Live-stream E-commerce is certainly nothing new in China. Alibaba’s Taobao Live dominates the market in China at around 80%, with new players jumping in due to the popularity of this format. Douyin, which is China’s version of TikTok, has created shoppable live streams within their app, which is being tested on TikTok in the U.S, with a recent partnership with Walmart. Southeast Asia is also finding success with live-stream content. Singapore specifically saw a 40x increase in the number of live streams from brands and sellers on Shopee during the pandemic (WARC,2020).
So What Exactly Is Live E-Commerce?
Live E-Commerce is the selling of goods online, in real-time through influencer or brand streams on various digital platforms. A number of E-commerce platforms such as Shopee and Lazada have integrated features within the platform ecosystem to allow for E-commerce streams. Shopee has over 14 million daily views, over 17,000 live streams and over 700,000 hours watched each day! Brands are seeing the opportunity and collaborating with such retailers to boost their sales and offer new formats to sell products more effectively online.
The Evolution Of Live Streams During A Pandemic
Over the past year, we have seen a huge shift in how brands are able to interact with their consumers as a result of the pandemic. With social distancing measures, what transpired was the inability to shoot TV commercials, out of home advertising becoming less effective and the decline of radio, due to the new adoption of streaming platforms. This shift forced all brands to become digital-first entities. Brands who were unable to move with the tide found the pandemic to be devastating.
Live-streams were a big phenomenon in Asia prior to Covid-19, with the pandemic accelerating adoption rates due to the increased reliance on digital by both brand and consumer.
The benefits of streaming live are clear – live product presentation, responding to the audience’s questions in real time, as well as flash promotional offers to help encourage purchases.
The numbers don’t lie when discussing the past year’s success in the live-stream space. According to Shopee, the industry saw a 99% growth in 2020 globally, with Twitch seeing 1.65 billion hours of content in just April 2020! Streaming formats certainly dominated throughout the pandemic and have appeared to stick, with platforms and brands all looking to integrate live formats into user and customer experience.
Exploring How Brands Are Using Live Formats For Their Marketing Efforts
Live streams can occur within an app’s E-Commerce stream, but also can appear on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitch, allowing users and brands to communicate with followers and consumers in the moment. These social platforms are seeing the value of live content and are beginning to build out live-stream E-Commerce capabilities. We’ve already seen this with TikTok in the U.S and now Facebook has launched a test in the same market with retailers such as Clinique and Sephora, as part of the platform’s ‘Live Shopping Fridays’.
For in-app E-commerce live streams, brands in Southeast Asia are working alongside KOLs (key opinion leaders) within specific markets to host them. Brands will put together scripts for the KOLs to follow, which include introductions on the brand, product reviews, experiments and promotional offers. Live streaming E-Commerce allows brands to offer a means of selling where viewers can directly click to the product and purchase right there and then. Live streams also allow consumers to ask questions and for the KOL/host to give genuine feedback, helping to push consumers further down the marketing funnel from awareness, consideration then conversion in potentially one sitting. The platforms that allow for live E-Commerce streams also integrated mechanics to engage audiences through likes, coins to earn and vouchers offered throughout the stream. Brands are seeing such value in live commerce that companies such as Lazada (A Singaporean multinational ecommerce platform) held a LazTalent competition to search for new hosts for their streams, due to the increase in their partner brands requiring such talent to conduct the streams.
As the competition heats up, many brands are investing in social live streams to stay at the forefront of their market. These live streams are becoming like mini entertainment shows, aiming to not only entertain but keep brands at the front of consumer’s minds. It is often not all about pushing a product, particularly on social, brands are organising live workout classes, cooking and concerts to build brand affinity through live formats.
Brands in Southeast Asia have seen a 10-20% conversion rate from high-quality streams (Shopee, 2020), which is leading to more brands adjusting budgets to accommodate live streams. Interestingly, there has been a 30% increase in online sales in general since the outbreak of Covid-19 (Shopee, 2020). On top of this, Southeast Asia is the leader in E-Commerce, with Indonesia and Thailand being the highest in growth over the past few years of online sales at approx 15%, (Eastspring Investments, 2020).
The Move To Digital Events
From our own experience with clients in Southeast Asia, we are certainly seeing a need to stay ahead of the competition. Clients want to be at the forefront of digital trends, meaning a high demand in exploring live-streaming formats through KOLs.
Clients such as Olay have already conducted numerous product launches via live streams on social – in replacement of physical events. A case study to highlight is that of the Olay Retinol Product launch in both Singapore and Malaysia. The launch was during the lockdown, meaning there was a need to quickly pivot strategy to move the event online. By using KOLs, it was possible to create teaser content that informed the audience of the upcoming live-stream event. The livestream was then conducted by a KOL Host, with skincare KOLs and the P&G scientist joining throughout. This was hosted on the influencer’s channel, due to their higher following, rather than the brand’s account. They included games in which the audience would answer questions to win products and experiments to educate the audience on the product benefits.
As this was hosted on the Influencer’s Instagram page, we were unable to have direct click throughs to the website, so the link to shop was placed in the comments and host’s bio. We saw a huge amount of positive sentiment, uplift in purchases and general brand awareness of the new collection. Following such great results, Olay have continued efforts to incorporate live-streams into their product launches.
Don’t rest on your laurels…
The rise of live streams has certainly been dominated by Gen Z and Millennials – the digital natives. However, over the past year, there has been a movement of 40+ year olds watching and purchasing online. It is no longer enough to rely on traditional marketing practices, consumers are looking at more interactive touchpoints to be educated and entertained at every step before they decide to purchase. Live streams have proved to be a successful format in China and Southeast Asia in doing just that. It won’t just stop here, we are already seeing the popularity of live stream and live-steam E-Commerce influencer in the Western market. Brands looking to invest in innovative digital marketing strategies should be looking to the success of live-stream E-Commerce!