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Retailers Race for a Slice of the $25B Livestream Shopping Pie

Livestream shopping is on the verge of re-shaping up e-commerce in the U.S. It emerged as an innovation early in the pandemic, when retailers were eager to find new ways to engage shoppers online. Today it’s popularity is growing even as physical retail reopens. Valued currently at $6 billion, the livestream shopping market is expected to grow to $25 billion in the U.S. by 2023.

On the latest episode of Retail Uncharted, we explore how retail marketers can incorporate this new technology into their marketing programs and drive more online sales. Entrepreneurship Reporter for Insider Jennifer Ortakales Dawkins has reported on livestream shopping since the beginning of the year. She speaks with Sidecar’s Ellen Harvey about the keys to launching and managing a successful livestream shopping channel.

“The most important thing about the entire concept is that you are able to purchase in-app without actually leaving the livestream. The whole point is that it makes it a very seamless experience for shoppers,” explains Jennifer.

Livestream shopping allows retail brands to create a live video shopping experience. The livestream typically features a personable host who is knowledgeable of the products and answers shopper questions live. The interactive quality of these events is incredibly appealing to shoppers, says Jennifer.

“I think that livestream shopping will become another one of those points to check off for retailers, another way to appeal to customers, and another way to make sales,” she says. “Because as long as you have a product on a screen, there’s probably a way to convert that to a sale.”

During the episode we ask Jennifer:

  • Originally popular in China, how did livestream shopping gain popularity in the U.S.? 
  • Why is now a great time for retailers to invest in this e-commerce channel?
  • What can shoppers experience with livestream shopping that they wouldn’t experience with a typical e-commerce site?
  • What are the major platforms in this space that retailers are using?

Top Sound Bites

On the appeal of livestream shopping to consumers:

Jennifer: People are looking for experts on the products that they’re shopping for. They want to be able to have an engaging conversation, ask questions. If a viewer isn’t sure about a particular product or maybe they’re debating purchasing it, they want to know that the person hosting the show is going to answer their questions.

And again that personality is really important. I think any time I walk in a store, the best thing is having a sales associate who’s friendly and engaging but doesn’t seem fake. It doesn’t feel like they’re just trying to sell you, but they’re actually just trying to have a conversation with you, and learn a little bit about your life. I think that’s a really important part of being a host. Be that expert, but also be a part of the community, understand the community. It’s almost as if they’re a friend to shoppers.

On best practices for retail marketers planning to launch livestream shopping:

Jennifer: Keep in mind everything is going to be an experiment, everything is going to be kind of testing ground until it really gets you to sales numbers and viewers that you want. I think the key right now is people are still learning. Not all U.S. consumers are even aware that livestream shopping is around, and so it’s still not quite at the level in the U.S. that it could be. I would encourage retailers to experiment with the times they go live and see how that affects viewership.

Being consistent is one of the top tips I’ve heard from sellers. When you decide to do a show, once a week, make sure you’re doing it once a week. Commit to that particular cadence because, once you do get viewers, you don’t want to fall off and then lose those viewers right away. The best way to build those viewers is to continue to be a reliable show. At this time of the week I’m going live, and my viewers know that they might tell more people.

It’s very similar to social media where you know every social media marketer will say being consistent is a top priority.

On the impact of influencer marketing on livestream shopping and visa versa:

Jennifer: There seems to be a huge overlap in that I think these are all sort of concepts that are intertwining to kind of become one in the same. Obviously, video has taken off, and I think Instagram, TikTok, all of these different platforms are so popular right now and that’s what people want to watch. At the same time, people still want to shop, and so they want to see their clothes, or their shoes, or the next cool collectible item they’re buying in a more tangible way than just a couple pictures on a flat screen.

With that I think the influencer side of it is going to actually increase a lot more for livestream shopping. There are already brands that are using influencers for their shows, which is pretty interesting. And I see it all as pretty congruent. I think a lot of brands will probably tap into influencers and part of their contract is going to be to host a livestream show, or maybe an influencer’s wanting to do her own livestream shows and get commission on sales from different brands. I think it all goes hand in hand.

I think that livestream shopping will become another one of those points to check off, another way to appeal to customers, and another way to make sales. And with that, I think influencers and creator content is going to roll into that. Because as long as you have a product on a screen, there’s probably a way to convert that to a sale.