December 2, 2021 Does Livestream Shopping Belong In Your Brand’s Influencer Program?
New York Fashion Week didn’t merely return this September from pandemic hiatus—it demonstrated just how important “see now, buy now” experiences have become for brands in the meantime. The Met Gala, a media spectacle traditionally sponsored by couture houses like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, added a virtual shopping component by offering a series of exclusive consumer-friendly product drops via this year’s official sponsor: Instagram. For designers like Rodarte and Oscar de la Renta, it wasn’t enough to stream their runway shows to Amazon Live. The experience included the chance to purchase limited-time products directly on the livestream’s carousel.
While livestream shopping has become a mainstay on social networks in China, it continues to make gradual inroads stateside. Even larger players, like Amazon, have yet to consistently draw large crowds. But platforms continue to lean in, including Facebook, which is expanding its Live Shopping Fridays to a daily series focused on holiday shopping, and Pinterest, with the recently announced new Pinterest TV feature, would focus on live, original, and shoppable videos from creators like Christian Siriano and Olympic diving medalist Tom Daley.
As influencers gain mindshare among social media users, shoppable streaming events offer an effective mid-funnel way to encourage product discovery, consideration, and brand connection.
The Power of “Live”
YouTube’s popular unboxing and review videos provide consumers with insights and details that are hard to find elsewhere. Adding “live” to video presents a unique chance for brands to go beyond information, driving sales with a natural sense of urgency, creating brand-building experiences, and fostering consumer dialogue.
- Act now. The impact of adding a live factor to the remote shopping experience is nothing new, as QVC could have told you in 1986. There’s an extra immediacy to a live sales pitch, particularly when the clock is ticking on a limited-time offer or availability.
- Appointment viewing. In April, Petco made industry headlines with a unique livestream event, pairing a fun pet fashion runway show with an adoption drive that drew an audience of nearly 1 million. While video experiences have the benefit of being viewed on-demand afterward, bringing initial viewers together at a set start time creates the buzz of a real event.
- 1:1 connection. Live experiences offer consumers the chance to ask questions and give immediate feedback. Stores like Bloomingdale’s have staged regular shoppable live events on Zoom with featured creators, such as Jimmy Choo’s creative director, giving product demonstrations and answering questions. This setting provides brands with a chance to gather data while equipping consumers to make better product decisions for themselves. A recent survey from Coresight Research found that returns are as much as 50% lower for purchases made in a livestream.
As more platforms expand their live commerce capabilities, brands have taken different approaches. Some have launched their own dedicated channels with recurring brand ambassadors in a digital version of fixed TV shopping channels, like HSN. For brands looking to explore livestream shopping, partnering with established influencers presents the lowest barrier to entry.
The first step is thinking about your audience—not just what social platforms they use but also which ones they trust for advice on products. For example, your audience might turn to Twitter to hear the latest news and gossip, but they might go to YouTube for recommendations about products. Once you know this, it’s easier to decide who should host your shopping experience. If your audience is on YouTube, you’ll want to find a YouTube influencer. A big name on Instagram might not be your best investment. After you’ve zeroed in on what type of influencer you need, you can find them either through traditional talent representatives or by working directly with the platforms. Several platforms have launched services that directly link brands with creators.
Given the amount of money that can be made as an influencer, you’re likely to be presented with a lot of different choices. It’s important to draw a distinction between influencers and celebrities. A celebrity can be anyone with a large audience. Influencers may or may not have as large of an audience, but they’re able to directly affect the decision-making process. This is because people are following the influencers specifically for their connection to an area of expertise. In contrast, people often follow celebrities for their association with a fictional character (like a role played by an actor) or a hyper-reality image created by media (like a pop star). This means that the celebrity’s opinion might not matter as much to shoppers as that of an influencer.
When considering who to work with, look beyond their total number of followers to see how engaged their audience is. Is there a real, authentic voice in the content? Do people comment? Does the influencer answer? Does that answer seem to lead to a positive resolution? And is the entire conversation related to something that’s relevant to your brand?
The high-wire act of live broadcast involves specific complications in the digital realm. We’ve assembled the following list of things to keep in mind to make livestream shopping an effective part of your marketing plan:
- Deploy livestreaming when “live” provides a compelling added value. When livestreaming first started, brands went a little crazy and started broadcasting everything live. But audiences soon become overwhelmed and stopped tuning in. It soon became clear that there needed to be a compelling reason to watch live—and not to just check out the video when it’s more convenient. Those reasons can include exclusive product releases, limited-time sales, or opportunities to connect with the influencer.
- Make sure the experience goes beyond the buy. Livestream shopping offers consumers more than an immediate way to make a purchase. It also provides actively interested customers with a unique opportunity to ask questions, share their opinions, and build a brand connection that feels highly personal. Add value beyond product demonstrations with tutorials or an informational panel that brings an extra dimension to the product narrative.
- Consider the optimum length. Since the beginning of the year, BuzzFeed has put on more than 50 livestreams on Amazon Live (the online marketplace’s shoppable livestream offering), which ranged between one and three hours, and found 90 minutes to be the “sweet spot.” For Amazon Prime Day in June, the publisher hosted a 16-hour-long livestream that generated over 1 million views across the main Amazon Live video, as well as on the syndicated stream on Facebook Live.
- Don’t forget media support. It’s not much fun to throw a party without invitees. For livestream shopping events, consider paid media to help get the word out.
- Listen. Livestream shopping offers a unique real-time feedback loop. To make the most of it, enable chat features to capture in-the-moment customer responses.