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What is Live Shopping?

Post by
Tiffany Li
What is Live Shopping?

Since the rise of online shopping, customers can easily scroll through endless catalogs of products, checkout in a few clicks, and have items shipped across the world - all while sitting around on the living room couch. While this effortless experience still exists, there’s something fundamentally different and distinctive about in-person shopping experiences - face-to-face conversations and interactions.

I’m sure you’ve felt the frustration of looking closely at product images in online stores - wondering how those pair of pants will fit or how that gadget actually works. A confusing size guide, the lack of reviews, and redirects to chatbots makes me feel like I’m being stonewalled by my favourite brands. I love the convenience of shopping online but I hate gambling with what I'm about to buy.

With livestream shopping, or live shopping, many of these frustrations disappear.

What is live commerce you ask?

Live shopping is where video livestreaming meets e-commerce and social media. It is interactive and shoppable content that allows merchants to bring the in-store experience, online. This means merchants can turn boring and technical product descriptions into natural conversations. 

“It looks like QVC and HSN, are they the same thing?”

Many people compare live shopping to QVC and the Home Shopping Channel. From the format of the show to the types of things sold, it seems that live shopping and TV shopping networks are quite similar. However, we see live shopping differently. 

We see live shopping as a modern spin off that gives a whole new life to TV shopping networks like QVC and HSN. Unlike traditional TV shopping segments, live shopping events are not pre-recorded allowing the streaming host to engage in real-time and have candid conversations. On top of that, grassroot live shopping events aren't meant to be huge production with industrial-sized softboxes and state-of-the-art film cameras. While it can be, live shopping audiences tend to feel a greater connection when there are less formal film setting barriers.

Who can host the show?

Anyone who can speak to and represent your brand and products can host a live event. We’ve seen business owners, marketing managers, influencers or key opinion leaders (KOLs), to even sales associates lead live events. In larger events, we often see a show moderator and an influencer modelling or demonstrating how the products work and what they look like.

Viya Huang, China's most influential livestreaming KOL can sell anything from home appliances, clothing, makeup, cars, and even fresh produce from small farmers.
China's most influential live commerce key opinion leader (KOL) Viya partnered with P&G in celebration of its 10th anniversary on Tmall.com.
(Source: PRNewsfoto/P&G, 2019)


What’s in it for the audience and customers?

  • Live shopping brings the in-store experience, online. Similar to Twitch livestreams, viewers can engage with the host by asking questions and sharing comments in real-time. This eliminates customer's doubts and creates an urgency to buy, all in real-time.
  • Shoppable video content is entertaining and memorable. Customers feel rewarded when brands invite them to live product launches, exclusive sales, educational content, and candid storytelling that humanizes the shopping experience.

Why live shopping? What’s in it for you?

Drive urgency in real-time to boost sales revenue

Unlike traditional shopping, there are no sales associates standing by a single customer’s side to answer questions. Bombarding customers with targeted ads and other digital marketing is numbing. Customers are struggling to cut through your competitor's noise. There's a growing hunger for personal connection and relatability, all in which live shopping feeds.

Live shopping hosts can cut through the noise by engaging with their audience, nudging them towards the add-to-cart, and guiding them to the check-out finish line.

Bringing your products to life

We know you sell amazing products and it’s a shame that static product images can't always capture that. Many retailers struggle to showcase the intricate design, style, fabric with product shots. The dynamic nature of live shopping allows you to model your products in a way that’s like sitting front row at a fashion show or getting a personal fitting experience at the mall.


Relevance in a COVID-19 and Post-COVID World

As discussed in our previous post, COVID-19 took many industries by storm, drastically changing how they operate, with retail being no exception. More timely than ever, live shopping feeds the hunger for in-person experiences and connections whether customers prefer online or in-store shopping. For some, live shopping is entertainment while we’re all bored and cooped up in our homes. For some, live shopping gives them a peace-of-mind when making big investments online or hoping to save on costly shipping and returns.


Sales associate hosting a live shopping event inside a department store in China while viewers watch and buy at home. Live shopping allows customers see-now-buy-now all in the comfort of their homes.
Sales Associate promotes home goods at a shopping mall on social commerce apps while customers place orders at home.
(Source: Caixin Global, 2020)

Our Thoughts and Predictions

We see live shopping as a unique tool that can mimic the deeply social and interactive experiences of in-person shopping. In fact, large retailers like Walmart are pilot testing shoppable video to engage in this first-of-a-kind experience with their community. 

Whether you have an existing brick-and-mortar footprint or you're an e-commerce native, live shopping is a way for you to reinforce a memorable online shopping experience and to showcase the best aspects of your products online. While live shopping has been around for some time and is still popular in most of Asia and parts of Europe, we think that North America is trailing closely behind. We see live shopping as a disruptor in the digital retail space and it's here to stay.

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