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Livestream shopping: a promising e-commerce function for social networks

Edward Weston Executive 17 February 2022

Social commerce is being used to great effect through media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, to help brands get discovered, maximise engagement and drive sales.

These platforms create a complete social shopping experience, enabling users to seek advice, read reviews and consult with friends to form opinions in an interactive and frictionless way. Connecting brands and influencers to paying audiences over social networks has become increasingly prevalent in recent years as social media platforms remain eager to keep users logged in, engaged and spending.

The connection between online product endorsements and streaming makes sense, with live streams providing a more immediate and personal connection between influencer and audience.

As the number of internet users increases and companies looks to develop more ways to integrate online shopping into retail, online retail is expected to grow rapidly. This presents an opportunity for social media platforms to maximise their commerce potential by advancing initiatives to capitalise on this expansion.

Instagram has built functions centred around guiding purchase habits, facilitating integrated links within posts to allow promotional content to link directly to the product/s advertised.

With the number of online purchases significantly growing thanks to the lockdown, live commerce – the latest embarkment on an e-commerce revolution – offers retailers, brands, and digital platforms a new streaming channel with enormous scope for creating value.

Twitter, in collaboration with Walmart and special guests, hosted the platform’s first shoppable livestream in late November last year embracing the trend of combining shopping with streaming. Best described as a modern twist on QVC, live commerce extends existing user behaviours, building on audiences engaging with influencers’ recommendations of products through endorsement deals and paid partnerships.

In Twitter’s case, participants were able to shop for the various recommended Walmart products directly through Twitter.

In the same month, Facebook announced the launch of a test ‘live shopping experience for creators’ feature, along with Pinterest releasing a live shopping series called Pinterest TV.

The connection between online product endorsements and streaming makes sense, with live streams providing a more immediate and personal connection between influencer and audience. Notably, US Bloomberg has reported that Gen Z consumers are increasingly shifting away from traditional e-commerce retailers towards making purchases directly through social media.

And along with driving product penetration, live commerce can also expand brands’ digital footprint, with Walmart netting a 25% increase in its TikTok follower base after piloting a livestream fashion event on the platform.

So as live commerce increasingly transforms the shopping experience, what can your brand do to stay ahead of the curve?

Know your audience

This means knowing who and what will influence them. Pre-existing user engagement with chosen platforms and opinion leaders will impact how influential your campaign can be. Understanding the most appropriate formats for your audience such as product tutorials/how-tos, interviews, and ‘behind-the-scenes’ will also take this a step further. The rule of thumb for successful live commerce is to ensure personalisation is maximised. Therefore, brands should create an engaging online experience that goes beyond just transactional.

Find your niche

With the retail experience becoming increasingly digital, brands need to remember that competition is only a click away – an important change from the days of brick-and-mortar. That heightened competition makes it incredibly important to offer a differentiated shopping experience – one that embodies the brand identity faithfully. This means finding creators to personify your brand, keeping users attached and engaged.

Live commerce is an ecosystem that can benefit the brand and the end-customer, with influencers and content creators playing a significant role in its proliferation in the retail space. However, the channel is still in its early phase, allowing brands to place a foothold as a leading disruptor in this space. As live commerce increases its reach in Western markets, industries such as healthcare, B2B, and finance are likely to move in bringing with them new customers. In time, pioneering a new approach to the everyday shopping experience.