Most western companies have found themselves unprepared to face the new challenges and suffered a lot for this lack of organization because simply getting goods out of the door was a challenge in its own right.
But with more consumers set to shop online, and brick-and-mortar footfall down in many locations, a new competitive frontier will arrive in retail.
With more activity online, the competition will be just a click away. It will be harder for brands to stand out, and to guide their customers to the products they want.
Ecommerce boomed as stay-at-home orders were issued, and the increased activity will stick. Consumers expect to shop online more frequently, even after the pandemic.
But given the context of a virus, aspects of the experience could become obsolete: product delivery has to be socially distanced, there is little interaction with staff or fellow shoppers, and, most of all, fewer ways to distinguish a brand.
While online purchases are still largely driven by the “seamless” qualities of free delivery and easy checkout, an increasing majority wants the experience to be entertaining.
The most logical way to re-install an entertaining experience to the shopping process is to simply re-humanize the proposition.
With the advent of e-commerce, automation has driven the growth. It was the key driver of technological evolution losing focus on the most important aspect: Consumers are Humans!
China has shown us that human entertainment during an online shopping experience is on the priority list as the third leading purchase motivator – just behind free delivery/returns and quick/easy check-out.
Livestreams are already emerging in some parts of the globe as a way to provide that entertainment into the shopping experience. They’re engaging and easily accessible, as well as entertaining. In May 2020, Chinese live-streamer Viya hosted a live stream to more than 37 million users – and each night her audience places orders worth millions of dollars.
Brands across the globe should be prepared for this trend spreading in some form.
TikTok and Instagram are both doubling down on commerce integrations with livestreams (to say nothing of Amazon’s ambitions), and the global context will require retailers to work harder to fight for customers.
For some, it’s all about keeping the viewer entertained. Or, it’s about being able to see products demonstrated live. For others, it’s the scarcity factor, driving purchases through offering limited “drops” of new merchandise.
When consumers watch livestreams they’re not necessarily there to make a purchase. Much like when visiting retailers in-store, they can be “just browsing”. This creates an environment where retailers of all sizes can recreate their own unique storefronts online.
The live stream model in China is based around influencers (known in the country as “Key Opinion Leaders” or KOL) like Viya, and its understandable retailers might flinch from putting their reputation in someone else’s hands since consumers trust and value influencers’ opinion, and how ready they are to buy through them.
Consumers trust them so much that a new “army” of influencers was born from the word of mouth: “Key Opinion Consumers” or KOC.
Communities can form around influencers and KOCs when many consumers are shopping in isolation. They can also provide a human face to brands at a time when consumers are looking for empathy to help support them through the days. It is important seeing the trend as something more than QVC and teleshopping moved to a new medium.
This form of online shopping stands apart because of the interaction it fosters between the viewer and streamer.
While it has to be entertaining, it also has to be informative. Consumers tune into livestreams because they’ll learn much more about the brand and product than simple online descriptions, pictures, and even videos. It’s about finding the best way for brands to teach the consumer why they should buy their product.
Livestreams aren’t just a way to offload stock in a pinch, they’re a way to stay relevant and discoverable in a retail world increasingly online-first. Livestream commerce will be one key way of making this possible.
Livestream is the new shop owner to whom asking recommendation.
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