Live streaming shopping: the future of e-commerce?

Influencers or company employees promote products in an online stream and respond to customer questions about the product. There is software available which allows viewers to buy the product while remaining on the stream. Live streaming shopping is gaining popularity in the US, but it is nowhere near as popular as it is in China.

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What is live streaming shopping?

Live streaming shopping is a virtual sales event where products are presented and explained live to viewers. Hosts of this event can be employees or influencers. Influencers are proven to be extremely effective in online marketing. Studies show that influencers’ recommendations who fit the product and are credible in their review can be more effective in selling products than other online recommendations.

It may sound a little like teleshopping 2.0, but it has considerable advantages compared to the 1980s sales tactic. The main reason being that it uses both technology and celebrities from social media channels. Secondly, the experience is not one-sided, discussion between host and viewer is taking place as the host of the live event is there to respond in real time to individual questions from the viewers. Live stream shopping generally appeals to a much broader and, above all, younger target group.

The term “live shopping” is often used as a synonym. Live shopping sometimes refers to a short-term special offer, especially for electronics items which is a trend mainly in the USA.

Emergence of Live streaming shopping in China

Live streaming shopping gained popularity initially in China in 2016 when the e-commerce giant Alibaba introduced live stream functions on the shopping portals Taobao and Tmall. From 2019 to 2020, they doubled sales figures reaching a staggering $157.5 billion in revenue thanks to the new tactic. By 2025, they expect at least 415 million people in China to buy something through live streaming shopping events each year. Live stream e-commerce has seen some incredible successes, most notably from L’Oréal salesman Li Jiaqi, who sold 15,000 lipsticks in five minutes on Singles Day (the Chinese equivalent of Black Friday).

Live stream shopping is firmly positioned as an integral part of e-commerce in China. However, it has also been gaining momentum in the USA since the pandemic and is beginning to slowly emerge in Europe due to the availability of technology.

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What can live streaming shopping software do?

China has always done things a little differently when it comes to social media apps and shopping software, which means there is already a huge range of software available to brands and retailers in the field of live streaming shopping. Live stream shopping software sets itself apart from classic streaming offers with the option to live stream and interact with viewers, but more importantly the function to complete the entire purchase, including the payment process without leaving the stream. China’s version of TikTok, Douyin, brings all of these features together.

Live streaming shopping through social media apps

Social media platforms in the U.S. and Europe are generally slower to catch up. TikTok, which belongs to a Chinese operator, has offered a live streaming shopping function since August 2020. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have live stream shopping options through their streaming function, but with an integrated store. This is not an ideal solution as a customer must leave the stream to buy the product. Although it does seem that these platforms are moving in the right direction.

Utilizing social media apps for this purpose is more advantageous as the target group spends a lot of time online already. These kinds of events are usually held by so-called key opinion leaders, i.e. influencers who fit the brand and product.

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Live streaming shopping: Software for your store

An alternative to social media may be the integration of live stream shopping directly into the store. In this case, these events would be visited primarily by shoppers who already know the brand or the store. Shopify is an online shopping platform whichalready has various plugins available for this purpose. The Lisa app also enables this form of integration.

There are other independent live shopping platforms which allow anyone to hold their own event. There are several US-based options, such as Popshop Live, The Lobby, and Shoploop. Many of these options are geared towards a specific target group or type of product and offer a corresponding service for each specific event.

Amazon, one of the largest sales platforms in the US, has realized the potential of live streaming shopping. Amazon Live is like a teleshopping channel which shares many of the same features of live stream shopping. It is beginning to work with its in-house influencer program to stage live stream shopping events on this platform.

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Who is live streaming shopping interesting for?

With the growing number of reliable live stream e-commerce event software, live stream shopping will become an important marketing strategy for almost every brand and retailer. Social media channels and an online store are now commonplace. The additional feature of live stream shopping should be easy in this case to introduce. If you are new to e-commerce, consider making live stream shopping your e-commerce strategy from the beginning.

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Products such as clothing, jewelry, or cosmetics are very successful in live streaming shopping. When it comes to online shopping, photos and videos still leave a lot to the imagination, as shoppers don’t have the opportunity to see or feel the product before buying it. Live shopping gives shoppers the full experience in this case.

A whole new shopping experience thanks to live streaming

Live streaming shopping offers shoppers the luxury of shopping in peace and removes the stress of studying product descriptions and photos. Pandemic aside, many actually prefer the convenience of shopping from the sofa.

Finding a suitable influencer or brand can be the equivalent to going shopping with a friend. Chinese studies show that live streaming shopping leads to significantly more impulse purchases than traditional e-commerce.