This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
Livestream shopping is when companies, brands, or entrepreneurs host a livestream event where shoppers can view, learn about, and purchase products. The biggest difference between traditional ecommerce and livestream shopping is that the latter gives shoppers a chance to interact, ask questions, and get answers in real time. It’s a unique environment not replicated by a standard online shopping experience, which typically consists of just words and pictures.
Livestream shopping includes video, two-way engagement, and additional content to help potential buyers get to know products and feel confident enough to purchase. Plus, its nature gives the impression that it’s less scripted, more off the cuff, and thus more authentic.
Let’s take an in-depth look at livestream shopping (which is predicted to drive $35 billion in sales in the US by 2024)—how it works, types of livestream, who uses it, and when it makes sense for your small retail business.
How Livestream Shopping Works
Many livestream shopping events are hosted by celebrity or influencer guests. They talk about a specific product or brand and why they love it so much, allowing followers to tune in live and ask questions.
Often, livestream shopping also includes some sort of gamification or reward to incentivize people to tune in live instead of watching a recording later. Plus, livestream shopping gives them the chance to interact in real time, offering an opportunity to ask super specific questions and get quick answers.
Livestream Shopping Platforms
To host a livestream shopping event, you’ll need to get set up with a platform. There are two main ways to do this: You can either use an established channel like Facebook or Amazon or go independent with a platform that will allow you to host the livestream yourself.
- Amazon Live Creator: Amazon has partnered with a variety of influencers to host tons of Amazon Live shopping events, featuring products curated by the influencers. Individual brands and merchants can also create their own livestreams.
- Taobao Live: Alibaba’s livestream shopping, Taobao Live, is growing immensely popular in Chinese markets. Its number of daily active users increased by 100% from 2019 to 2020, and livestreamers increased by 661% during that same period.
- YouTube: YouTube kicked off its livestream shopping with 2021’s Holiday Stream & Shop, featuring influencers who hosted giveaways and shared discount codes. One study found that 89% of YouTube viewers feel that the creators give trustworthy recommendations.
- Live Shopping on Facebook: Merchants can host their own Facebook Live Shopping videos if they have a Facebook Shop already set up. In May 2021, Facebook also launched the weekly Live Shopping Fridays, wherein Facebook users have the opportunity to join live streams where Facebook’s invited brands feature products, tips, and demos.
- Live Shopping Instagram: Instagram has in-app commerce and checkout, providing a direct route to conversion. It also allows you to tag products in your livestreams—just like you would in posts—so viewers can easily click over to learn more and make a purchase.
- Twitter Live Shopping: Twitter launched its answer to livestream shopping in collaboration with Walmart for Cyber Monday 2021. The platform hasn’t rolled out the option for other merchants yet, though it plans to.
- Pinterest TV: Another social media platform turned marketplace, Pinterest also has livestream shopping now. Creators curate their favorite products and broadcast live streams about them Monday through Thursday. Then on Friday, viewers can tune in and actually shop the products the creators talked about.
- Galaxy: A platform for merchants selling secondhand apparel and fashion, Galaxy has no fees, so you can keep more of what you earn. It also gives you direct access to customers so you can own the relationship beyond the initial livestream purchase.
- NTWRK: NTWRK creates mobile livestream shopping experiences that also incorporate music and entertainment. To sell on the platform, you need to pass its vetting process.
- LiSA: LiSA is for sellers in all categories and industries that want to get into livestream selling. It has a range of options for livestream selling, both on and off your website.
- Bambuser: Another platform for all kinds of merchants, Bambuser integrates directly with your website, so you can host livestream events there. In addition to live video, you can also use prerecorded and edited videos.
- TalkShopLive: A social selling network used by influencers, celebrities, and brands in all industries.
- ShopShops: A livestream shopping platform for all industries, though fashion has an especially robust presence.
- CommentSold: Build your own branded mobile app to host livestream shopping events.
- Popshop Live: A livestream shopping platform for brands and individuals alike.
Types of Livestream Shopping
When you think of livestream shopping, you might think of social media livestreams. And that’s certainly relevant. Many brands leverage the audience they already have on social media and broadcast live to their followers. This is social media livestream shopping.
In this type, the livestream happens on social media. This may include Facebook or Instagram, and even Pinterest or Twitter in the future. Many times, users can purchase the items directly on the social media platform. Other merchants use a more manual process, checking to see who bought what once the livestream ends.
Learn more in our guide to social media marketing.
Influencer-based livestream shopping events involve a collaboration between your brand and an influencer of sorts. According to McKinsey, consumers crave more livestreams with influencers. In fact, almost a quarter of surveyed adults said they want to learn about new products via livestream featuring an influencer or brand representative. Amazon Lives are perfect examples of influencer-based livestreams. In the case of Amazon, the influencer owns and hosts the event.
If you’re a brand looking to do an influencer livestream shopping campaign, consider the pros and cons to hosting the event yourself. If you host, you have more control over the content and the overall experience. But if you allow an influencer to host the event, you gain access to their existing audience—meaning new potential customers for you. Regardless of the approach, it’s important to thoroughly brief your influencer partner beforehand so everyone is on the same page and aware of the overarching business goals at play.
Livestream shopping is an ideal avenue for product launches because potential buyers typically have more questions about new products than existing ones. This type allows people to ask those questions and receive real-time answers.
Sometimes, livestream shopping isn’t so directly sales-based. You can also use it to give tutorials on how to use and make the most of your products. While the primary goal is to help existing customers use the products, you can also accomplish a secondary goal of driving sales.
In your tutorial livestream, you can highlight the benefits of your product in use. You can also combat any hesitations or questions potential buyers may have about your product, instilling more confidence in them to purchase.
Auction or Bidding
Another common type of livestream shopping is an auction- or bidding-based livestream. In this format, viewers who tune in have to compete against one another in a bid to purchase your items. This type of livestream shopping is especially common for thrifted and secondhand goods where flexible pricing is the norm.
Its benefits are that it encourages engagement and creates a sense of urgency, while its downside is that you may lose control of product pricing and risk selling too low (losing your profit margin) or selling too high (creating a poor customer experience and perceived brand value).
Which Consumers Use Livestream Shopping & Why
Though livestream shopping is particularly popular among Chinese consumers—two-thirds purchased products via livestream in 2019—it’s catching on globally. US-based brands like Walmart and Amazon have ventured into livestream commerce, and brands big and small are able to leverage the emerging commerce channel.
Livestream shoppers also skew younger. This is likely because they’re more tech-savvy and impressionable. In fact, Gen Z is the demographic most influenced by social media and influencers—making them an ideal target audience for your own livestream shopping strategies. Plus, 55% Gen Zers and 62% of millennials would buy newly launched products directly via live videos from brands and creators.
Which Businesses Should Use Livestream Shopping
While livestream shopping can work for small business retailers across a variety of industries, some are more ripe for the opportunity than others.
Apparel and fashion brands stand at an advantage when it comes to livestream shopping because it’s one of the early adopters for the trend. It represents the largest sector of livestreamers—more than 35% of livestreamers are in apparel and fashion—and the next one is far behind at just under 8%.
Fashion and apparel are well-suited for livestream shopping because customers often have lots of questions about these products—how they fit, what the details look like, the true color, etc. It can be difficult to get an accurate impression of apparel from still photographs, and livestream shopping offers the chance to show off what the clothing actually looks like when worn.
Beauty and wellness businesses are also good contenders for livestream shopping because their products are popular among millennials. In fact, millennials represent 31% of the spending market in luxury beauty and wellness goods, so if that’s your audience, then there’s a good chance they’ll tune in.
Thrifted, used, recycled, and upcycled goods all make perfect items to promote and sell via livestream. One main reason is because a livestream shopping event allows merchants to showcase the condition of each item, as well as any details, and answer any questions potential buyers may have.
According to one Coresight Research survey, more than 41% of consumers claim to have tuned in to livestreams selling home products and furnishings. Home goods are ideal for livestream shopping because you can show how they look in different contexts and paired with other home goods. It also gives merchants a chance to show all angles of the items.
Electronics are another great product to sell via livestream shopping. In fact, more than 37% of respondents to the same Coresight Research survey said they tuned into livestream shopping events for electronics. Electronics typically have lots of features and hidden tools or functionality that you can show off in video better than through product photos.
Ready for more? Read our guide on how to start a retail business.
Livestream Shopping Examples
It’s helpful to get inspiration for your own livestream shopping strategies by checking out real-world examples and considering what worked and what didn’t. Below are some examples of successful or popular livestream shopping events or sellers.
Zox sells bracelets made of recycled water bottles. When the ecommerce brand was gearing up to launch a new product collection in May 2021, it decided to venture into the world of livestream shopping to switch things up from its typical social media and email tactics.
The brand hosted a 30-minute Facebook Live in which founder Jason Kuipers tuned in from his couch to show off each new product and answer any questions in real time. He waited until the very end of the live broadcast to reveal the much-hyped “Zox Box 13” product set. When he finally did, all 100 units sold out.
All told, Zox earned 461 orders during the Facebook Live, amounting to $28,392 in sales.
Louisville, Kentucky-based women’s clothing store PinkTag Boutique also found sales with Facebook’s livestream shopping options. To bolster its online presence, it launched a Facebook Shop and quickly saw success.
To build on that, PinkTag decided to tap into livestream shopping. Though the boutique had used Facebook Live in the past to show off new product arrivals and host giveaways, it hadn’t integrated live shopping with the livestream broadcasts—yet. So PinkTag hosted its first Facebook Live Shopping event to promote new product arrivals.
Customers not only made purchases during the livestream, but they also returned after it was over and brought even more pieces. These livestream shopping events have become a pillar for PinkTag’s ecommerce marketing strategy, some generating as many as 2.5 million views and $7,032 in sales in less than an hour.
Reba McEntire used TalkShopLive to host her livestream shopping event, which promoted Reba’s new three-CD box set titled Revived, Remixed, Revisited. Customers who purchase the box set get an autographed copy—an exclusive offer for TalkShopLive. To date, the TalkShopLive live stream has over 200,000 viewers.
But that isn’t the only platform Reba has engaged in for livestream shopping. The country singer also used Amazon Live—hosted by an influencer—and TikTok to engage with followers and promote her music online.
Livestream shopping is an emerging ecommerce channel for big box brands and small merchants alike. McKinsey predicts live commerce will drive 20% of ecommerce sales by 2026, and Shopify reports the number of merchants who installed live shopping apps increased by 61% in 2021 compared to 2020.
And the benefits are undeniable—both during and after the livestream event. As many as 70% of sales happen post-livestream, according to Retail TouchPoints. Plus, livestream shopping can reduce the burden of returns on your business. According to Coresight Research, shoppers who make a purchase via livestream shopping are 40% less likely to make a return than customers who made their purchase elsewhere online.
And it’s not complicated to get started—you don’t need fancy video equipment or editing software. Live commerce is an excellent way to build brand awareness, cultivate authentic customer relationships, ease buyer hesitations, and ultimately drive sales.