Bridging the gap between e-commerce, video streaming and physical retail, live commerce is a retail tech trend currently taking markets like the US and China by storm.
In the process, it’s connecting global consumers with local retailers and opening up whole new markets to the sector.
So, what is live commerce, and does it have a future in Australian retail?
What is live commerce?
Live commerce is a combination of online retail, e-commerce and video live streaming. It allows retailers to showcase products in real-time, answer questions and take immediate orders online.
Its popularity has been driven by markets like China where the world’s largest e-commerce platform Taobao connects retailers and producers with consumers, using a standalone app and live streaming features.
Wowza notes the trend promises to transform retail in a similar way to the advent of e-commerce 20 years ago.
In the case of live commerce, “this convergence of video and shopping helps improve engagement, close the gap between customer and product, drive sales, and — in cases where bidding is involved — increase the average sales price”.
Live commerce in the US
The US moved into live commerce only relatively recently but still, the trend is gaining rapid traction, with one of the pioneering examples being ShopShops.
Developed by a young university graduate who has lived both in China and the US, ShopShops was first formally unveiled in 2017.
Its aim is to connect Chinese consumers with American retailers using live streaming and sees ShopShops prearrange then host events at retail outlets. Armed with smartphones ShopShops hosts spend time instore asking questions and trying items on or testing them out.
ShopShops explains the concept has three key components: hosts who manage the Livestream events, acting as a stylist, fit model and translator to the viewers; stores which have the opportunity to host two-hour live events and open their doors to thousands of global customers; and viewers who tune into the Livestream events to shop the world from the palm of their hands
Each session can potentially draw 30,000-40,000 Chinese viewers and potential customers, and ShopShops accepts payment, collects their commission, packages the product and mails it to the purchaser in China.
In the interim, the process not only allows global and interactive retail but also enables merchants to test products in new markets prior to release.
The success of the concept has seen ShopShops grown to encompass offices in New York, Los Angeles and Beijing. The company has more than 300 hosts, does 20 to 25 events a day, and is active around the clock except for the hours between 2am and 6am China time.
A growing trend
ShopShops isn’t the only US player embracing the Livestream trend. In 2019 Amazon launched Amazon Live, which allows retailers to host their own Livestream events and connect with a digital audience.
Last year also saw the launch of Shopping Party, which looks to recreate the traditional experience of shopping with friends at a shopping mall.
The virtual mall experience combines scrolling products on display, and live videos of influencers promoting each item, along with a chat box for viewers to ask questions.
In the future, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are expected to further amplify the trend.
Live stream retail in Australia
Australia is yet to really jump aboard the live stream retail trend, but for retailers with wide appeal, unique products and items that pique the interest of shoppes in Asia and elsewhere, it offers real potential.
Harnessing the power of technology, the personalisation of live streaming and the established tradition of e-commerce, it opens a whole new door to bricks and mortar retailers looking to find a fresh footing in an ever-changing retail landscape.
For the retailers taking part, live streaming creates a wealth of exciting possibilities where the lines between digital and physical become more blurred and the customer could feasibly be anywhere in the world.