Livestream Shopping Is Booming, But Here’s What It Takes to Get Consumers to Tune In

Last month, Aldo tested its first live shopping experience in North America, and the results were surprising.

For its first event, the retailer tapped celebrity stylist Mimi Cuttrell and TikTok star Nate Wyatt to share their inside tips on how wear Aldo’s shoes and accessories for the spring season during an integrated livestream on Aldo’s e-commerce site.

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According to Amanda Amar, director of global social media and public relations, Aldo garnered a 308% engagement rate, from comments to click-throughs, 17,000 page views in the first five days after the livestream aired and an average live-viewing time of 12 minutes and six seconds.

“Above taking a risk in testing digital innovation, engagement and just general adaption to the current landscape, and being able to offer our customers another avenue to experience our brand and products in the way that best suits them was big for us,” Amar said. “While livestream shopping will never truly replace the in-person shopping experience, it’s a great alternative for people whose shopping habits have shifted.”

Livestream shopping isn’t new, however. Last year in China, there were approximately 617 million live streaming users, per a report by Statista, and the livestreaming e-commerce market there will total $305 billion in 2021, representing 384% growth from 2019, according to KPMG and Alibaba’s AliResearch.

While the U.S. has been late to the party in some ways, the trend is picking up steam with help from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The ubiquity and availability of great video content coupled with the emergency of the pandemic that put people at home not able to go into the stores — all those factors are coming together,” said Mike George, Qurate Retail, Inc. president and CEO.

Now, Coresight Research projects livestreaming to be a top trend this year, with the market expected to reach $6 billion in 2021 and $25 billion by 2023.

“It is a medium that can have a very high conversion,” added George. “It has been our lifeblood and it’s actually very encouraging to see this sort of sudden explosion of interest. We really do see it as a validation of our models.”

Major retailers such as Nordstrom, Boohoo and Zappos are also experimenting with programs in livestream. Nordstrom launched its livestream shopping capabilites in March with a Burberry fashion presentation by stylist José Ramón Reye where customers could shop the products they saw and asked questions during the event.

“How the customer shops from discovery through to delivery has evolved to become increasingly digital. This new shopping channel allows Nordstrom to help meet the ever-changing needs and expectations of our customers and to equip our team with more tools to deliver on our commitment,” Fanya Chandler, Nordstrom SVP, said. “With the launch, we hope to create a rich customer experience online with a larger group of customers.” (Nordstrom’s next livestream event is June 10 with Charlotte Tilbury.)

Retail experts said that consumers are desperate for personal connection even as the pandemic wanes and more in-person meetings are possible. With livestream shopping, it’s bridging the gap for brands who can now engage with a wider audience and more intimately outside of brick-and-mortar.

“It’s the opportunity to interact with the consumer in a live and direct way. It gives people the opportunity to raise questions, see a product demonstrated, and that gives people the confidence that they need to purchase,” explained Peter Curran, general manager of digital commerce at Lucidworks.

Boohoo, for instance, is teaming up with TikTok influencer Rebecca Ko for a livestream shop session through third-party platform Buywith on Thursday that allows Ko to browse and shop on the Boohoo’s e-commerce site with her followers, sharing her recommendations for product. According Adi Ronen, CEO and cofounder of Buywith, her platform has proven conversion, seeing eight times the purchase rate during a livestream session compared to a consumer shopping normally online.

Outside of sales, livestream is also a way for brand’s to create long-term relationships with its audience. It’s a tactic QVC has mastered for over 30 years.

“Decades ago, it took literally up to 50 hours of viewing our TV programing before you made your first purchase. You needed to do that to get comfortable with the medium and get comfortable with the host and to believe that this was trustworthy,” explained George. “So for today’s shopping players, they put a lot of money behind a big event, a big personality that will capture some folks, but it won’t necessarily get them to keep coming back. If you can crack the code, which it’s not just selling an item, this is a unique medium with real benefits for brands.”

Plus, the footwear category is an attractive sell. Consumers are looking for comfort and they are looking to dress up again for the first time in more than year. Through livestream shopping, they can see the shoes up close, in context and in many cases, with provided styling cues, through a curated experience.

And experts agree that hosts can range from influencers to employees, but what will make the difference is knowledge and authenticity. That’s why for Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger, founder and designer of her namesake shoes and handbags line, she will be front and center of her first foray into livestream.

She plans to launch a shopping event live from Italy in a factory where her shoes are made next month.

“It’s easier to hide behind a brand and not be the face, but in today’s world, it’s really necessary. It’s interesting for the consumer to actually see how a shoe is made and who is actually making the shoes. The more they know, the more they can engage, the more they feel connected not only to you, but to the brand and your purpose,” she said. “I think it’s important that I do get out in front of it. And do they do get to actually see me and hear me.”

What retails experts also agree on is being where the consumer is. Mobile alone is boosting e-commerce traffic. Statista reported that more than half of e-commerce retail sales will be from mobile devices this year, which is another reason why livestreaming is expected to continue to grow. Though, it’s just one element of the shopping experience.

“[Various ways] to shop will continue to grow as part of the retail ecosystem. Video and e-commerce have been long-term trends. Both accelerated dramatically during the pandemic — those things are at a new level,” said George. “But the benefits are strong enough [via livestream] that you will see a life of its own. I don’t see any turning back.”

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