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What is Online Live Shopping?

Simon Coulthard April 18, 2022

2 Minute Read

Live shopping - or live stream shopping - is a virtual shopping experience for internet consumers.

Sitting at the intersection between video livestreaming, e-commerce, and social media, live shopping provides companies with a place to advertise their products and services, which consumers can then buy in real-time - a characteristic that acts to overcome the shortcomings of traditional online shopping.

It is, for all intents and purposes, the next evolution of the concept that has long underpinned infomercials and the Home Shopping Network, but developed for the modern social media age. 

Live shopping provides consumers with a digital bricks and mortar experience that makes them feel that they are looking into the real world, rather than sitting behind a screen. 

Consumers can also learn more about the product by reading and leaving comments, while sellers can incorporate reviews and recommendations in the video.

China Leading the Way

Live shopping has been big business in China since Alibaba’s Taobao Live in May 2016. The retail giant linked the event with its online store, enabling people to watch and shop at the same time.

Alibaba has repeated this event every year since and, by 2020, it was generating them a staggering $7.5 billion within the first 30 minutes of going live.

China’s live shopping market is now four times larger than it was in 2019 (Forbes) and it is widely accepted that, if something becomes that popular in China, it is only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on.

This has proved true with live shopping, particularly since the pandemic spurred a rush to digital, with eCommerce sales growing by 25% during this time (Statista).

Following China’s lead, many companies in the West are establishing similar events of their own. These include L’Oreal, Walmart, and Tommy Hilfiger, who have all had success with live shopping in recent years.

What are the Benefits for Marketers?

Live shopping should be seen primarily as a sales channel, but it does also bring a range of advantages for marketers:

  • Access to new audiences - live shopping enables companies to leverage the consumer bases that follow these events, as well as the followers of whichever influencer is hosting
  • Increased website traffic - live shopping is proven to increase the number of people who visit your website
  • Versatile content medium - live streaming provides marketers with the opportunity to include anything from interviews and Q&As, to product demos and tutorials
  • Higher engagement - live shopping is a great way to capture the attention of internet users; it creates a community of consumers who watch the event at the same time, and the integration of chat boxes means that hosts and viewers can interact with each other in real time
  • Humanize your brand - live streams are generally an informal affair, and the interaction with a real human being is great for building trust with consumers
  • Better brand appeal - by using live streaming to associate your company with unique, engaging content, you will stand out from the crowd; it is also a great way to attract younger consumers
  • Shorter customer journeys - live streaming is immersive and entertaining,   and grabs people’s attention for longer; it inspires impulse buying, which can be boosted by limited time offers, meaning that marketers do not have to spend as much time on the decision making part of the consumer journey
  • Fewer product returns - live streaming is proven to reduce the proportion of people who want a refund after purchase
  • Attractive pricing - live streaming is cheaper than traditional ads, and has a higher ROI

How to Integrate Live Shopping into Your Marketing Strategy

Put simply, live streaming is the natural next step in video content evolution, which has long been a key element of any successful digital marketing strategy.

In order to set up a live shopping event, you’ll need:

  • Something to sell
  • A presenter of some kind
  • A host platform for the session
  • An audience

Think About Your Product

It can be tricky to work out which of your products fit best with the medium of live shopping.

Given this, it’s important to work out whether you’re looking for customer feedback on something, increasing the sales of an underperforming item, or simply selling more of what’s popular.

Choose the Right Mouthpiece

The prevalence of influencer marketing means that consumers are now used to being addressed directly through their screens.

That said, selecting the right presenter will largely dictate the success of a live streaming event, and you have a few options here.

One of these is to have the event hosted by yourself or a member of your marketing team, and this option is particularly useful if you feel that the livestream would benefit from someone with good technical knowledge.

Another option is to employ an influencer; these people are particularly useful since they come with a large audience that will be more likely to buy something that they champion.

Choose Your Platform

Companies can build live shopping into their marketing strategies in one of two ways.

The first option involves integrating a livestream platform into your website, and this gives you more control over the event.

The second option is using a third-party platform; this is the easier option initially, but this decentralization becomes less appealing over time.

The Future is Live

Live shopping brings with it the magic human connection and personal touch that has long been missing from traditional eCommerce.

When done properly, live shopping returns unprecedented levels of engagement. It can enable any company to engage better with their audience, and has strikingly high conversion rates and sales.

And, despite initial skepticism, it is going from strength to strength and is now seen as the future of online shopping, with experts believing that live shopping could easily account for 20% of all digital sales by 2026 (McKinsey).

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