Live streaming: The Future of the Retail Industry

Today most of us turn to internet search engines to scavenge for the product we are specifically seeking, as the internet has exponentially broadened our horizons and made our shopping experience a lot more immersive. With technology's rapid growth new ways are constantly concocted to further ease how we purchase.


Currently, the most common way to shop on the internet is through e-commerce websites, the buying process is done in just a few steps; scrolling through products, adding to your cart and paying with your card or cash on delivery (COD).


Live streaming today has become a successful social media platform used primarily for viewer engagement on a large scale. What was once just used for communication purposes has now become a potential money-making machine for retail businesses across the world.


Making its way to the online retail scene in huge strides is the concept of “live shopping”, this way of selling products takes our shopping experience to the next level as we, the viewers, can interact and purchase in real time.

To get a better grasp on the idea of “live shopping”, it can be compared to QVC (Quality, Value, Convenience), a televised retail channel where products are promoted during the TV broadcast and can be easily bought through a phone call.


 Video from QVCtv


With live streaming as a platform, convenience and speed are enhanced as we the customers are given the ability to interact with the influencer as well as instantaneously purchase what we see on the live broadcast in just a simple swipe or click.

When watching a live stream, we are immediately sucked into a space that almost feels personal and exclusive; the live host promotes items like a friend sharing and reviewing items that they’ve recently purchased.

A form of trust can be built as we, the customers, are able to see the products in movement as the streamer presents and describes in detail how the product fits and feels. As it is, live viewers are reassured that these products aren’t edited in any shape or form as you would in a photograph, the platform’s transparency will be a key element to its success in the near future.

The marriage of e-commerce and live streaming will be a major game changer in the retail industry as these real-time product reviews and level of interactivity can play as great advertising tools.

Related Article: 7 Smart Tips for a Safe Holiday Online Shopping

The Future of Retail is Already in China

Retail live streaming

Screenshot from BEME News


The future of the retail industry is already seen on live streaming platforms booming in China. Ahead of the game, live streaming has become a shopping craze amongst the Chinese population establishing it as a billion dollar industry.

Due to its popularity in the Chinese market, brands and retailers have quickly understood that live streaming has the potential to be an effective marketing medium. E-commerce is now actively invading live videos, whether it is via a fashion show or online influencers reviewing the latest cosmetic products via videos; enabling Internet users to buy what they see on the screen in real time.

Two of China’s biggest online retail apps Taobao and its competitor have both launched live streaming platforms: Taobao Live and JD live. Both have done extremely well on monetizing their platforms.

According to Alibaba, their conversion rate on Taobao Live is 32%, meaning that for every one million views, 320,000 items are added to the cart. Such a success was only made possible by the platform’s extensive customer engagement. One of the major ways that boost interaction is due to the fact that numerous retail store owners and brands on both and Taobao hire influencers with a huge following to help promote their products. As the live streamer presents each product, links will pop up on the screen allowing the viewer to purchase.

Back in 2009, Alibaba Group formed the connection between Singles Day and online shopping when trying to generate sales for its Tmall unit by offering special pricing and promotions within a 24 hour period. According to CNBC, since the last Singles Day sale (2018), Alibaba's Tmall and Taobao e-commerce properties amounted to 30.8 billion U.S. dollars.

With its large presence within the retail industry in China, other western companies have caught on and are slowly making its way to mainstream platforms.

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Live Shopping Making its Way to Mainstream Platforms

In recent years, western platforms have made strides towards this new e-commerce phenomenon. According to commercial property firm Cushman & Wakefield, the US retail sector has been in a decline with more than thousands of stores are closing down and more are on the chopping block. In contrast, online retailing are in an upward momentum surpassing traditional brick-and-mortar retail businesses.


Big online platforms such as Facebook and Amazon are in the works on making a transition to live streaming that will ultimately change the way we shop in the near future.


Facebook live Screenshot from Facebook Live


Facebook has been developing and testing out a shopping mode feature enabling merchants to efficiently sell items on a live stream. While watching the live broadcast, customers will be presented a screenshot button that will allow them to take photos of the items they want to purchase. The transaction involves the Messenger app as the mode of communication with the merchant and payment process.


This Facebook feature is being tested in Thailand, where a community of resellers are utilising Facebook Live to sell a wide range of different products, from beauty products to garments and other merchandise. As of now, Facebook has not made any moves to stop its live feature in Thailand giving an indication that the performance is going well.


A recent report from TechCrunch, Amazon has recently launched Amazon Live enabling live stream videos to showcase products from a variety of different retail brands. When customers watch a live video, a series of product links will then appear below the screen. With just a click on any product, link consumers are able to either purchase or learn more about the product.


Amazon brings on QVC with the launch of Amazon Live, giving viewers a familiar taste of the known and loved QVC onto a live stream setting; making for a smart and well-calculated move.


Amazon's first retail live stream

Photo via Engadget

Despite its launch, Amazon does not appear to be promoting its live stream feature nor does it feature it in the main site’s navigation bar. Seemingly, Amazon Live is still dipping its toes to the large e-commerce pool and will take the plunge at a later date.

From the looks of it, the notion of using video content to drive sales is on an upswing and may eventually be the common way we purchase products in the near future.

Related Article: The 6 Emerging Uses of VR



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