Live shopping generated an estimated $136 billion in revenue in China in 2020, and is expected to be responsible for nearly 20% of China’s total ecommerce sales by 2022. The entrance of tech giant Alibaba into the influencer marketing space has demonstrated brands can successfully use live streaming to drive sales and expand audiences—as Alibaba’s 2020 Singles’ Day event saw the first 30 minutes of its presale campaign on online shopping platform Taobao Live drive $7.5 billion in transaction value.
And while Western markets have long leveraged influencer marketing to expand audiences and increase brand awareness, they’re now beginning to follow Asian markets into live streaming experiences. The full benefits of live shopping in western markets likely won’t be a light switch moment and will take time to develop. But key learnings from Asian markets can provide guidance on how to convert viewers to buyers (in real time) using influencer marketing.
Successful partnerships will trust creators to tell the right story and hold their audience’s attention for a long time, as well as drive conversions—without getting too bogged down in technical details. “Let us use our naturally creative voices to make your product shine and give us freedom,” creator Rossana Burgos recently told The Drum. “There’s a reason why we have created these massive audiences authentically. So, give us that space to be authentic and we promise to deliver.”
This is a time to experiment with different channels, forms, and creators to establish where the most effective interactions are happening to inform future live campaigns.
The platform you pick matters
Some pioneers in the U.S. are already beginning to test live shopping on certain platforms. Walmart piloted the first test of live shopping on TikTok and LG launched a series of live shopping events, primarily leveraging YouTube. Channels like Twitch (which accounts for 65% of live streaming hours watched) have also seen success as brands work with gamers to develop live shopping opportunities for viewers, and Pinterest is announcing new live shopping features on its platform.
Because live shopping is in such a nascent stage in Western markets, brands have the opportunity to take creative approaches on the platforms that have seen the best results. Twitch, for example, is a live streaming platform that has strong roots in the gaming community, but beauty and self care brands have seen success by trusting creators to promote the products authentically.
Just recently, BEN collaborated with a big CPG brand on a live shopping event through Instagram Live that resulted in a campaign unlike any other for creator Kelly Uchima. As someone who struggled with trichotillomania—a disorder that triggers hair pulling—for much of her life, Kelly saw the live stream partnership as an opportunity to speak about a product she already loved in a way that didn’t feel rushed, scripted, or staged. The comfort of the live stream environment was a critical element that compelled her to be more open. Her honesty and vulnerability resonated with her audience, and delivered success for Unilever.
Finding creators who can hold audience attention
Unlike live broadcasting (where the focus is on keeping the audience engaged in the conversation happening between a brand and a creator), live streaming hinges on fostering interactive experiences. And the experience that users can have with creators is like no in-store shopping experience can provide.
Viewers can chat directly with the content creator, answer questions, or provide opinions during a live stream, creating a unique environment for brands to sell directly to their customers in real-time online. Not only are viewers speaking with someone who is knowledgeable about the product, but they are also talking to someone they trust—and that person is passionate about the product they are selling, they’re not just a random salesperson.
Effective live stream creators will appropriately represent the brand while staying authentic to themselves and their content. Creators who view themselves as storytellers and know how to keep their audiences interacting and engaged will be most likely to drive sales—often, those creators have experience with longform video storytelling on YouTube. The interactive nature of live shopping means brands need to trust that the creator knows how to authentically promote shoppable items to their channel and their audience.
When done correctly, the live stream success seen by brands in Asian markets can be recreated in Western markets, especially since analysts predict live streaming will be responsible for 10 to 20% of all ecommerce globally by 2026. Brands who understand the nature of live shopping, understand their target audience, and what channels those audiences prefer, are well-equipped to find the right partner to help them reach campaign goals.