In recent years — and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic — livestreaming and e-commerce have been on the rise. It then comes as no surprise that a combination of both would be successful. Enter: livestream e-commerce.
Livestream e-commerce, or live-shopping, often involves a host conducting product demonstrations and sales pitches on a livestream, but with added content. It’s like TV shopping, with the goal not just to sell, but also to entertain and interact with the audience.
But livestream e-commerce is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it’s been thriving in China for the past few years.
It all began in 2014, when online fashion platform Mogujie, and subsequently e-commerce juggernaut Taobao, began to experiment with a hybrid of livestreaming and e-commerce.
Fast forward to 2020, and livestream e-commerce is estimated to generate $60 billion every year.
The COVID-19 pandemic only further accelerated its growth. Suddenly, people were stuck at home, craving interaction and retail therapy — and so they turned to e-commerce livestreams.
During pre-COVID days, these livestreams were hosted mostly by professional salespeople, but during the pandemic the range of hosts expanded.
Suddenly online influencers and even regular employees of various brands began to host these livestreams, and these hosts were dubbed as Key Opinion Leaders (KOL).
The influence of these KOLs should not be underestimated. Viya, China’s Livestreaming Queen, earned an estimated 30 million yuan in 2018. And her craziest sale? A rocket launch into space that went for 40 million yuan.
Brands are also starting to catch on and open up their own e-commerce livestreams. In fact, 90% of the biggest brands on Taobao Mall run their own livestreams, and these are often hosted by their own employees.
Growth of such magnitude doesn’t go unnoticed, so it’s no surprise that the rest of the world is catching on. Amazon and Shopee launched their own livestreaming services in 2019, and recently both Facebook and Instagram launched additional e-commerce features as well.
So what is it about livestream e-commerce that has lead to such a meteoric rise in popularity?
Live-shopping makes real-time interaction between the host and the viewers possible. Not only can hosts answer questions in real time, but the interactivity also gives e-commerce a “human touch”.
In fact, many KOLs on these Chinese shopping sites address customers by terms of endearment to truly make viewers feel they have a connection.
Additionally, the unscripted and unplanned nature of livestream e-commerce also contributes to its authenticity. This authenticity is what makes viewers trust the host and the products they sell.
This, along with the interactivity of live-shopping, is what creates a loyal customer base and a brand community that keeps coming back for more.
“People are drawn to livestream e-commerce for education and entertainment,” said Steven Pang, Head of Sales at Bundleluxe, a Singaporean-based luxury living marketplace that has been dabbling in the local livestream e-commerce scene.
To make livestreams entertaining, hosts have to be comedic and engaging. Sometimes, having multiple hosts can make for interesting and funny interactions between them.
According to Steven, viewers can learn new things from the livestreams as well — everything from high-grade coffee beans to how to pick out fresh fish.
Aside from being entertaining, livestreamers often come up with ways to make viewers feel the need to tune in on every stream. And what better way to do that than to tempt them with discounts?
Hosts will intermittently conduct giveaways and limited-time offers to draw on viewers’ fear of missing out (FOMO). In fact, tapping on FOMO is what prompts people to take action, and this principle should be grounded in all content forms, not just for livestreaming e-commerce.
Many customers flock to these livestreams in hopes on cashing in on giveaway prizes or discounts that are exclusive to a particular livestream.
Finally, livestream e-commerce grants a certain kind of control to the viewer. People often dread having to deal with pushy salespeople while shopping in person, but with livestream e-commerce, you have the power to click away at any time.
Livestream e-commerce can also make online shopping easier. Viewers will be able to see the products being tried on or demonstrated live and have their questions answered in real-time.
Several livestream e-commerce platforms have features that make it easier for viewers to purchase products. Singaporean livestreaming platform BeLive, for example, allows livestream viewers to purchase items and redeem discounts without leaving the app at all.
Livestream e-commerce can be used to boost your brand in a variety of ways — from promoting a new product line to helping your business stay afloat during difficult times. Here are some examples of brands that have made livestream e-commerce work.
Want to promote a new product launch? Consider hosting an e-commerce livestream to tell the world all about it.
Renowned cosmetics brand Maybelline did just that for their lipstick launch in China in 2016, with help from e-commerce juggernaut Taobao’s livestreaming site Taobao Live.
With features that make it possible for viewers to purchase an item directly from the livestream, Taobao Live greatly enhanced the user experience.
Additionally, any user searching for Maybelline on Taobao during the campaign was automatically shown a pop-up of the livestream, increasing the visibility of the event.
Maybelline also drew on the appeal of influencers to promote their product. They announced their new spokesperson, model and actress Angelababy, and invited 50 key influencers over the course of their campaign.
The result? Over 10,000 lipsticks were sold within 2 hours.
This four-year-old, Guangzhou-based beauty brand harnessed the power of content marketing to rise to the top and stand alongside global cosmetic powerhouses like L’Oreal and LVMH.
Among their numerous other content marketing strategies, Perfect Diary drew on the popularity of “Lipstick King” Li Jiaqi, a famous KOL and top beauty influencer in China. Li would often give Perfect Diary products stellar reviews on his livestreams, driving up sales for the beauty brand.
But the brand would go beyond just being featured on Li’s livestreams. In 2020, they launched an eyeshadow palette — part of an animal-inspired line — in collaboration with Li’s pet dog Never. The palette went on pre-sale on one of Li’s streams, and 160,000 sets were sold out in 10 seconds.
While Perfect Diary’s rise in the cosmetics world can be attributed to a multitude of factors — social media marketing, Gen Z’s willingness to support a home-grown brand — their clever use of livestream e-commerce certainly contributed.
Moving away from the Chinese market, many small businesses in the United States are drawing on the growing popularity of livestream e-commerce as well. Pink Coconut, a boutique from Mississippi, is one of them.
Using software from CommentSold that allows viewers to purchase directly from the shop’s social media, Pink Coconut generates 90% of their revenue through livestream e-commerce on Facebook.
Unlike the previous two examples, Pink Coconut does not rely on influencer power to sell their products. Instead, the owner, Sheri Hensley, hosts the show with her two young employees. Together, they model their clothing and answer questions from the live chat.
More importantly, Pink Coconut’s ability to adapt to newer trends has allowed them to enjoy a 20% month over month revenue increase during the COVID-19 pandemic, where brick-and-mortar businesses would otherwise suffer.
You can’t get started on livestream e-commerce without getting your basics down. Why not take a look at our blog on livestream best practices, as well as our tips for getting the right equipment?
Facebook, Instagram, Shopee, Taobao — it can be difficult to choose a platform for you to start your livestream e-commerce journey on. But you should do your homework to choose the best platform for you.
You can begin by identifying your target audience and choosing the platform with a matching demographic. For example, Instagram attracts the largest amount of viewers from the 18-24 age range, and more women than men frequent the site.
The features of the platform should also be taken into account. Does the platform allow you to directly link your store to the livestream? Does it optimise the user experience? These are all important questions to ask when choosing your livestream platform.
To make your brand and your e-commerce livestreams memorable, find and establish an identity that your viewers can remember you by. Whether it’s having a charismatic, loveable host, or featuring your adorable pet as a mascot, having an identity will give your viewers a reason to keep coming back for more.
Famous Singaporean getai singer Wang Lei has made his name in the local livestream e-commerce scene with his coarse, humorous demeanour and propensity for expletives, turning him into a beloved figure among local viewers.
He’s an example of how a unique and funny personality can draw in viewers and create a fanbase. It also helps that his sense of humour is suited to the local context.
Steven Pang also emphasises the importance of being flexible. “At Bundleluxe, we have a certain image and voice that we like, but if guests like Wang Lei bring in the views, then we need to adapt to what our viewers want,” he said.
If you have the budget, draw crowds to your livestream with the power of influencers.
You may not be able to work with stars such as Angelababy like Maybelline did, but working with local influencers can bring their fanbase to yours. Working with influencers doesn’t mean that you have to hire them to host your livestreams, either.
Simply partnering up with them for a collaboration, or inviting them as a guest host is sufficient to bring attention to your brand and your livestream. Singaporean womenswear brand The Editor’s Market occasionally partners with local fashion influencer Ellie (@ell4d on Instagram) as a guest host on their weekly Facebook Live.
Viewers aren’t just watching to be sold products, they’re also want to be entertained. Keep your livestream fun by organising games and segments for different activities.
This is also where inviting influencers can come in handy. Having a guest or even multiple guests can bring in a whole new dynamic that many viewers may appreciate and find entertaining to watch.
You can also keep your viewers on the edge of their seats by hosting impromptu giveaways and lucky draws. Viewers will be more keen on staying through the show in hopes of cashing in on those sweet deals.
One of the appeals of livestream e-commerce is its authenticity. While you should make sure that your livestream is well-produced with good lighting and sound, being too over-produced can backfire.
It’s also important to be careful with your words. The trust that your viewers have in you or your brand can be easily broken by faulty products or false advertising. Make sure to be genuine and truthful so that you can build a loyal community.
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Click2View is Southeast Asia’s premiere full-service independent B2B content marketing agency servicing clients like Microsoft, Google, Visa, Prudential, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.