Live-stream shopping is changing the face of retail


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With every swipe, tap and toggle, digital consumers are creating new demands in customer experience, brand engagement and shopping. With increases in social media marketing and influencer strategy, coupled with the consumer desire to feel connected, many retailers are finding solutions in live-stream shopping.

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What is live-stream shopping?

Live-stream shopping is an up-and-coming trend in retail and marketing. This type of shopping leverages the connectivity, impulsivity and loyalty common to social media as well as the immediacy of live streaming. Also known as live commerce, live-stream shopping allows users to shop for items in real-time as an influencer or streamer is speaking.

Live-stream shopping is more than online shopping. Users are not just dumping items into a shopping cart—the experience is far more dynamic than that. Audience members interact with influencers, and in turn, they feel connected and inspired to shop. In this eCommerce channel, traditional marketing and advertising are secondary, and there is more focus placed on engagement and community involvement.

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Types of live commerce

Live commerce offers users an engaging interaction that goes beyond the typical virtual shopping cart. Here are three ways that companies are bringing this high-tech shopping experience to their customers.

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1. Influencer streams

The widespread use of social media offers businesses and retailers a unique opportunity to reach a vast and diverse audience. 72% of adults and 97% of teens are active on at least one social media platform, and companies are leveraging the rise of influencers and viral content to reach them.

According to the Digital Marketing Institute, 49% of consumers depend on “influencer recommendations” when shopping, and “86% of women use social media for purchasing advice.”

By supplying their content makers and influencers with live stream shopping systems like Bambuser, businesses can bolster their influencer campaigns and increase sales. During influencer streams, followers and fans can shop and add things to their carts without having to leave the stream.

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2. Live events

Many retailers are also hosting live shopping events using the same technology. Like influencer streams, live events are great for building brand awareness. However, they are especially profitable for companies that already have a significant brand presence. Big-name retailers are hosting live events to launch new products, lines, and partnerships.

Companies and brands like Adidas, Samsung, Nordstrom and Tommy Hilfiger use these events to maintain brand authority and engage with 21st-century consumers. For example, Nordstrom has hosted over 50 virtual shopping events since 2020, and they plan on keeping the live commerce train moving.

When asked about the movement toward live shopping events, a Nordstrom spokesperson told YouNow, “How the customer shops from discovery through to delivery has evolved to become increasingly digital. And the pandemic has only further accelerated these changes in behavior as customers are increasingly connected and mobile. Nordstrom Live Stream allows us to meet the ever-changing needs and expectations of our customers and to equip our team with more tools to deliver on our commitment to serve our customers wherever, whenever, and however they want to shop.”

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3. Live auctions

Online auctions are perfect venues for live-stream shopping. In live-stream auctions, the fast-paced auctioneer style remains intact, and so does the user experience. The change is in the delivery; instead of traveling, people can participate from the comfort of their own homes. According to IBISWorld, the market for streaming auctions has grown 13.3% per year from the years 2016 through 2021.

Live stream auctions provide a broader reach than traditional in-person events, and they also allow for the anonymity that collectors often look for when bidding on fine art, property, and novelty items. To preserve the exclusivity of elite auctions, a “seat” in the bidding room is often limited to a specific number of participants, and sometimes tickets are sold for the event.

Image Credit: Sotheby’s.

How live commerce is changing retail

Live-stream events, virtual auctions and influencers are reshaping how the world is shopping. The movement toward live commerce has exploded in China over the past six years, and the U.S. isn’t far behind.

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The impact of live commerce and live stream shopping in China

Since 2016, China has become a revolutionary model for online shopping. The Chinese retail giant Alibaba merged live-streaming and online shopping, creating a virtual venue for customers to engage with the brands they love while simultaneously purchasing products.

According to market research compiled by McKinsey & Company, “The value of China’s live-commerce market grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 280 percent between 2017 and 2020, to reach an estimated $171 billion in 2020.” And Chinese live commerce sales are expected to reach $423 billion by 2022, according to the research.

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Live stream shopping in the U.S. market

While some brands adopted live stream shopping early on, live commerce in the U.S. market really started to gain popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. More people were shopping online than ever before, and many shoppers were craving interaction and connection.

Live-stream shopping was the perfect solution, as it offers viewers access to new products while also affording people the opportunity to directly engage with salespeople and other consumers. More personal than traditional online shopping and chatting with bots, live streams are dynamic and engaging. Plus, they allow consumers to shop without leaving the page or missing a beat on their live stream.

Citing data from Coresite Research, Forbes estimates that “the U.S. live streaming market is expected to reach $11 billion by the end of 2021 and hit $25 billion by 2023.”

While this number is significantly lower than estimates for the Chinese market, live-stream shopping is only predicted to grow in popularity as time goes on. So, if you’re looking for live stream events to find your next gift, you aren’t alone.


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