If the e-commerce revolution started in1995, get ready for the next evolution. Starting slowly in 2014, live commerce (or live streaming) in 2020 is becoming a go-to option for Asian consumers seeking new products, promotions, or an impulse buy on a deal, especially for categories such as beauty and fashion, food, and home products. Estimated at around $18 billion in Asia for 2019, it is growing on an annualized 71% clip. So, what is live commerce/streaming?
Live streaming is like television shopping, think QVC and celebrity endorsement, upgraded for the 21st century. It hosts real-time broadcasting of video content by presenters/influencers that model or showcase products. Viewers are able to immediately purchase the item from an embedded link online. Does it work? Kim Kardashian partnered with live streamer Viya to sell 15,000 bottles of her KKW Beauty perfume within minutes. In addition, the single live stream session drew over 13 million viewers. So what’s happening in the United States?
In the USA, furniture e-commerce platform Wayfair introduced its first live streaming event for its annual 2019 Way Day event, and Amazon launched live stream functions in 2019. Amazon sellers can host live stream sessions on their store pages or product pages and have the option of paying to boost traffic to them. Amazon also hosts its own live streaming sessions to highlight new products or services. Despite this clear momentum, live streaming e-commerce is still in its early stages. So, knowing it’s coming, what should brands and small companies do now to prepare for this new e-commerce platform?
In order to better understand how e-commerce meets influencers/hosts via live commerce, I reached out to expert influencers and online marketers, Amra and Elma Beganovich. They got their start as fashion bloggers several years ago and now have more than two million followers and manage a large network of influencers. A&E (Amra & Elma LLC) a is a cutting edge New York digital agency www.amraandelma.com they founded offering services to help clients navigate the emerging landscape of social media, celebrities, influencers and e-commerce. The following interview was with Elma Beganovich via video chat.
Bernhard Schroeder: When did you or your agency first notice live commerce?
Elma Beganovich: We first noticed live commerce in late 2019 when we received an invitation as influencers to sign up for Amazon Live. The second time, as an agency, was when a live commerce application/platform from Asia asked us to recruit U.S. influencers to promote the application within the United States.
Schroeder: How are the big brands viewing this new medium or tool?
Beganovich: Big brands are still not on board, at least it is not yet mainstream; perhaps they have not noticed or are being cautious with live commerce. However, as more influencers jump on the bandwagon of live commerce, brands usually tune in quickly.
Schroeder: What is or will be the impact of Amazon Live?
Beganovich: I think Amazon Live, if played right vis-a-vis influencer strategy across different verticals, will take off just like infomercials and QVC had done in the United States in the ‘90s.
Schroeder: Are there any new live commerce platforms that small businesses should be aware of to leverage or utilize?
Beganovich: Not in the USA at this time, i.e., no live commerce platforms with heavy usage/active users. A small company or brand is better off setting up an Instagram shop because of the sheer volume of active users. With that said, company leaders should be on the lookout for the rise of live commerce platforms and be one of the first companies in that space so as to learn and grow as this platform will become overcrowded over time.
Schroeder: Will live commerce drive incremental sales or just cannibalize existing sales?
Beganovich: I think until it takes off, it would be a supplement to existing sales. Amazon Live is definitely worth signing up for as a small business, better to do it now before it is too late, i.e., overcrowded! I think for businesses, it’s about keeping an eye out on the rising live commerce influencers and hosts and then setting up shop with them.
Schroeder: Assume that over time, everyone adopts live commerce; what will make brands/companies stand out?
Beganovich: Again, content is king – how is the brand investing into its content strategy so that when customers arrive to its channel the brand is actually providing something of value. For example, for a fitness equipment brand, how fun are your workout videos? Did you invest into your instructors so that the audience will use word of mouth marketing to tell their friends to tune in and in return purchase your equipment? Which influencers are you partnering with to showcase your brand?
Schroeder: Do you have an example of a small company or brand in USA that has had success with live commerce?
Beganovich: Not yet, it is still a very new medium. Amazon is ahead of its time trying to take it mainstream in the USA; they are confident that it will take off considering the success of home shopping channels in the ‘90s. Again, I think influencers will be a powerful force in driving awareness from brands to consumers about the convenience of, and having fun through live commerce.
Schroeder: For small companies or startups, what are the three things they need to do now?
Beganovich: Small companies/startups need to consider these three factors when it comes to competing on live commerce:
– Be on the constant lookout for new technologies that can help you garner eyeballs, i.e., free exposure, and in effect sell more products or services.
– Invest into your content. Content is always king, e.g., be creative. If you were a food company, invite a chef to showcase how to bake bread, via live commerce or video, using ingredients you sell through your website or retailers.
– Work with a professional, not an intern, to set up your influencer strategy. Understand who’s really at the epicenter of your industry/marketplace to whom other influencers are paying attention to? Create a ripple effect with your influencer strategy perhaps using outer ring emerging influencers, slowly working your way in to the core influencers.