To many, the online shopping or eCommerce experience seems to have already been perfected by the all-devouring colossus that is Amazon. You get items the next day, they’re often cheaper than anywhere else, and if you ask nicely, you can get a refund without the need to return an item.
Their business practices aside, Amazon has successfully conquered this phase of eCommerce.
However, there may yet be another step that’s currently bubbling under the surface beyond the Asia-Pacific region. Live streaming isn’t new technology, but now, improvements to devices, mobile internet, and hardware have made it very easy to both create and watch a high-quality stream in real time.
Some businesses have even expanded live streaming to make it a two-way experience, and that’s the kind of innovation that the eCommerce industry is now looking to tap into.
Adjusting the live streaming formula for shopping
On its base level, live streaming is the act of sending live video across the internet to be viewed in real time. The video isn’t recorded beforehand or even stored by the streamer: it’s just a live video connection from one camera to whoever’s permitted to watch. Already, live streaming is high quality and mostly absent of latency with average internet hook-ups, but it could become even better when the next internet jump takes us to 5G.
Of course, one of the most historic ways of using live streaming has been for sports. Customers around the world would watch live games on their TVs with their internet-connected devices so that others could watch as well. Now, sports leagues like the NHL have live-streaming deals with professional broadcasters.
Further, people form chat communities on platforms like Twitch, others go on Instagram Live to showcase skills or discuss topics, and the once audio-bound podcasts are now regularly accompanied by a live video stream. These are all passive examples of live streaming, and are very common.
At most, there’s a chat window for interactions. For live shopping to work, it would need live streaming to become an active activity, but luckily, another space of entertainment is already showcasing how it’s done. In the online casino industry, live streaming has been leveraged for years to bring real-time gaming.
Now spanning classic table games and inventive game shows like Live Boom City or Money Drop Live, they’re streamed from a studio to be played in real time. This is made possible by a specialized bit of software on the casino platform side coupled with hardware like the game control unit and OCR. Live shopping needs this, and in China, where sales days can see over $7 billion spent in 30 minutes, it already does.
Live commerce doesn’t have to be through social media
China’s live shopping market was perfect for Alibaba’s Taobao Live when it launched in 2016. The influencer market is very sophisticated and strong, with most social media routes being centralized on WeChat. So, boasting millions of followers already accustomed to going on their smartphones to watch, learn, and follow, influencers were perfect sellers in a live format once the software was perfected.
In markets like the US, Canada, and the UK, influencers certainly exist and do try to flog products to their followers, but it isn’t anywhere near as effective. Influencers could be top sellers, but there’s a need to be genuine which isn’t always there when most western influencers rise to prominence through more comedic or entertainment-driven content.
Still, there is certainly space for others to make a name strictly as a live seller, especially with dropshipping methods making the process purely about making a good stream rather than keeping stock.
A platform currently seeking to promote the power of live-stream shopping is Firework. With their software, the live shopping experience becomes two-way via the chat features and in-video checkout option. This couples with the on-site checkout, which is referred to if items are clicked on during a live stream.
They showcase their success stories like The Fresh Market, fashion brand Natori, and Beekman 1802 for their ability to produce high-quality live streams that inform, engage, and ultimately, sell.
Live streaming has evolved from a passive to an active experience, which is now enabling live shopping to connect and sell to customers. However, whether it will take off beyond the Asia-Pacific is yet to be seen.