The Definitive Guide to Live Commerce for DTC Brands

Date: July 15, 2021

All signs point to a single truth: live commerce is the future of retail. While it is visibly growing as a trend in countries like India, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines, it is already at a mature stage in China. According to this article in Forbes, estimates by Alibaba and KPMG show that the eCommerce market from livestreaming is worth $305 billion in 2021. 

If you’re considering moving to live commerce as a business model, you’re not alone. The brick-and-mortar store is around for now, but the decline of offline shopping has been steady and indicative of a tectonic shift in the industry. 

The importance of future-proofing your business

When COVID-19 hit, it sent massive shockwaves through the retail community. Without customers to visit physical stores, brands of all sizes began to dip into the red. The brands that were first to recover were those with an ability to sell online. According to research firm eMarketer, ecommerce grew by 33.6% in 2020, preventing the unprecedented losses that may have occurred. 

In the face of black swan events like this, live commerce may be the life raft that saves businesses. But in times of business-as-usual, live commerce can be the best way to cut costs, build deeper and more permanent connections with customers, and create a brand that is as mobile and relevant as your consumers want it to be. 

The longtail of COVID in a post-COVID world

We all know what COVID has done to the retail industry, but trend analysts believe that many of the changes wrought by the pandemic will remain long after it is behind us. 

How will consumers and shoppers behave a year or five years after the pandemic is over? How will their behavior affect your business? A Shopify survey recently released the following findings: 

  • Interminable lockdowns and social distancing have led to more online purchases, with the biggest difference being seen in previously slow categories, like home essentials, health and self care products, and groceries. Traditionally, shoppers prefer to buy these products in person. However, surveys show that 63% of shoppers enjoyed the home delivery features of online shopping, while 54% of shoppers found it a more convenient overall experience. 

 

  • Being stuck at home has forced changes in purchasing behaviour. 75% of the surveyed shoppers have tried new online brands, and 60% of these shoppers plan to continue using these brands. They have also become more comfortable with using mobile payments, choosing products online with limited information, and comparing options online. In their personal lives, almost all shoppers are increasingly adept at video calls, conferencing, and accessing information online to make a choice.

 

  • The key to standing out in a post-COVID retail landscape will be innovation. After readjusting and recalibrating their lives, consumers will be looking for brands that can adapt to their new priorities and requirements. While there may be a boom in offline retail after COVID, we must remember this: it is expected that all industries will boom. After the initial acceleration, the brands that have resonated with a new generation of post-pandemic shoppers are the ones that will weather the storm.

How will live commerce help YOU?

Making the shift to live commerce is not a small proposition. It will require effort and expense on your part, but when does it begin to pay off? 

Live commerce helps you engage with your customers better

Online shoppers today are bombarded with ads, new brands, and calls to action, and are more likely to be drawn to personal, immersive experiences. With short attention spans and multiple distractions, how does a brand create recall and generate sales? 

If the trend in social commerce or live commerce proves anything, it is that evolved customers are hungry for novel shopping options. As video content consumption rises steadily and shows higher and longer engagement rates than any other form of content, it makes sense for your brand to be present where your customers are spending more time. 

Live commerce creates trackable, actionable customer databases

As a DTC brand, you are likely to be present on multiple retail platforms as well as social media and marketplaces. With all these options, the platform is the gatekeeper for your customers, and limits the information that you can access. 

With live commerce, you can analyse trends, predict product popularity, understand customer behaviour better, and build a database of shoppers that will pay off for years to come.

Is the cost worth it? 

For many businesses, the cost of moving to a live commerce model may be too high – if it is not done with planning and strategic choices. It may be a hard sell to owners and management, especially if they’re new to ecommerce and have not yet seen ‘proof of the pudding’.

When your business decides to move to live commerce, you must consider the following: 

  • Gathering and analyzing customer data
  • Creating adaptive low latency experiences
  • Recording high quality videos
  • Linking products
  • Scheduling live streams
  • Inviting customers

With a tool like Swirl, it is easier, faster, and more cost-effective to plan and execute the above tasks, making it a smart investment for brands.

Whether your brand is considering live commerce or has started taking the first steps, there is potential enough to make it worth the shift. China and Korea are far ahead of the trend, but countries like India, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are adopting it with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 46.4%. 

With tools like Swirl, live commerce is made a breeze for brands and is extremely cost effective with a lot of headache and hassles removed of accessing customer data, giving adaptive low latency experiences, recording videos, attaching products, scheduling live streams, inviting customers, etc. etc.

In the years between 2015 and 2020, revenue from online video commerce went from $3.5 billion to $17.6 billion which sets the standard for other markets. In the US, it is expected that live shopping will generate $25 billion by 2023. 

And it’s not just retailers who want to join the party. In 2020, Instagram introduced Live Shopping, Facebook started Facebook Shops, and Google launched Shoploop. If the big players are trying to get a piece of the pie, it’s an indication of trends to come.  

But is live commerce right for YOUR business?

Running a successful live commerce business is not just about setting up a website. It requires certain processes to be in place to support customers and sales. For example, can your brand manage the following logistics: 

  • Streamline inventory management to handle online orders and offline purchases?
  • Offer omnichannel-like conveniences like in-store pick-up, home delivery?
  • Provide customized sales services and solutions for customers?

Brands with some experience selling on marketplaces or on social media may have prior experience in such areas, but there is more. 

If you want to participate in live commerce, your content has to be created and produced for the medium. You will need a support system of social media, digital advertising, search optimization, and email marketing to generate leads and draw customers in. This means investing in equipment, software, skills, and people to manage it efficiently. 

How to plan your move to live commerce 

Live commerce is not something that can be integrated into your brand like a patch on software. For it to be truly effective, you will need to examine your entire funnel and make the necessary changes. If you’re just starting off, it is advisable to consider each of the below pillars of live commerce and plan how your business can optimize each one.

Aim for info-heavy content: When creating live commerce content about a product, provide as much information as you can about sizing, benefits, ingredients, variants available, and different ways to use it. You have a short window in which to capture your consumer’s attention so make sure you communicate everything you want to. 

Keep your content relevant: Many brands hop on to viral trends or current affairs that are close to their brand identity or that are important to their customers. Whether you may not choose to participate in social trends for a variety of reasons, your content should remain fresh, current and contemporary. Stay up to date with tech and digital options like payment platforms, apps, games or memes, trends in your industry, and consumer habits. 

Provide custom service: One of the chief draws of live commerce is that customers can interact directly with the brand. If you can offer personalized attention, either through FAQs or live chats, your conversion rates will be higher. Helping your customers find products they like builds trust – they are more likely to come back to try your other products or buy more of what they liked. 

Create transparent and efficient fulfilment: If your customer has had an unsatisfactory sale or post-sale experience, they will not return. This is a matter of trust between you and your customer, and you should consider it a make-or-break item on your list. No matter how great your live commerce content is, you must be able to provide multiple payment options, smooth delivery, reliable tracking, and a simple return and refund mechanism. 

Using live commerce to be more effective, engaging, and worthwhile

Live shopping can help your brand create its own space in the lives of customers. It is effective on three significant levels: 

  • It has been proven time and again that consumers are spending longer on video content than on static content. According to this article in Oberlo, users spent 6 hrs and 48 mins every week watching video content in 2019. In 2020, it was between 84-100 minutes per day. With the higher engagement (such as questions, chat, custom solutions) that live shopping allows, you will have a longer duration to capture eyeballs and market to them more effectively. This can add up to a considerable reduction in acquisition costs and advertising.

 

  • With live shopping, you can demonstrate to customers how your products can fit into their lives. Video content can be edited and customized far more creatively than static product shots, creating a need and allowing customers to visualize your product in their cupboards or homes. For example, Tanishq built an online service for customers that included video calling, 360-degree virtual store tours, live chat, and virtual trials to help customers shop from the comfort of their homes.

 

  • Apart from product demos, live shopping can also be made for themes like behind-the-scenes, virtual tours, or live trials. This is a great way to let shoppers know what your brand stands for and assure them of quality. With content like this, you’re more likely to establish brand affinity for your customers and improve brand recall. For example: Dollar Shave Club created their launch video in one day, with a budget of just $4500. The founder walked through their warehouse, explaining why the product was different from Gillette or other popular brands. The video went viral, crashing their site and bringing in 12,000 orders on the same day.

As with all businesses, we must adapt to changing times and new generation of consumers with different needs. The signs are clear: live shopping is the new wave and it’s time for those of us in the retail industry to decide where we want to be paddling when the wave rises under us.

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