It seems like there’s always something new in the world of e-commerce, and the latest trend to hit is live shopping. It’s like QVC for the digital age, blending elements of traditional TV shopping with the convenience and interactivity of online retail. But is this just another passing trend, or does live shopping have the potential to truly transform the e-commerce landscape?

Live shopping is essentially a real-time online sales event where hosts showcase products, perform demos, answer questions, and interact with viewers who can purchase the featured items instantly. It’s a dynamic, engaging experience that adds a personal touch to online shopping – something that’s often missing in the standard e-commerce model.

The challenges of traditional ecommerce

While online shopping offers unparalleled convenience and variety, these advantages can sometimes backfire for retailers. The vast array of products available online can create a paradox of choice, leaving shoppers overwhelmed and indecisive. All too often, they opt out of making a purchase entirely or gravitate towards cheaper competitors.

Moreover, e-commerce stores have traditionally struggled to replicate the in-store shopping experience. Many resort to showcasing their products against uninspiring white backgrounds. While this approach might offer clarity, it falls short of marketing the product as part of a lifestyle, an aspect that resonates deeply with today’s consumers.

The customer journey in e-commerce is fraught with complexity. From the initial website visit to product searches on social media and review sites, the path to purchase is anything but straightforward. This convoluted process makes it challenging to track the success of marketing campaigns, often resulting in lost leads along the way.

Even when a shopper returns to the website and adds items to their cart, the sale is far from guaranteed. In fact, about 70% of Australian shoppers abandon their carts after adding items. And even when sales do go through, they’re not always final. Over 20% of consumers end up returning clothing due to poor fit, mismatched expectations, or simply a change of heart.

In the face of these hurdles, live shopping emerges as a promising solution. By blending the immediacy of in-store shopping with the convenience of e-commerce, live shopping offers a unique and engaging shopping experience.

A closer look at the Livestream Shopping phenomenon

In the USA alone, the live shopping market is projected to hit a whopping $68 billion by 2026, accounting for up to 20% of all e-commerce, according to a report by McKinsey. But what’s more impressive is the conversion rates.

Live shopping events can boast up to 30% conversion rates, a staggering tenfold increase compared to traditional e-commerce. And for some product categories like luxury goods, this rate can soar to an incredible 70%.

The appeal of live shopping isn’t limited to Gen-Z brands or niche markets. Even industry giants are jumping on the bandwagon. Case in point: Amazon’s Prime Day 2022, which featured livestream events that attracted over 100 million views.

While fashion and apparel lead the pack, accounting for around 36% of live events, other categories aren’t far behind. Beauty, fresh food, consumer electronics, and home decor also enjoy significant popularity on live streams.

Learning from the leaders

As with any new marketing strategy, it’s always insightful to learn from those who are doing it right. Here are some brands making waves in the live shopping space:

  • Tommy Hilfiger: After tasting immense success in China, the brand expanded its live shopping program to Europe and North America. One of their live shows raked in 13 million views and sold 1,300 hoodies in just 2 minutes!
  • L’Oreal: The beauty giant organises live beauty tutorials hosted by influencers in a set styled as a bedroom. The casual setting creates a friendly and cosy vibe, making shoppers feel like they’re chatting with a group of friends.
  • De’Longhi: The coffee machine brand hosts weekly live streams detailing the features of various models and even offers personalised demonstrations.
  • Lowes: This DIY retailer livestreams virtual workshops focusing on projects like lawn care, painting, and flooring, allowing customers to ask questions and add products to their cart in real time. By transferring its in-store demonstrations to an online platform, the retailer is targeting a new generation of homeowners who embrace DIY on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

Small brands are also making their mark. London-based skincare brand Pai currently makes around 10% of its revenue through live streaming, while Belden Barns winery in California doubled sales within four months through virtual wine-tasting events.

The message is clear: whether you’re a small business or a global conglomerate, live shopping offers a unique opportunity to engage with customers, boost sales, and transform your e-commerce strategy.

Creating an engaging experience

The success of live shopping hinges on its ability to replicate the in-store shopping experience online. This involves strategising an overarching concept, selecting the right host, and maintaining audience engagement throughout the session.

Remember, live shopping is a two-way street. It’s not just about showcasing products; it’s about fostering a dialogue with your audience as well. Community management technology and techniques play a pivotal role here. From quizzes and polls to live chats, interaction strategies can help keep viewers engaged and invested.

Choosing the right tech stack

Your tech stack and omnichannel marketing strategy should support your live shopping goals. This includes promotional activities, logistics, and post-event amplification to sustain momentum and drive further sales.

Most brands opt to partner with a technology provider to facilitate product feeds and social media integration. Several providers such as Livescale, Caast.TV, Elisa, and Onlive offer a variety of features aimed at a range of budgets. Industry-specific platforms like NTWRK, focusing on streetwear and sneakers, cater to niche brands with highly targeted audiences. Remember, the objective is to maximise reach by hosting the event on your website and simultaneously streaming it on your social channels.

Deciding on a format

Live shopping isn’t one-size-fits-all. The format you choose should align with your products and audience. Product launches, regular Q&As, and product demos are popular formats, but the possibilities are endless.

Selecting a host

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a celebrity or influencer to host your live shopping event. It could be your in-house retail staff, product experts, brand founder, or even a brand advocate. The key is to choose someone who can authentically represent your brand and engage with the audience.

Reaping the rewards

Live shopping offers a wealth of benefits. From collecting survey data and customer feedback to increasing average order value through cross-selling opportunities, live shopping is a goldmine of potential.

Not only does it offer an extended sales timeline through replays (up to 70% of sales happen after the event), but it also reduces product returns as customers have a clearer understanding of what they’re buying. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to build a community of engaged users and foster long-term loyalty.

It’s time to join the live shopping revolution

Live shopping might seem like a novelty, but its results speak for themselves. Brands across Asia, the US, and Europe are already using this innovative approach to great effect, but it’s yet to be leveraged by brands in Australia.

It’s a great opportunity for Australian brands to capitalise on the first-mover advantage. My advice to you is to be a pioneer, not a follower, and be one of the first to adopt this innovative new e-commerce channel.

Amaury Treguer is co-founder of Bread Agency.