Live shopping is the next big thing in retail

Live shopping is one of the hottest trends to emerge in a pandemic 2020, as retailers and brands take this virtual approach to engage consumers. AT Qurate retail, we have a unique perspective to observe this global phenomenon, as our HSN team invented live video shopping on TV about 40 years ago, and today our brands QVC and HSN form one of the most the world’s leading video commerce platforms, reaching 380 million households. We’re excited to see so many companies embrace and elevate this powerful form of retailing.

As President of the National Retail Federation (NRF), I have observed firsthand the remarkable resilience and innovative spirit of our industry in this difficult time, with retailers rolling out new approaches to buying in weeks or weeks. in months, which could have taken years in ordinary times. Live shopping (using live video to share products, answer questions, and close deals with customers who join remotely to watch, chat and buy) is a natural consequence of the original TV-centric model and has gradually gained ground in recent years. But now, in response to buying restrictions imposed by the pandemic, retailers and brands around the world are rushing to add interactive live video experiences to their marketing mix.

(Members of Qurate Retail and NRF should take advantage of the live shopping trend highlighted in this article.)

The current live-shopping craze has its roots in China in the mid-2010s, when influencers began using live video apps to take their fans with them as they hit New York City stores. or Los Angeles, sharing and explaining the products along the way. These virtual trips offered viewers a glimpse of exotic places with the opportunity to discover and purchase products that were not readily available in China.

Meanwhile, Chinese e-commerce giants have started offering live, celebrity-hosted video events with live chat and seamless shopping. Chinese consumers loved it. On Singles Day 2019, Taobao’s sale event featured an eight-hour live stream with popular influencer Viya who drew more than 43 million customers. In 2020, direct purchases should generate approximately $ 136 billion in revenue in China. Nonetheless, the financial viability of the Chinese approach remains a question mark, in part due to its reliance on celebrities to attract audiences, an expensive approach that does not always translate into brand loyalty and purchases. repeated.

In the United States and Europe, various approaches are emerging. As in China, the main model is to add video commerce to popular e-commerce or social apps to tap into their audience and influencers. Instagram has added shopping features to all of its apps, including Instagram Live. Facebook is developing native live shopping tools, with a headline announcing that “Facebook Live is the new QVC. ” Walmart recently started a partnership with TikTok to offer its products via livestream. Amazon launched Amazon Live, with a range of purchasable shows and a suite of tools for brands to create their own programming.

Other players are developing online marketplaces for live shopping or helping retailers and brands use live feeds to engage audiences on their digital properties. Some are experimenting with more personalized live broadcasts that connect customers with shoppers or in-store staff or allow users to sell to each other directly.

This flurry of activity around live shopping reflects several megatrends. Digital media consumption is exploding as new technologies make it easier than ever to create and share video experiences. Celebrities and social influencers are having a growing impact on purchasing decisions. COVID-19 has prompted millions of consumers to increasingly interact with retailers and brands online, and many will likely continue to do so long after the pandemic has ended.

As online shopping grows, it will continue to evolve and the possibilities are dazzling. Perhaps artificial intelligence on social media will allow us to provide each customer with a fully individualized channel of live interactive content, specially designed for them. Maybe virtual reality will allow us to transport the customer to the front row of a live fashion show, right next to a friendly host ready to answer questions and place an order.

In the short term, new entrants face more practical challenges, such as the rapidly rising cost of attracting online traffic to direct shopping. Whether it’s paying a high profile celebrity or investing heavily in paid media, these marketing costs can quickly eat into budgets. New players must also keep an eye on the economy. Those who fail to offer competitive prices, as well as to effectively serve customers and distribute products, will find short-lived success.

Businesses new to live streaming also need to learn that video shopping isn’t just about the latest tech or the influencer of the moment. Too many new players seem to be intent on shedding light on the substance. Those who endure will understand that the key to success, as was the case with department stores in the past, is to build lasting relationships, customer by customer. The basic needs that have always defined retail have not changed. Even in the virtual world, it’s still about the power of human connection and the joy of discovery: walking around your favorite store, having interesting conversations, learning the stories behind the products, and being inspired.

It’s funny to see this suddenly young 40-year-old business model. The latest developments offer the potential to bring the best of physical shopping to today’s home consumer, provided that we bring our humanity with technology.

Mike George is President and CEO of Qurate Retail, Inc., including QVC, HSN, Zulily and the Cornerstone brands. He is also president of the National Retail Federation.

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