For decades, Black Friday marked the official start of the holiday shopping season and was one of retailers’ most critical sales days. But thanks to the evolution of ecommerce and, specifically, live shopping, brands and retailers have the power to expand their holiday revenue opportunities and capitalize on an entirely new wave of commerce.
In fact, recent examples show that adding livestreams to the existing digital holiday formula helps brands build hype, connect with shoppers in a more meaningful way and drive sales on a larger scale than ever before.
While live shopping events can hold their own as major independent campaigns, they also are a perfect complement to existing festivals. In particular, participating in live shopping events across the holiday season — when shoppers are on the lookout for advice on top products and suggestions for thoughtful gifts — can help retailers wring even more value out of the busiest time of the year.
“People are ready to spend — brands are incorporating social commerce into their holiday sales strategies to meet their customers where they already are,” said Kate Gronso, Product Marketing Lead, Facebook Shopping in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “They can easily buy on the platform any day, but incorporating additional benefits like exclusives, discounts and free shipping during high shopping months creates more incentives for consumers.”
Live shopping festivals aren’t the next step in holiday retailing — they’re already here. Some of the successful events that already took place this year include:
- Meta’s Daily Live Shopping Experiences: Live shopping on Facebook and Instagram is helping retailers connect with shoppers in new, three-dimensional ways — building a sense of community and laying the groundwork for the social media giant’s transformation into Meta;
- QVC and HSN’s Shop With Us Live: This 49-hour festival drew upon QVC and HSN’s deep experience in home shopping to offer a multitude of options across platforms and product types, driving home the authenticity of a truly personal shopping experience;
- 10.10 Shopping Festival: Coresight Research’s second annual 10.10 event brought in 164,350 unique consumer viewers over its 12-hour duration, with a varied slate of charities, retailers and technology innovators and the goal of creating a fascinating gateway to the holiday shopping season.
Live Shopping Turns Events into Community-Building Opportunities
Facebook has been working with retailers large and small to launch live shopping events on its platform as part of its evolution into a virtual commerce hub. Some of retail’s biggest players are on board for the ride: Macy’s, Ulta Beauty, Vuori and Walmart will all host their own livestream sessions during the holiday season, which will be a golden opportunity for them to connect with their shoppers on a deeply personal level.
“Having a connection to brands helps shoppers feel confident in their purchase and allows them to ask questions in real time, or learn from other viewers who have also previously purchased the product,” said Gronso. “Additionally, if a live shopping event is tied to a timed shopping moment, knowing how consumers use social media to stay on top of the latest trends, these customers are a lot more likely to tune into the stream to shop relevant deals and products.”
In fact, the key difference between a live shopping event and a traditional shopping holiday is the connections, community and customer loyalty that the former can build. “It’s easy to think that live shopping is just reinventing home shopping, but live shopping is so much more than that,” said Gronso. “The heart of live shopping is the community that comes together around the event. Real-time interaction and conversation between the hosts, viewers and others in the audience fosters real community while providing a personal, engaging experience that wasn’t previously available with ecommerce. It’s not necessarily about production value — retailers looking to become involved in live shopping events should particularly focus on fostering community and getting to know your customers by engaging with them directly.”
Community-building may also help retailers prepare for Meta’s namesake, the metaverse. The virtual space “is meant to feel like a hybrid of today’s online social experiences, sometimes expanded into three dimensions, or projected into the physical world — and stitched together so that you can easily jump from one thing to another,” according to Gronso. In some ways, this matches the experience of attending a live shopping festival, making the virtual marketplace a natural next step.
“There will be more opportunities for creators and businesses in the metaverse — like those who make digital objects, who offer services and experiences, and those who build entire worlds like game creators do today,” said Gronso. “The metaverse will remove many of the physical constraints we see on commerce today and make entirely new businesses possible. Fundamentally the new experiences we build in the metaverse will enhance digital shopping experiences and will not replace physical ones.”
QVC and HSN Help Shoppers Choose the Perfect Livestreaming Experience for Them
QVC and HSN have been helping brands reach customers through live shopping video commerce, which the companies call “vCommerce,” since the 1980s. For them, live shopping is the next step in the continual evolution of at-home shopping. Shop With Us Live, which ran Nov. 6 and 7 (with an extra hour due to Daylight Savings) put an emphasis on holiday deals and gift ideas while also taking advantage of livestreaming’s interactivity.
“The magic of live shopping is so much more than just selling a product,” said Brian Beitler, Chief Marketing Officer of QVC U.S. and HSN in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “It’s about the joy of discovery, engagement, storytelling and relationship building, which have always been core to what we do, and it’s why we continue to succeed and lead in vCommerce. This event showcased our unparalleled ability to engage millions of customers with multiple live video shopping experiences wherever they were accessing video, including on mobile devices, computers and TV.”
An important aspect of Shop With Us Live’s success was its flexibility. QVC and HSN tapped their expertise and history of successful events experience to create an ecosystem that spanned multiple platforms, so shoppers could tune in wherever and however they preferred. As a result, the companies:
- Earned more than 12.5 million live video plays on Facebook;
- Garnered over 15,000 new followers on TikTok;
- Saw more than 10 million sessions on QVC.com and HSN.com; and
- Achieved nearly 1 million total plays on the QVC and HSN Streaming App.
Shoppers also had the power to curate their experience and dig into the livestreams that were most relevant for them. They could choose from four to six different livestreams, which featured celebrity guests like Whoopi Goldberg, Dolly Parton and Tori Spelling. This approach, which created a “choose your own journey” experience for consumers, shows the real power of a live shopping event when it is developed in a thoughtful way and across a multitude of platforms.
“Whether chatting with a celebrity on social or discovering holiday deals, customers were able to choose what excited them most, while conveniently accessing the stream on their platform of choice,” said Beitler. “As others experiment with livestream shopping events, one of the hardest challenges will be to create that truly authentic shopping experience.”
Coresight’s Event Demonstrates the Importance of Interactivity and Creativity
Coresight launched the 10.10 shopping festival in 2020 to “bring the excitement of shopping festivals online and to help retailers and shoppers address the disruption caused by COVID-19,” according to Founder and CEO Deborah Weinswig. The 2021 iteration included 33 brands across accessories, apparel, baby products, beauty, electronics, footwear and home goods.
The festival also included a charity component, with Soles4Souls and the National Breast Cancer Foundation hosting their own livestreaming sessions to introduce viewers to their organizational missions and visions. Charity was a strong motivator overall: goodMRKT, an artisan homeware retailer that supports good causes, hosted the most-viewed session of the entire event.
Creativity also was a key ingredient: goodMRKT auctioned off a jacket during its session, and many of the top 10 streams offered bonus products, free personalization services and other differentiators. Direct interaction also was a standout feature — goodMRKT and Neighborhood Goods were No. 1 and 2, respectively, in number of likes received from shoppers; they also were No. 1 and 3, respectively, in number of chats held with viewers.
Live shopping is still a developing space, and retailers looking to get involved will have plenty of examples to follow during what is expected to be a digitally record-setting holiday season. Facebook’s daily experiences are ongoing, and Walmart will be continuing its own live shopping evolution by hosting the first shoppable livestream on Twitter featuring Jason Derulo. The space is evolving at a rapid pace, and companies that take the right lessons to heart can get in the forefront of retail’s next major innovation.