Social Commerce: the future of Live Shopping is a blank page

As of 1 October 2022, you will no longer be able to host new or scheduled live shopping events on Facebook. You can still use Facebook Live to stream live events, but you won’t be able to create product selections or tag them in your Facebook Live videos.

With a blog post, Meta has penned the words “The End” in the story of Facebook Live Shopping, preferring to focus on the purchasing functions of Facebook and Instagram Reels. The reason? Because, the brand says, the content user habits are shifting towards short videos, including when it comes to intention to buy. Live Shopping can still be broadcast on Instagram, where it will be supported more and more by Reels that now include product tag functionality to facilitate the discovery of new products.

And what are the other social networks doing?

Although live streaming purchasing is considered by many to be the future of commerce, Live Shopping is still a controversial topic, the dynamics of which remain largely unknown. In fact, Meta is not the only company to back down on this format. TikTok has also paused its project to introduce a live shopping function — TikTok Shop — in Europe and the United States, following the poor results obtained from testing carried out in the United Kingdom. The company justified its choice by stating that the market is not yet mature and the awareness and interest of users are still in the embryonic phase.

In contrast to these two platforms, YouTube has decided to accelerate the development of its Live Shopping feature, announcing its partnership with Shopify. The goal is to allow creators and brands to easily present the products in their content and, by connecting their Shopify store to the YouTube channel, they can tag the articles directly in the live streamed video. In this way, consumers will be able to complete their purchases without leaving the platform.

Social networks are not the only ones interested in live purchasing. Other platforms, such as Amazon and Ebay, are also implementing tools and features dedicated to live sales.

The reasons behind Live Shopping’s slow start

In the wake of success in China — where Coresight’s research predicts that the business of live commerce will reach $500 billion within this year — many initially saw this format as the next revolution in online shopping behaviour. However, it seems that, here in the West, Live Shopping is not being welcomed with the same enthusiasm, despite investment and various attempts by brands and platforms. The cause is not necessarily down to lack of appreciation of the format; in fact, this slow spread could depend on many factors.

The first of these is the Western public, whose habits are very different from those of Eastern consumers. In Italy, for example, online commerce reached its peak only very recently, following the pandemic and the forced closure of physical stores. Traditionally in Italy, we are not particularly inclined to use digital wallets or other electronic payment methods that can simplify purchasing products on different e-commerce sites. This scenario is often further complicated by the lack of suitable technologies to support shopping in live streaming, which therefore do not always manage to ensure the immediate and uninterrupted user experience necessary for the format to succeed.

Last but not least, the slow spread of Live Shopping in the Western market is due to lukewarm commitment by brands, which have embraced this format less than wholeheartedly, failing to dedicate to it the time and resources needed. To date, most brands use live broadcasts mainly as an occasional marketing tool; and yet, the organisation, promotion and management required are very complex, because there are so many variables that affect the success of any initiative.

The time may not be quite ripe yet, but the market and consumer interest trends are clear: there will be more and more talk of social commerce, which focuses on entertainment, authentic relationships and people. And we strongly believe that Live Shopping is the right means to move in this same direction; for this reason, today, we want to explain why it is really worth including live shopping in brand marketing strategies.

The benefits of Live Shopping

Live shopping is nothing other than a form of shoppable entertainment, or interactive shopping experiences that combine the involvement of in-person shopping with the convenience of e-commerce, offering consumers an immersive way to discover products.

The advantages of this format include the opportunity to build compelling product stories. It is no longer enough just to show an article and the features that make it better than the rest, because users are increasingly experienced and demanding. But how do you tell a really unforgettable story? Through multi-sensory experiences such as live demos, interactions with multiple guests and Q&A. This is where creative and empathetic storytelling plays its part in creating authentic connections between people and products. Communication must necessarily address the emotional sphere of viewers who, identifying themselves in the narrative, will become attached to the story that accompanies the experience and to the brand that tells it. And it will be exactly this emotional connection that governs purchasing choices.

What could be better than useful and fun content? Content that is useful, fun and also exclusive. Live shopping is an unprecedented experience: even if you can watch it later, the uniqueness of some content — such as timebound offers or limited editions — and above all the interactions in real time, cannot be recovered..

In the United States, Benefit Cosmetics has taken advantage of this advantage of Instagram Live Shopping to amplify the launch of two new products: the Brow Microfilling Pen and They’re Real! Magnet Mask. The brand has been able to fit perfectly into the dynamics of social commerce, involving users and offering the opportunity to buy products in preview directly in the app. The results are unprecedented: Benefit Cosmetics ran out of various shades of eyebrow pen within 72 hours, sold one mascara per minute during the live broadcast and recorded 2.4X more sales in the period immediately following the Live Shopping than the average monthly sales since the beginning of the same year.

Benefit Cosmetics Live Shopping

Another strength of live shopping is the real-time interaction that is missing from all other formats. Viewers can ask questions, write comments, and receive live assistance with their purchase. Many social media users are already used to asking for information and contacting brands; the real added value of live shopping is that the first answer that consumers receive does not necessarily come from a bot, but from hosts, creators or experts hired on purpose to resolve doubts or questions. And so the gap between brands and customers shrinks.

Last but by no means least, comes longevity. All the effort of creating an engaging, entertaining and informative live is not an end in itself. Whether they are broadcast on branded e-commerce sites, on third-party platforms or on social media, they can always be saved. In particular, on Instagram they are saved as videos in which the product tags are automatically included, so that finding and purchasing things, even at a later date, becomes very easy.

A shining example of how to prolong the positive effect of a live event over time is Upim, which hosted and saved a Live Shopping on its e-commerce, making it available for replication. The brand website was chosen as the main platform to host live streamed events, promoted by a skilled pre- and post-live communication strategy on the official Upim profile and that of the creator chosen as host. The live show aired on 6 December 2021, Christmas Jumper Day, promising to suggest ideas for Christmas shopping. Together with TikToker Mala, Annie Mazzola, a digital creator and voice of Radio 105, led the 45-minute live show, which successfully entertained the audience, showing 41 women’s clothing products and offering personalised advice in real time.

Christmas Jumper Day Live Shopping

Did this experience also work in Italy?

We can see the results: a 12% increase in sales and 18% more in the average shopping cart in the 24 hours following the live, says the brand in a statement.

The future of Live Shopping

We have seen that Live Shopping can bring concrete benefits and the brand stories above are proof of this. These results are also due to alignment with current trends, such as conversational and social commerce, that humanises products, shoppable entertainment and the concept of phygital that unites the offline world with that of the web. There is still a lot to be done to find the right way forward but the potential for success is there.

This article was written by Alice Zinna, Content Specialist


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