If the pandemic-induced lockdown has taught us anything–it’s that we’re a resilient, malleable, and social species hungry for innovative ways to assure life goes on even when trapped within the confines of our own homes. And, when the going gets tough, the tough still go shopping.
Enter social commerce, a phenomenon spurred by the pandemic where brands found ways to sell products directly through social media platforms, allowing at-home customers to interact with brands, immerse themselves in product reviews, browse goods, and make frictionless in-app purchases.
As U.S. e-commerce sales skyrocketed by $183 billion at the height of the pandemic, between March 2020 and February 2021 (now tracking to rack in $1 trillion in 2022), social media platforms followed suit, confidently riding the coattails of the e-tail craze. By releasing a slew of in-app purchasing capabilities, social media heavyweights raced to stake their claim in the social commerce market to acquire, retain, and convert shoppers in ways brands never imagined possible. The result? A 35.8% bump in 2021 in U.S. social commerce sales, totalling $36.6 billion.
When Shop tabs and product tags on brands’ social media profiles no longer proved to cap social commerce’s potential, live shopping was (re)born, the 22nd century’s makeover to QVC and the Home Shopping Network that captured Baby Boomers’ attention and spending dollars in the 1970s and 1980s.
Even during the earliest days of live shopping, many big brands were quick to give it a go, remaining skeptical, however, about long-term investments, cautiously optimistic that the popular fad would pass in tandem with facemasks. However, with eMarketer projecting that livestream shopping will be worth over $600 billion in 2023, brands are starting to see that the trend that’s alive and thriving may very well survive well into the future.
And, if China’s success is any indication of its potential, live commerce sales could account for as much as 20% of all e-commerce by 2026!
To better understand why live shopping is here to stay and what this means for your brand, the MuteSix team is here to weigh in on what’s happening behind the scenes while the cameras are rolling.
What is Live Shopping?
Even as more and more brick-and-mortar shops reopen their once-shuttered doors, pandemic-pampered consumers are proving that “adding to cart” still beats jumping in a car, and that the appeal of watching live product demos, asking brands questions, interacting with like-minded consumers, and admiring influencers as they interact with the goods, makes shopping all the more fun and entertaining.
Essentially the digitization of QVC and the Home Shopping Network, live shopping, which took off in China five years ago and has since exploded onto the global retail scene, allows brands to showcase their personalities in front of entertainment-seeking audiences and make shopping their products not just easy and gratifying, but immersive and engaging. And, in today’s digital-first world where we’re browsing, adding to cart, and checking out without so much as a single human interaction, being able to interact with a brand spokesperson makes all the difference for customers craving a little attention from the brands they’re shopping for.
With that, thanks to its winning mix of at-home convenience, live video streaming popularity, and influencer marketing entertainment, the “call now” callouts of the last century now replaced with “buy now” buttons are being tapped more and more across the globe.
If you’re wondering if your brand should go live, here’s where we stand. Should your brand fall in the beauty or apparel categories, the answer is uncategorically yes, as shoppers more readily make purchases for harder-to-shop personal items they can’t test-drive at home, relying heavily on social proof and product demonstrations to educate and reassure them enough to pull the trigger.
However, all shopping verticals are going live, with home products captivating 41.2% of consumers, followed by electronics (37.5%). What’s more, while bigger-name brands are the first to experiment with live commerce, small- to mid-sized retailers are also reaping the benefits, as the customer decision journey is made more and more seamless from awareness to purchase.
How to Set Up Shop & Get Up and Selling
When getting started with live shopping, brands have a lot to consider–from the products with the highest-potential to sell, how they want to make their shopping experience entertaining for viewers, and most importantly, which personality they want to host their live stream and where it should take place.
Choosing the Right Host
One of the biggest perks of live shopping events is putting a face to your brand and letting a host entertain potential shoppers. While your products are no-doubt the stars of the show, the personality hosting the experience will make all the difference in keeping viewers tuned in and even inspiring them to make a purchase. While brands don’t necessarily need a mega influencer to steal the show, popular personalities are generally preferred over brand employees, as “influencing” purchase decisions is what they do best.
When selecting the right host, Cynthia Hurtado, Head of Influencer Marketing at MuteSix, recommends that brands “make sure that the influencer they select is not only an authority figure in their space, but also has the capability to entertain the audience as they shop.”
In close second to entertainment is authority according to Hurtado, who notes, “No matter how captivating or stylish they may be, a wellness influencer probably won’t be a good fit for selling car parts. So, when sourcing influencers for a live shopping event, you want to ensure that the influencer has enough pull in their space so they can comfortably answer questions and demonstrate the products.”
Choosing the Right Platform
Dedicated live shopping platforms like ShopShops, NTWRK, and PopshopLive paved the way for live shopping as we know it today. These platforms, which continue to gain traction year after year, while spurring the creation of new ones the world over, have built-in audiences sold on live shopping in general, not a singular brand. While a smart option for lesser-known-brands looking to gain new customers among a live-shopping-addicted audience, these third-party apps limit the amount of control the featured brand has–from personalizing the shopping experience to collecting the data acquired from it.
For more hands-on brands looking to customize the shopping experience, another popular option, though pricier and harder to activate for smaller brands, includes hosting your own live shopping event on your website, which has been done successfully by the likes of Nordstrom and Charlotte Tilbury. Naturally, hosting your own live shopping event allows for more creative freedom when producing your live shopping experience, plus has the added benefit of repurposing your content down the line should your brand want to re-air it on social media channels. This could definitely pay off, as an estimated 70% of sales happen after an event, on replay.
At MuteSix, we’re placing our bets on the third option: tapping into the live streaming capabilities on Paid Media platforms. Why? Because they’re easy to implement thanks to platform advances, engaged social media audiences are starting to expect to find them there, and they integrate seamlessly into your overall Paid Social strategy.
Why We’re Sold on Live Shopping on Social Media
Live shopping is booming across social media almost as quickly as the channels themselves. The question is no longer if your favorite platform has the capabilities to host live streaming events, but which would be best for your brand. The answer depends on where your audience is most engaged and accustomed to shopping for your brand. And, since there’s no clear winner in the livestreaming space, it’s best that brands experiment across multiple platforms to see which performs best.
In 2019, e-commerce giant, Amazon, introduced “Amazon Live,” which features live-streamed shows where Amazon talents and brand influencers talk about and demonstrate products available for sale on Amazon, with a carousel beneath for shoppers to browse product details and make purchases.
Google searched high and low for their answer to the live shopping craze and ultimately created YouTube Shopping, capitalizing on the fact that 89% of YouTube viewers agreed that YouTube creators give recommendations that they can trust and want to shop on the streaming platform. On YouTube, which introduced its highly successful YouTube Holiday Stream and Shop during Black Friday / Cyber Monday, their creator-hosted shoppable live streams feature exclusive access to new products, exciting giveaways, exclusive discounts, and more.
With China spearheading the live shopping revolution, it’s no wonder that the Chinese-owned short-video-platform would leverage it, and perhaps optimize it quicker than the other platforms for its one-billion-plus audience of Gen Z shoppers predominately there to entertain and be entertained. Offering more unfiltered creative expression than Instagram and Facebook with their more staged live shopping experiences, TikTok infuses more authenticity in the livestreaming experience, much as it does with its organic and paid content. In September 2021, the entertainment-first, selling-last platform introduced TikTok Live, allowing brands on TikTok to connect with users in the community in real time and share dynamic links to products.
Walmart was the first brand to host a shoppable livestream on TikTok in the U.S. during the 2020 holidays, with creators showing off their favorite Walmart fashion finds in TikTok-verified ways like closet inside-looks, living room runway shows, and fashion dance-offs. The event proved to be such a success that the big-box retailer went on to launch their own live shopping website, Walmartshoplive.com, with some 15-plus live streams over the past year.
In late 2021, Facebook and Instagram, who were already at the forefront of social commerce with their product tagging and in-app checkouts, unlocked the power of selling via live broadcasts. Like other social media platforms, both channels understood the revenue-generating and product-discovery potential of allowing consumers to one-click shop from new and favorite brands, all while doing what they love most–enjoying fun content from their favorite creators.
Setting up shop on the platforms is relatively easy for brands with business accounts and checkout capabilities. On Instagram, for example, brands simply need to have their product catalogs ready to go before clicking “Live” and selecting the products they plan on selling during the event.
Other social platforms leveraging live shopping include Twitter, Twitch, Pinterest (Pinterest TV), and Snapchat (AR Shopping Showcases), all of which rolled out around spring 2021, at which point some of retail’s biggest names in retail, like Macy’s, Bloomingdales, and Petco, test-drove live shopping’s capabilities in innovative ways unique to each platform and brand.
The Payoff of Live Shopping
Live shopping has the potential to boost engagement and conversion rates for brands, as consumers are proving to love the entertainment factor now associated with shopping, and their purchasing decisions are made easier with the ability to ask brands and fellow shoppers questions in real-time. What’s more, as is the case with influencer marketing across digital advertising as a whole, consumers feel a sense of urgency to tune in for the chance to interact with their favorite personalities and shop the products that they endorse.
While the verdict is still out on the power of live shopping to convert the majority of the massive audiences they draw in, there’s no question that live streaming engages consumers enough to establish brand loyalty, especially amongst younger shoppers, with some companies growing their Gen Z audiences by 20%.
As live shopping continues to hone best practices to boost its revenue-generating potential (currently, analysts estimate that the most successful streams capture sales from 10% to 20% of the audience), brands are encouraged to jump on the bandwagon sooner rather than later in order to stay relevant, enhance brand recognition and engagement, and even enjoy lower return rates, which plummet as much as 50% once customers are more educated about their purchases thanks to product demos and two-way conversations.
Final Takeaway: Live Shopping Set to Survive and Thrive
While live commerce is still an emerging opportunity with many unknowns, what we do know is that it’s on track to take off in the U.S. to a great extent. That is if China is any indication, where in just five short years, two-thirds of Chinese consumers have admitted to buying products via livestream in the past year.
According to Hurtado, whose growing team of Influencer Marketing experts anticipates more and more smaller DTC brands tapping into live shopping, “There’s no doubt it’s here to stay. Live shopping allows everyday shoppers to be part of brand conversations in ways they simply cannot by shopping online or at brick-and-mortar stores.”
As the U.S. fine tunes best practices for maximizing the shopping / entertainment factor, encouraging two-way conversations between brands and shoppers, and infusing a sense of urgency to convert viewers into shoppers, we predict that the consumer appetite for frictionless and immersive shopping experiences will only continue to grow as more and more social media channels make it easier to implement and monetize them.
To learn if your brand is a good fit for live shopping, master best practices for success, partner with the right influencers, and integrate it into your Paid Media mix, reach out to the MuteSix experts today.