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The future of live shopping and the companies leading the charge

Shopping TV channels are a familiar retail staple, but live shopping turns that televised trip digital. Live shopping is already a multi-billion-dollar industry in China, and it’s also catching on in the west as millions switch from traditional cable networks to digital streaming.

The pandemic created a push towards digital entertainment and shopping by confining people to their homes. Livestream shopping continues that trend, offering entertainment, education, and shopping in one.

The popularity of video streaming, live streams, and video apps further add to its exponential growth: Users on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook can live stream video to their followers. The largest (by streaming hours) platform, Twitch, averages over two million viewers every day, with almost two billion hours of streams watched in August 2021.

Video events and live shopping are becoming more common — and powerful. It’s a smart move to integrate merchandising and shopping opportunities, especially when those streaming events are already about products.

Live shopping in action

Live streaming eCommerce already is a significant trend, with big players like Shein, Facebook, and Monki taking part. In China, nearly any brand you could think of engages in live shopping. But, in Europe and the U.S., it’s just beginning to take off.

SHEIN

In May 2021, shopping giant SHEIN ran a campaign and live-shopping event around raising money for COVID relief charities. The event, which featured a live-stream concert of the Jonas Brothers, free for anyone on the app, attracted over 1.8 million viewers.

Each viewer could buy merchandise or donate to the cause from the concert, driving so many sales that Shein is already planning to repeat the stream in 2022. The #SHEINTogetherFest streamed on May 2nd, 2021 in the United States, and featured the Jonas Brothers.

Facebook Live Shopping

Facebook dipped its toes into live shopping in May 2021, hosting a series of experimental live shopping events. These included themed shopping events Glow Up, New Fashion Finds, and Self-Care Spotlight, split into six events across May, June, and July.

Facebook also onboarded major brands, with Abercrombie & Fitch, Alleyoop, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, Clinique, Dermalogica, Dolce Vita, Sephora, and Zox taking part.

These streams are unique compared to standard Facebook live streaming in that Facebook offered product features and purchase options right from the video.

Taobao Live

Taobao Live is a Chinese-only store, but if you want to see live shopping in action, Taobao is one of the best places to check. The video-streaming platform is exclusively dedicated to live shopping, much like HSN is to televised shopping.

With a revenue of $61.7 billion in 2020, Taobao is far from a new or niche market — it’s exploding with sales. The platform is not available in English, but you can see what they offer and how on YouTube.

NTWRK

NTWRK is a live video shopping app available on iOS and Google Play. It’s also one of the first standalone live shopping apps in the west, and dozens of brands such as Taschen, Ben Baller, Adidas, and Beats by Dre already use it.

While most of the market is currently in Europe, NTWRK pairs with event streaming, offers NFT codes to buy products from screens, and uses a marketplace option much like a streaming version of Amazon.

Native website livestreaming

Dozens of individual brands like Monki already run live eCommerce streaming on their own websites. Monki’s livestreams have included concerts, New Year’s events, and influencers trying on products, which are streamed via Facebook and their own channels.

In order to livestream on their own platforms, merchants will need to build their shopping and livestream process into their websites. Monki used technology developed by Bambuser to build their livestream experience.

Tools to stream live shopping

As video streaming becomes more popular, live shopping will too. That’s important for brands with a large or potentially large live-stream audience – especially those on TikTok and Instagram.

However, Facebook will also play a large part in live shopping as it rolls out live shopping opportunities across stories and livestreams on both Instagram and Facebook. While you can wait for these, you also can get started right away by integrating live shopping into Shopify and other stores.

ShopShops.live

As one of the only standalone live shopping apps in the U.S., ShopShops.live is a popular choice; it’s used by brands like Chanel, Gucci, and Jimmy Choo. To sell on the platform, brands have to apply.

However, ShopShops.live is primarily aimed at influencers who want to earn affiliate revenue by hosting livestreams for their favorite brands or shops – or even to sell products from their own websites. The idea is to move fashion streams into eCommerce, where influencers directly drive sales.

Instagram Live Shopping

Instagram launched “Live Shopping” in April 2021, giving brands the option to add up to 30 products to a feature category when they go live. Those products are showcased during the stream, with product highlights at the top or bottom of the screen. Interested viewers can add the product to their cart and check out from the stream.

ShopLoop (now part of Google Shopping)

Google got into the video shopping game early, with Shoploop. The platform first launched in August 2020, but didn’t gain traction on its own.

Today, it’s been rolled into the standard Google Shopping, meaning you can add 90-second videos with shoppable products as part of Google Shopping. Plus, Google already plans to introduce live shopping to YouTube in the fourth quarter for 2021.

LiveScale

LiveScale Live Shopping is a premium Shopify app offering live shopping from your web store. The app costs $99 per month, but supports live product features and purchases from the Shopify inventory in a livestream.

Channelize Live Shopping & Video Streams

Channelize is another live shopping Shopify app. It offers a free version with limited features, which includes four events per month up to 20 minutes each. Channelize also offers two-way chat, hosted sessions with influencers, and streaming to multiple channels. You can then turn your event recordings into more sales by posting them across your other channels.

Maestro

Maestro provides livestream shopping for eCommerce and events. This makes it a great app for pop-up stores that mix eCommerce into a physical location, and hosting in-person events with the intent to make sales. While Maestro is geared towards larger events and organizations, it’s one of the better-established solutions on the U.S. market.

Wrapping up — Adding live shopping to your marketing tactics

Live shopping is already a massive global industry, but it’s just catching on in the U.S. In fact, while Bloomberg quotes that in 2020, live shopping generated $60 million in revenue in the United States, the Chinese live shopping website Taobao earned $61.7 billion in China during that same period.

As video continues to take off in the west, live shopping will grow in popularity. With plenty of tools available to participate, any brand already on a video-based network can benefit with little added investment.

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