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5 reasons every brand should be testing livestream commerce

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February 1, 2024 | 7 min read

Engaging, authentic, and a great way to drive performance at all levels of the funnel, livestream commerce is growing fast. Zach Weinberg, VP, growth solutions at Kinesso, gives five reasons all brands should be earmarking a portion of their budget so they can test out livestream shopping this year.

Livestream commerce isn’t yet business as usual, but with revenues expected to exceed $31bn this year, there’s every chance it soon will be.

It’s true livestream commerce in the US might not have quite the growth trajectory of countries like China, where over three-quarters of online shoppers have already bought from a livestream and the market is at least ten times bigger.

But livestream commerce is growing quickly, which means the test-and-learn opportunity is now very ripe. And no brand should be ignoring it.

What is livestream shopping?

Livestream commerce is also known as livestream shopping or simply ‘live shopping’. It’s a combination of live streaming and online shopping that allows people to watch product demos and content in real time while simultaneously purchasing products.

Think of it like QVC modernized for online audiences. It’s led by a host, showcases products, and has that ‘buy now’ urgency. But it also has real-time purchase capabilities, can be accessed from a variety of platforms and devices, and allows two-way interaction with the host.

Fashion and beauty brands are leading the charge on shoppable livestreams, but other sectors like electronics and homewares are a fast follow. Walmart already has a whole program of live shopping events and, of course, Amazon Live shoppable videos are a market staple, especially around Prime Day.

Livestream commerce shares key benefits with other shoppable content – namely that the path to purchase is shortened and conversion rates are high. But what are the other reasons all brands should earmark a portion of this year’s budget to test out livestream shopping?

1. It drives engagement through exclusivity

Product drops or new releases do particularly well when they’re first launched through a live shopping event and – for a specific period – are only available to its viewers. This approach helps to build hype around the products and to encourage people to engage with the livestream for exclusive access.

This exclusivity can be extended to promotions and special offers too. Perhaps your brand is offering 20% off site-wide for a particular event, but livestream shoppers get 25 or even 30%.

Building anticipation is vital to make these types of live shopping events work. Using social channels to publicize the event and having a countdown timer on your website homepage are ways to increase viewer numbers and set expectations around when the livestream will take place.

2. It moves metrics throughout the funnel

While exclusive products and discounts are great ways to drive bottom of the funnel metrics such as conversions, they’re not the only content types that work for livestream commerce. If you have a weekly or biweekly cadence (which is ideal) you’ll want to mix up the content – meaning plenty of opportunity to impact upper funnel KPIs such as brand awareness and affinity.

Using internal experts to host livestream events is a smart play. A fashion brand, for instance, could use its designers to talk through the process of creating a particular item or collection, and the inspiration behind it. You could also work with external influencers or creators – especially if they’re already collaborating with your brand – and use them to host regular events. This has the added benefit of leveraging the creator’s audience to increase your brand awareness and recognition. .

Running these types of shoppable livestreams once or twice a month signals your brand delivers value beyond the basic product offering, increases brand awareness and affinity, and still provides the opportunity to purchase for those that are ready to shop.

3. It generates valuable, authentic content

Bill Gates’ ‘Content is King’ may have become a cliché, but it’s more relevant now than ever. With so many brands competing for audience attention (and ultimately share of wallet), quality content that positively showcases the brand and its products can make all the difference.

And livestreams generate hours of content.

The video from every 20-30 minute livestream can be cut down into six-second bumper ads or 15 second pre-rolls. It can be used to create social posts, or longer form video content for your YouTube channel. Crucially, this type of content is human and authentic, which will naturally create higher levels of engagement with your brand.

4. It provides insights about your customers

In addition to driving engagement and conversions, livestream commerce gives you valuable insight into your potential brand evangelists. It’s likely that individuals who interact with and buy from your livestream already have some sort of relationship with, or affinity for, your brand.

By connecting data points and understanding not just what they did and bought ‘in-the-moment’, but also their earlier interaction history, you can start to build a picture of your best customers and potential brand advocates. These types of insights can be really valuable to help you understand which audiences to reach as you grow your brand.

5. It helps you break into the social zone

On social platforms there’s an ongoing conversation taking place between individuals and content creators, from which brands and retailers are often excluded. When people have a particular issue or interest, social media often provides everything they need.

Brands need a way to break into that social zone, and shoppable livestreams give them a credible reason to be there – a right to enter that conversation. Livestream commerce enables them to use creators (internal or external) as marketing channels and to use social platforms as virtual shops.

Testing out livestream shopping

We’re not suggesting brands should put all their eggs in the livestream shopping basket – rather that now is the perfect time to thoroughly test the channel and see what works.

Many brands make the mistake of just doing a one-off live shopping event, or running a couple of random events without any real purpose. But you’ll never get the insights you need to see if it’s a valuable channel for your brand that way.

A livestream commerce test should include multiple events, throughout at least one quarter, with a weekly or biweekly cadence. There should be a content plan with clear goals around traffic, engagement, or revenue, and learnings from each livestream should be used to improve the next. How can it provide more entertainment value? What topics and products are viewers engaging with?

Ideally a brand will host the shoppable livestreams on their own website, and then push them out to social platforms. Providers like Firework, Bambuser, Livescale, and Buywith can help with the technology behind that, as well as with making the purchase process as smooth as possible.

It remains to be seen whether livestream commerce in the US will ultimately become a mainstay of marketing strategies. But, while it’s at its nascent stage, now’s the perfect time to test it out.

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