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Everything business owners need to know about livestream shopping — and 3 ways to get started


Two iPhones display a livestream shopping app.

Summary List Placement

If you’re familiar with Instagram Live or remember flipping through HSN and QVC shopping channels while searching for your favorite Saturday morning TV shows, you likely get the basis of what livestream shopping is today. 

Now imagine a millennial or Gen-Z influencer steps in front of the camera and instead of peddling watches and kitchenware, they’re selling vintage clothing, Pokémon cards, and Hello Kitty journals.

Welcome to the future of retail. 

Estimated to become a $6 billion market in the US this year and $25 billion by 2023, according to the research firm Coresight Research, livestream shopping has become a go-to strategy for boutique brands and major retailers like Amazon, Sephora, Uniqlo, Nordstrom, and Walmart alike.

Here’s what you need to know about the growing trend and strategies for using the technology in your own business. 

What is livestream shopping and how does it work?

Livestream shopping is widely popular in China, but has only recently gained attention in the US. In the last few years, several startups placed their bets on the sales channel becoming more common stateside, and now there’s a slew of apps people can download to start shopping.

The user experience varies across platforms — some shows are mobile-only, while others are compatible in browser view. Shows broadcast in real-time and a live chat box allows viewers to comment and ask the host questions.

All the while, the products shown are listed on the screen for viewers to purchase immediately. The transaction is done within seconds — there’s no calling to order or opening another tab to checkout.  

The host is the star of the show, typically an influencer or the owner of the business, and uses their personality and expertise to keep the audience engaged. They might share about their personal interests or give tips on how to use a product. They talk with viewers as if they’re sitting right in front of them, even if they’re thousands of miles away. Similar to a YouTube vlogger, the point is not to be scripted and rehearsed, but natural, conversational and at times a bit quirky. 

Read our guide on the top apps and how to use them here. 

Three strategies to use livestream shopping for your business

Showcase the personality of your brand

Live shows give you the opportunity to tell the story behind your brand and the products you sell. Think of it like your own talk show in which you get to connect with your customers and in turn, they feel more invested in you and your business.

For instance, a fashion designer might explain the inspiration behind their latest collection and what went into creating the clothing. Or a Marvel comics seller might talk about how they became a collector and what upcoming series they’re looking forward to. 

Build hype around a new launch

Livestream shows are an effective approach to form an event around a new product, collection, restock, or pre-order. The live shopping format lends itself to urgency, so when you list a limited quantity of a best-selling item, shoppers will be more inclined to purchase it.

This is especially true for collectible or rare items, but can also apply to restocking a popular product or letting viewers pre-order something brand new. The idea is to give customers an exclusive first-look — and anyone who doesn’t tune into the livestream will miss out. 

Advance your influencer marketing strategy

If you’ve already used influencer marketing to build your social media following, livestreams can be the next step in broadening your customer base. (If you don’t have an influencer marketing strategy, check out our guide on the topic.)

Just as you would recruit an influencer to promote your products on their platforms, you can invite them to host a livestream show. Their fans now become thousands of potential viewers for your show. 

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