Sectors of the retail industry have been hit especially hard with many businesses unable to open their physical doors. These brands are left to rely on big name retailers or pivot their approach to increase reach visibility to convert consumers digitally. To do so, many are seeking inspiration from the direct to consumer model to engage directly with their audiences and make their products more widely available. While retailers and brands have both incrementally invested in digital platforms more and more, year after year, these challenges show how the need to digitally transform has accelerated to keep up with shifting user behaviors.
At a time when consumers are craving entertainment and connection while at home, livestream commerce—evoking the idea of home shopping TV programs, but made more interactive—is an intriguing solution for brands to directly and authentically engage with audiences. As a response to increased video viewership of at-home audiences, the strategy builds on recent trends in shoppable social content and the rise of influencer partnerships.
China is No Stranger to Livestream Commerce
While it may be having a moment right now, livestream commerce isn’t new; Taobao Live, the largest ecommerce streaming platform in China and owned by Alibaba, made $2.85 billion in sales on Singles Day (the country’s biggest shopping event) last year. The COVID-19-induced lockdown in China has increased the popularity of the platform even further; in February, merchants on the platform raised by 719%, according to Glossy.
Much of the appeal of livestreaming commerce is its ability to mix engaging, interactive content with brand stories. JD.com, another ecommerce platform in China, hosted online “e-clubbing” events featuring musical performances and DJ sets—and the ability to buy liquor in a few taps, replicating the social experience of being at an actual club.
How Western Brands Are Experimenting with Shoppable Content
In the west, Amazon has similarly mixed commerce and content with its “Twitch Sells Out” event for Prime Day, enlisting influencers and content creators in the gaming space to showcase items on sale that are relevant to the content they typically put out—for example, listing their streaming setup, gaming equipment or merchandise for a favorite game franchise. More than just a one-off event, Amazon employees livestream commerce on its Amazon Live platform, where brands and influencers broadcast content with shoppable listings underneath.
If ecommerce and conversion-based content is an essential bucket, we can help fill it faster and more effectively.
Elsewhere, other platforms have begun experimenting with shoppable advertisements. Instagram Checkout, lets users discover and purchase products right within the feed, and Levi’s has had success with a similar feature on TikTok. In the linear TV space, NBCUniversal has introduced NBCUniversal Checkout, making content across the brand shoppable. Emarketer’s Q1 2020 Digital Video Trends report notes that NBC’s Peacock streaming service will include shoppable content among the ads that it serves.
While these examples aren’t live, their development suggests there is a general growing demand for content that converts. MediaMonks Founder Wesley ter Haar notes that for many brands, conversion-based content remains top of mind as they consider ways to pivot existing strategies or continue to engage with audiences digitally.
“Brands are asking themselves if they need to keep the ‘content machine’ running,” he says. “If ecommerce and conversion-based content is an essential bucket, we can help fill it faster and more effectively by shifting from traditional production to tapping into influencers and livestreaming.”
While Social Distancing, Video is King
Over the course of the pandemic, at-home users have flocked to video content. According to data from WARC, 38% of consumers are watching more online video content now than they had before the pandemic. Out of that group, 73% say they expect to maintain that higher amount of viewing time. Among the most popular video content that people want to watch are how-to and tutorial videos, according to data from Hootsuite, a category that lends itself well to influencer content and B2B stories.
In fact, influencers are ideally situated to engage with new and existing customers with creative and livestreamed content. They are adept at using their voice and authority to recommend products to audiences and have built loyal followings through tutorial content—for example, the lucrative beauty space on YouTube that has catapulted popular vloggers into full-fledged business owners.
User behavior is being built that will change how we use these tools and how we create and connect together.
In response to the challenges that brands and retailers have felt due to the ongoing pandemic, our influencer activation team IMA recently offered a few solutions, including multichannel influencer campaigns that amplify voice and awareness across communities, as well as partnering with existing product advocates to carry business momentum on social media. Such strategies enable brands to reach consumers authentically, backed by a consolidated effort to ensure working teams can easily continue production safely at home and produce the stream remotely.
Build Value Through Assistive Content
While brands and retailers are focused on solving the “now,” they must also look ahead into how they will serve consumers throughout what may be a difficult year ahead. As consumers seek out content and connection that helps them understand and make the most of a new normal—whether that means staying sane while social distancing or stretching the value of a dollar—livestream commerce offers a great opportunity to build a brand relationship.
Despite being a vehicle for commerce, it doesn’t have to be too salesy—think about a retailer offering a live cooking show focused on recipes using ingredients that are already in the pantry, for example, or a makeup artist giving tutorials featuring “dupes,” or greater-value versions of popular cosmetics.
“This is the new family dinner, this is how we watch movies together,” says ter Haar on the innovative ways that people are connecting. “We’re building traditions now that we don’t yet know are traditions. User behavior is being built that will change how we use these tools and how we create and connect together.”
Now more than ever, brands and retailers must be there for their audiences. Through livestream commerce, brands can accommodate new user behaviors that have emerged and engage in authentic, informative ways with video content. Accommodating a need for connection and entertainment, the format is well tailored to building strategic relationships into the year ahead.
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