buying goods in this way for quite some time, through live broadcasts that link directly to product web pages. 

What are the trend’s accelerators?

The global pandemic has transformed the face of shopping behaviour forever as consumers increasingly look for accessibility, authenticity, connection and participation. Now, as the retail industry enters a key stage of its rehabilitation process, that of innovation, live-stream shopping is an effective way for brands to remain competitive. 

The increasing use of social media apps to purchase products means that creators can now quickly generate new methods of selling their products and reinvent their selling strategies. With the likes of TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Depop already progressing the trend, we may well start to see an increasing number of apps integrate social media and commerce into one platform.

Power to the consumer

One of the greatest benefits to come from the digital landscape is the empowerment of the individual. Suddenly, we all have a platform to use in order to be heard.

Online shopping can be a frustrating process and many of us will have seen comments or reviews from disgruntled customers, complaining about problems with their order. What live shopping does is remove the typical barriers that arise from online shopping. It allows the consumer to query things, feel valued and be a part of a real-time, engaging group experience. Adding this value to the shopping experience can only be of benefit to retailers as well, creating loyalty in the process.

What next for retailers?

As the retail industry’s shift away from bricks and mortar continues, the acceleration of eCommerce quickens. Consumers are investing more and more time into their consumption habits, making it only natural that demand for better-quality service is also on the rise.

Ultimately, live shopping provides options, interaction, engagement and value. With strong evidence to show that the market is growing, retailers and merchants would be well advised to stay ahead of the curve, to drive success.


Leila Van-Herbert, Sales Team lead – Speciality Retail GSV at Worldline

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