How live shopping can thrive in the UK & beyond

Our founder and CEO, Gilbert Corrales, spoke with eCommerce Age on the topic of Live shopping and the potential it holds for e-commerce growth both within the UK and beyond. This is what he had to say…

The news that Meta / Facebook will shut down its live shopping feature in October to focus on Reels has had commentators predicting that live shopping will “just never catch on” in markets outside China.

The truth is that live shopping is a nascent experience and it’s too early to tell exactly how it will pan out across mature and growing eCommerce markets. While live shopping may perhaps never be quite the same sort of phenomenon as it is in China — where it accounts for 10% of all eCommerce revenue — if it’s executed properly by the right brands, there is no reason that live shopping can’t thrive in the UK, US and Europe.

While live shopping is a relatively new offering, many of the components of a successful live shopping event are simple marketing fundamentals. The first is understanding the audience. Meta / Facebook’s users in the UK and US skew older. Many will have grown up with QVC — a television channel approaching its fourth decade. As a result, this audience may be more comfortable with the more passive experience of linear television. Live shopping has a distinct advantage over traditional TV shopping — interactivity. It’s much more of a two-way conversation and is more naturally aligned with a new generation of digitally native shoppers. Instagram says that 44% of their users use the platforms to shop on a weekly basis and it is worth noting that Meta is shutting down the live shopping feature on Facebook, it will remain on Instagram as Instagram Live.

The second is to understand what live shopping does (and doesn’t) do well. As with all channels, live shopping works better for some brands than others. It is also important to understand that QVC and a live shopping experience occupy different places in the sales funnel. Of course, live shopping events should generate revenue but brands should see them as an opportunity to reward loyal customers and convert those who are considering becoming customers — such as people who have signed up to their mailing list or followed them on social media but haven’t yet made a purchase.

Rather than an endlessly rolling shopping experience like TV shopping, live shopping is executed as a time-sensitive event. Brands that do it best make it a unique and enthralling eCommerce experience that adds genuine value for those who attend. Adding value could mean exclusive access to a new product drop or the launch of a new range. While this will naturally lend itself to established brands with loyal customer bases,

Live shopping can work for brands of almost any size as long as they make sure they are promoting it across their marketing mix. If you aren’t an established brand, adding value can mean offering your customers access to something engaging that they would normally have to pay for — for example, a make-up brand offering a masterclass from a leading make-up artist.

We’ve seen brands such as Snug Sofas do live shopping extremely well. Snug’s customers are millennials and Gen Zs living in urban properties so live shopping is a great fit for them. Their most recent event was an Instagram livestream with comedian Katherine Ryan. The event saw a 450% growth in sales compared to their previous live events. It also drove a record amount of traffic to their website resulting in a 160% increase in virtual consultations and even increased footfall at their physical retail pop-up in Leeds.

It’s a reminder that live shopping events can continue to drive purchases long after the event itself. While “tagging” products to appear on the bottom of the screen is a great way to drive purchases directly from the app during the live broadcast itself, live videos can also be saved to a profile so that customers can continue shopping even after the broadcast has ended.

Far from being in decline, live shopping is just getting started. It won’t work for everyone but for many brands, it can be a powerful addition to their marketing mix. The integration of emerging technology such as augmented and virtual reality will add new layers of engagement and interactivity to the experience. Whether it’s YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok, live shopping is seeing huge investment from both brands and the platforms that enable it. I think it’s here to stay.