Live commerce is a new sales format that blends together a video live stream and the convenience of shopping in an online store. It offers brands and e-Commerce platforms a new channel with enormous value potential.
The Changing Retail Industry
The appearance of Alibaba’s Taobao Live in 2016 marked the arrival of a new era for the e-Commerce industry. Taobao’s live commerce linked an e-commerce store with an online live broadcast platform and offered viewers a chance to take part in the broadcast via a chat or reaction button and make an instant purchase of the products that are being live-streamed.
Ecommerce revenues have dropped by 3% in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the same period of 2021. In Europe specifically, the decline reached -13% (excluding Spain). According to Salesforce’s VP and GM Rob Garf, this decline might be the signal of a larger consumer behavioral shift. “To address this, retailers should remove friction between physical and digital channels to attract and retain loyal shoppers”, he says.
Live Video Shopping Platforms
China: Taobao Live Commerce
Taobao Live is a live streaming service that is integrated into the Taobao App and is categorized into various areas like food, travel, lifestyle, etc.
According to China South Morning Post, Taobao Live reported over US$60 billion in GMV in 2020. It saw triple-digit growth in its number of daily active users and live-streamers, and online shoppers became more used to watching merchants sell goods during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although there are a number of live streaming platforms in China that also act as live commerce platforms, and some are very popular (Kuaishou, Douyin, Xiaohongshu, Weibo, JD Live), Taobao Live, the live commerce platform by Alibaba group, is the largest Chinese e-commerce live streaming platform, distinguished by its high mobile traffic and conversion rates.
West: Social Media Live Stream Shopping Platforms
Given live commerce’s advantages, it is no wonder that social media platforms are all on top of it. When it comes to the channels retailers use for promotion or sales, social media take a big chank according to the Coresight Research survey.
YouTube is the most used video channel globally. The platform tested live shopping by hosting a small-business shopping event in 2021. It is trying to make it more direct and easier than the way it worked before, via affiliate links, according to what the YouTube’s VP Americas, Tara Walpert Levy, told The Hollywood Reporter from Google’s offices in Chelsea.
Instagram’s live commerce road can be traced back to 2016, when Live was launched, and then to 2019, a year of a Checkout launch. Instagram Shops and Live Shopping was formally released in 2020, and now Instagram Live Shopping is already available to eligible businesses in the US.
According to a survey by Facebook, 83% of people discover new products or services with the help of this platform, 81% research products or services, and 80% decide whether to buy a product or service.
Facebook announced the launch of Live in April 2016. In May 2018, they introduced Live Shopping Fridays, where each Friday well-known companies in beauty and fashion hosted live shopping events for three months straight. Today, it is available in a number of countries and continues to expand its reach.
TikTok tested live stream shopping in 2020 in partnership with Walmart and other retailers. TikTok’s live commerce features and algorithms seem quite advanced – which might be because its Chinese version ‘Douyin’ was launched back in 2016, and its team accumulated a lot of experience thanks to how to live commerce is developing there.
Twitter launched a precursor to its own version of live commerce in July 2021. In November 2021, they announced the actual Live Shopping on Twitter. Their first live shopping stream in collaboration with Walmart went down on November 28, 2021.
Twitch started primarily as a streaming service for gamers. In 2019, Teespring partnered with Twitch to bring social commerce (the way live commerce on social media is dubbed) to its gaming audiences, and this partnership grew in 2020, adding integrated checkout, live alerts, and exclusive sub-only merch.
The other social media did not lag behind either. In the same November 2021, Pinterest debuted its shoppable live series, Pinterest TV, while Snapchat rolled out an AR shopping upgrade.
Going back to China, the Apparel and Fashion category has the biggest share of live streamers – 35.6% of them are working with it. The runner-up – Beaty – takes only 7.6%, with the third place being Fresh Food with a 7.4% share.
Live commerce became a major channel in China over the past few years. According to McKinsey, the total GMV generated by live streaming in B2C reached $171 billion in 2020.
The Covid-19 pandemic, with its lockdown impact, drove this trend further: Chinese sales are expected to reach $423 billion by 2022. And, according to Coresight Research, live streaming might bring $25 billion to the US by 2023.
Live commerce in China is huge, and western markets have room to earn big with it.
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