Livestream shopping – is this the future of fashion?

In a world where experiential retail is valued more than ever, retailers are tapping into livestream shopping events and experiences in a bid to target a wider audience. Retail Gazette speaks to experts to discuss if this is a merely a trend or if livestream shopping is here to stay.

Livestream shopping – is this the future of fashion?
"Live shopping works because it’s about creating a stronger emotional bond with brands, products, and personalities." : Michael Levitz.

In 2018 the live-stream video shopping market was worth £3.35 billion, fast forward to 2020 and the year of the pandemic, more luxury retailers ventured into livestreaming shopping experiences in a bid to capture those stuck at home during lockdown.

Now as Covid-19 restrictions across the world ease as the world returns to “normal” is it possible that livestreaming elements once adopted by brands will phase out or are they now here to stay?

Danny Stefanic, chief executive of the 3D virtual events platform MootUp said that during the Covid pandemic, live-streaming was “a brilliant way to keep consumers engaged during a time where, for most businesses, the rug was effectively pulled from beneath their feet.”

“For most retailers who relied so heavily on brick-and-mortar branches, going digital was a quick and efficient way to respond to this,” he told Retail Gazette.

As the world gets back to business and retailers test out a more hybrid model of working, Stefanic said that live-streaming elements will undoubtedly remain but that we will begin to see even more innovative ways of engaging audiences and keeping ahead of the curve.

“Ultimately, fashion is on a collision course with digital fashion”

Deborah Aitken, senior industry analyst for global luxury goods at Bloomberg Intelligence was in agreeance and said that livestreaming won’t phase out, even as stores reopen.

Aitken explained that during the pandemic, companies invested in digital and omnichannel experiences and we will be able to see this trend build growth on top of their traditional channels in the next years.

Key examples include Watches of Switzerland, who have continued with their online appointments, via video and phone calls while Kering brands are adapting marketing and communication strategies adding live online shopping, such as Gucci Live.

“Similarly, LVMH’s Sephora has introduced the live shopping with specialist support,” added Aitken.

“Prada and Moncler are among the companies that streamed their fashion week collection online and had simultaneous events in Milan and China.

“Other brands offer livestreaming of events and product launches with the possibility to seamlessly switch to their online platform to purchase internationally.”

As more retailers try to tap into as many new customers as possible, whether through social media or online Michael Levitz, chief business officer at the strategy, design, and engineering company Reaktor explained that “live shopping is the next evolution of what it means to truly connect with a consumer. ”

“Fans return frequently – and not just when they want to research or buy,” said Levitz.

“Live shopping works because it’s about creating a stronger emotional bond with brands, products, and personalities.

He explained that the hyper-personalisation of these shopping events, with each one centred on specific interests, is what also makes them so effective.

At the start of 2020, Gucci launched its virtual shopping service Gucci Live with an emphasis on the one-on-one experience of shopping in a Gucci store, allowing customers to chat with the retailer’s client advisors in real time.

In more recent news, Telfar, a retailer which has gained a cult following thanks to celebrities such as Beyoncé donning its clothes and bags, announced the launch of Telfar.TV where Viewers can watch the 24 hour public access station live on their actual television.

By watching the channel, customers can obtain QR codes for targeted drops featuring items that are available exclusively through the network — like the retailer’s new duffle bag.

Levitz said that the reason livestream shopping is becoming so popular is because it makes ecommerce more human; particularly for mission-driven brands.

“It’s also a great way for retailers to tap into the influencer marketing sphere if they haven’t done so already – it’s a huge trend worldwide and becoming a staple part of how to best connect with consumers.”

For retailers who do choose to hop onboard the livestream train, how can these experiences translate into sales?

Nikki Baird, vice president of retail innovation at the retail technology provider Aptos said that links do all the work.

“Experiential shopping has taken to the online realm”

“Both to drive purchases of whatever is being featured, but also to increase awareness and send people in search of related items,” she said.

Baird revealed that during lockdowns, retailers selling in China were selling 50,000 units of an item an hour after five minutes in a livestream.

She explained that while China is a bit of an extreme because of high adoption both for using video as a shopping medium and mobile adoption, it still gives a sense for the potential.

“For some brands, that would be a whole season’s worth of units – in an hour,” added Baird. 

If there are any businesses who are still in doubt over the benefits that live-streaming can bring, Melissa Minkow, retail strategy lead at software compay CI&T explained that live streaming has embedded its value through several attributes.

“Firstly, it’s flat-out entertaining. In our increasingly virtual, gamified world, consumers want and expect to be entertained by brands at all times,” said Minkow.

“Second, it’s educational in that it’s designed to demonstrate all use cases for a product, while answering a consumer’s questions as they arise.

“The third quality livestreaming boasts is its ability to provide a sense of community. With other shoppers’ mutual visibility, there’s a social aspect we might otherwise lack from the digital path to purchase.”

Lastly, Minkow touched on the sense of urgency which surrounds live-streaming.

“Knowing that you can’t catch the launch, exclusive deal, or real-time content later on lights a fire in shoppers’ hearts and wallets.

“Given these four pillars of value, it’s no wonder livestreaming is becoming a go-to relationship-building strategy for retailers.”

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