Will livestream shopping take off in the U.S.?

"When our clients drink MommyGO - Happy Mommy was live 2 days ago" - Source: Amazon Live
Apr 17, 2019
Tom Ryan

Livestream shopping is seeing explosive growth in Asia, and numerous platforms have launched similar experiences in the U.S.

For those not familiar, livestream resembles home shopping services, such as on QVC, that already upload shows for online viewers. Special promotions lasting until the end of the video create a sense of urgency, similar to shopping on television.

One difference with livestream is the high level of interactivity. When watching in real time, shoppers can comment and ask questions. Another factor driving the phenomenon in Asia is the popularity of influencers hosting the events.

In Asia, live shopping shows from Alibaba and JD.com boosted Single’s Day results. Micro influencers are also increasingly using their own platforms to independently hawk brands and earn a cut. In some cases, viewings are streamed from inside stores as influencers shop at inner city shops from the U.S. Many introduce the manager or owner.

Will livestream shopping take off in the U.S.?
“Happy National Pet Day!
Manuka Honey Talk with Nature’s Gold was live 6 days ago” – Source: Amazon Live

“Livestreaming in China is basically QVC on steroids,” Liz Flora, the editor of APAC research at Gartner L2, told Digiday last year. “There’s more blurring between commerce, social media and entertainment in China, as social platforms encroach on commerce.”

Livestreaming’s strong appeal in China has been set off by a thirst for Western brands and comfort with purchasing luxury brands from third-party sellers.

In the U.S., Wayfair last week introduced its first livestreaming event to support its 36-hour “Way Day” sales event. In February, Amazon launched Amazon Live, which features Amazon employees broadcasting from a studio or streams paid for by brands that run across the Amazon website or app.

“Livestreaming has helped increase daily visits to our product detail page by 5x and significantly grew our sales,” stated card game manufacturer Watch Ya’Mouth on Amazon Live brand information page.

Livestreaming may be led by ShopShops, Streamlist, Shoclef, Livby and others that have recently rolled out platforms in the U.S. to help retailers, brands and influencers tap livestream shopping.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Could livestream shopping generate strong appeal with U.S. consumers? How big a factor will influencers be? Should retailers and brands use established platforms or come up with their own?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Livestreaming is the new Tupperware party."
"Using influencers to drive viewership makes sense and should appeal to that younger demographic."
"While I’m not in love with the idea of incentivizing influencers to infiltrate our feeds with #sponsoredads, at least we’re getting their raw take on the product..."

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16 Comments on "Will livestream shopping take off in the U.S.?"

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Evan Snively

Livestream shopping can and will find its place with U.S. consumers. Influencers will no doubt be huge and for brands utilizing them this will be a positive as there will be a really clean way to measure the success of ones reach beyond likes.

I know Facebook is working on their “shopping mode” so the real question is – when will RetailWire start making logoed merch it can start slinging during BrainTrust Live sessions!!

Oliver Guy

Given the prominence of TV shopping and the rise of Instagram-based shopping (and other social based commerce) I see no reason why this should not be very popular – especially among Generation Z.

Using existing platforms makes a lot of sense to me as they have the audience and technology – although paying to get attention may cost quite a bit.

David Weinand

As long as a strategy similar to China’s is followed (e.g. incorporating other services and experiences into the journey to buy), I see this as a very viable channel for the younger U.S. consumers. Although it seems that the influencer wave has waned just a bit, this could be a source of resurgence for that group.

Art Suriano

I see livestream shopping as a novel idea, but I don’t see it becoming the next big thing. First, we don’t have the attention span in this country to be watching anything too long other than Netflix. Our society has become inundated with so many ways to find the items we want and how to buy them, and I see the average livestream participant losing interest quickly. Our culture prefers instant gratification so I see livestream shopping being more of a short-term fad that will catch on for some but not enough of an audience to make a huge impact.

Gabriela Baiter

Good point Art. With Instagram and Facebook increasing their social shopping capabilities, I can only see this continue to grow. While I’m not in love with the idea of incentivizing influencers to infiltrate our feeds with #sponsoredads, at least we’re getting their raw take on the product vs. a hyper edited photo that went through multiple rounds of approvals with the brand.

Ron Margulis

It seems like the shopping behaviors of Eastern and Western cultures have diverged significantly during the past few years. Asian consumers are more drawn, and I’m writing in generalities here, to the frenetic pace of livestream shopping and the American and European consumer prefers peer-driven social media shopping. Neither is better than the other, just more appealing given their respective social norms and need states. The dynamics could certainly change, but retailers and brands need to be careful with their investments in the space or they might find themselves on the wrong side of the customer.

Ben Ball

The appeal of livestream shopping may rest more with the individual micro-influencers than with the Wayfairs. My niece began livestreaming jewelry a few months ago and is doing pretty well with it. She got involved through what is essentially online MLM. Livestreaming is the new Tupperware party.

James Tenser

Great observation, Ben. Makes me wonder whether livestreaming techniques will be adopted by direct selling organizations (DSOs) like Tupperware, Avon, Amway, Herbalife, etc., as an alternative to in-person sales calls.
Of course, the products still need to find their way to the customers. Third-party delivery is efficient, but it bypasses the interpersonal contact made possible when sellers hand-deliver merchandise.

Lee Kent

Yes, I am sure live streaming will find its niche but I’m not seeing it as a big mainstream thing in this country. Fun for a while until it becomes too sales-y, which it is sure to become, and you know how much we hate having stuff pushed on us. And that’s my 2 cents.

Ricardo Belmar

Livestreaming should find its place as yet another shopping channel for a set of customers, especially younger, digital-native customers that might not gravitate to QVC-like shopping TV channels as too “old fashioned.” Using influencers to drive viewership makes sense and should appeal to that younger demographic.

Cynthia Holcomb

In the U.S. there is possibly a new generation of QVC-like shoppers in training. Facebook-like interactions between teens circa 2010. Teens and fashionistas with time to jump into spur-of-the-moment livestreams give traction to live influencer shopping. Be the one in the know of the latest and greatest. With all that being said, livestream shopping does flip the human interaction shopping paradigm. There is “something” at the core of shopping live using a mobile device, the “something” a gateway to new ways of thinking of how to virtually interact with product and design.

Cate Trotter
I can certainly see a future for livestreaming. While QVC seems old fashioned, younger generations are avid social media users and with Snapchat/Instagram Stories/Facebook Live/Twitch and more all taking off it seems we’re still quite taken with watching videos/content – just not necessarily on TV (especially given how many of us second screen when watching the box now!) Factor in that we’re now shopping through social media and livestreaming seems like a natural progression. There’s so many opportunities for brands around this – for example I love the idea of a company using livestreaming to give customers a sneak peek of new stock after hours as it arrives in stores. I think this would be a great way to build hype and anticipation by letting customers get a better idea of what a product looks like or how it works. They can also ask questions before they buy. Customers love feeling like they’re part of a special club or they know something everyone else doesn’t – by letting them see new products ahead of time… Read more »
Randall Tinfow
1 year 5 months ago

There are some tricks to making this work. It’s necessary to create events that promise special excitement and opportunity. “You’ll never have another chance like this!” Similar to tactics used in direct response TV commercials and shopping networks. We’re experimenting in local markets, partnering with charities, working out the kinks.

Ralph Jacobson

This is already getting a foothold in the U.S. Although I believe it’s only a matter of time until livestreaming will become as ubiquitous as TV Shopping, I’m not certain that this will have long-term (more than five years) viability. It’s tough to keep the excitement going with today’s fickle shoppers.

Georganne Bender

Live streaming sounds a lot like watching QVC with your friends or attending a LuLaRoe party on Facebook. It will be fun for people who would rather look at their phones than attend a live party, and lucrative for retailers, especially when influencers are involved.

Sterling Hawkins

I’m already seeing pockets of livestream sales from influencers in the US. And it’s definitely growing. Only the biggest and/or most focused retailers will have opportunity to build their own platforms. Others will have to take advantage of the existing platforms and associated costs. It’s just like any of these other new channels and new technologies — even if it’s a bit early, it pays to test, trial and learn. Keeping one foot in current operations and the other in what’s newly possible keeps any organization viable over the long term.

"Livestreaming is the new Tupperware party."
"Using influencers to drive viewership makes sense and should appeal to that younger demographic."
"While I’m not in love with the idea of incentivizing influencers to infiltrate our feeds with #sponsoredads, at least we’re getting their raw take on the product..."

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