COVID-19 has seen shifts in shopping behaviour, that may have taken five years to happen, but have been accelerated by the pandemic and have been compressed into less than 12mths. With many of us stuck at home and most physical retail closed, people are trying new ways of discovering and purchasing products.
One of the more interesting emerging digital commerce channels is livestream shopping. Already well established in markets like China, livestream shopping is set to grow in the US and European markets.
China – the livestream shopping innovator
China is the largest and most innovative livestream shopping market, with Alibaba’s Taobao Live claiming most of the market and still growing (up 110% YoY). However, other large digital platforms in China including retailer JD.com and search engine Baidu are catching up, either through investments, partnerships, or the creation of their own channels. Leading Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) (similar to influencers/creators in the US) have built very large and lucrative audiences. For example, Becki Li who partnered with Mini to sell over 100 of their limited-edition turquoise Countryman cars priced at nearly $50,000 in under five minutes. Or Li Jiaqi who earns over $1.4m month and is the number one seller of lipsticks in China.
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China’s Double 11 (Singles Day) shopping event is a showcase for the power of livestream shopping. The shopping event, the world’s largest, saw 250,000 brands in 2020, of which 31,000 were foreign brands. According to Alibaba, sales through its Taobao Live platform doubled YoY during the 2020 event, with almost 300 million consumers watching Taobao Live livestream sessions. Alibaba expected livestreaming e-commerce to exceed $150b in 2020. Another staggering number, from JD.com, whose livestreaming sessions generated sales exceeding RMB100m ($15m) the first 6 seconds of the event starting.
The 2020 event also saw a number of Western brands livestreaming. For example, Magic Johnson hosted a live commerce stream for Uncle Bud’s hemp and BCBD products. While Cartier presented more than 400 watches and jewellery items to an audience of nearly 800,000 consumers.
The US and European livestream shopping landscape
The livestream shopping trend is set to grow in US and European markets across 2021, with some very large retailers already activating livestream shopping and all the major US social networks having created or announced upcoming livestream shopping capabilities. While still a small part of retail sales, Coresight Research forecasts that livestream shopping will generate $25bn in sales in the US by 2023.
Amazon is leading the way with its Amazon Live platform featuring live shopping streams hosted by a mix of creators (from their Amazon Influencer programme) across many different categories, from fitness, beauty and pets through to technology and cooking. Could we potentially see a modern take on QVC with Amazon Live streaming on Prime Video?
Looking to the future – will we see Twitch, the gaming streaming platform, who already sell virtual products (Twitch Bits), create tools to sell physical products directly from streams? The platform has grown significantly year on year and is one of the largest global livestreaming platforms, with average concurrent views increasing from 1.6m in 2019 to 2m in 2020. Their recent partnership with Pizza Hut might be a glimpse of what is to come, while not directly selling Pizza, the partnership showed what is possible in terms of reach and engagement. The Pizza Hut Friday Night Bites stream, hosted by Twitch streamer Jericho, featured a roundtable of guests who gamed, unboxed their favourite pizzas, provided giveaways and engaged in audience challenges. Each of the show’s first five episodes received over 1 million live viewers, for more than 5.4 million total views and more than 26 million minutes watched
A fledgling ecosystem and opportunity
The challenge in markets outside of China is the lack of fully integrated platforms, those that span social media, commerce, chat, payments etc. While Amazon is an ecommerce juggernaut, it does not yet have the influencer/creator base to bring highly engaged audiences. Instagram, on the other hand has a very large base of influencer/creators with highly engaged audiences, but the platform is still early on its journey to becoming a leading ecommerce platform.
Even though brands are still cautious about delving into the world of livestream shopping – the rate at which these platforms are developing and growing based on forecasting, still presents early adopters of fully integrated platforms with an incredible opportunity. If US and European brands successfully integrate now, the lessons learnt will pay off in the future as these platforms thrive and become the norm in ecommerce.