And while 2020 brought logistical challenges for the business, investment in live streaming services puts it in prime position to take advantage of growing consumer interest in ‘shoppertainment’ – a blend of shopping and entertainment.
Pioneer of shoppertainment
“Tapping into shoppers’ thirst for digital content and online interactions, [live streaming] is quickly becoming one of the most effective ways for businesses to sell to and engage customers,” Martin Wang, director for Social Commerce & Innovation Partnership at AliExpress, told Inside Retail.
As one of the pioneers of this trend, AliExpress is rolling out this business model across key markets to help sellers and content creators tap into the live streaming trend.
“Since AliExpress launched a new version of its in-app live-streaming feature in July 2019, it has provided nearly 37,000 live shows in thirteen different languages, including English, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Polish, and Ukrainian etc, and drawn audiences of nearly 91 million from all over the world with more than 84 million interactions,” Wang said.
During the pandemic, AliExpress also launched AliExpress Connect, a platform to help influencers worldwide digitalise and scale their businesses. As a result, the number of live streamers on AliExpress has risen sevenfold over the past year, the number of live-streaming events has quadrupled, and gross merchandise volume has jumped nearly 10 times due to live streaming.
Language barriers present an additional challenge for cross-border sellers and shoppers, and for this reason AliExpress has used AI translation technology to support real-time content translation into 18 languages.
This year, AliExpress developed the world’s first real-time livestreaming translation feature on an e-commerce platform, and the award-winning system has boosted merchants’ sales since its introduction in May.
“The highest conversion rate of live streaming sessions with realtime translation is 300 per cent higher than live streaming sessions without,” Wang said.
Why consumers want to be entertained
According to Forrester, consumers are consuming more interactive content online, such as livestreaming videos, interacting with key opinion leaders (KOLs) on social media, and playing interactive games, as a distraction from negative news.
“Shoppertainment suits consumers’ new behaviours and mindsets well in the post-pandemic age,” Xiaofeng Wang, senior analyst at Forrester, told Inside Retail.
“Live-streaming commerce is the most popular format of shoppertainment. It creates customer engagement and boosts impulse purchases and successfully captures consumers’ attention and helps them discover products in an interactive and direct way.”
In China, Forrester research shows that 43 per cent of consumers prefer live-streaming commerce, while 35 per cent prefer traditional e-commerce.
“Live-streaming commerce shortens the path to purchase and merges the Discover, Explore, and Buy stages. Recommendations from KOLs and real-time comments from peers help consumers make purchase decisions faster. And livestreaming sessions often include exclusive limited-stock and limited-time offers that create an urgency to buy.”
While livestreaming commerce is gathering momentum in China and across Asia, other regions such as Australia, the US and Europe are experimenting with this phenomenon.
Earlier this month KitKat introduced Australia’s first Facebook-live shopping experience, ‘Live from the Kitkat Chocolatory’, in which viewers could make direct purchases.
Xiaofeng Wang said that Gen Z consumers who are used to live streaming and shopping online are more likely to adopt this shopping method faster.
AliExpress in 2021
Looking ahead to 2021, the key areas of focus for AliExpress will be around creating a better and more personalised user experience, bringing a “human touch to virtual shopping” and increasing trust with shoppers.
“Technology powered personalised user experience, such as personalised recommendation, picture search, instant real-time translation will help to facilitate communication between sellers and consumers,” the director of social commerce explained.
The business is hopeful that by addressing key tension points in the shopper journey, that it can accelerate usage by first-time e-commerce shoppers.
Having opened up its platform to merchants in several pilot markets outside of China in recent times, including Russia, Spain, Italy, Turkey and France, AliExpress is aiming to further strengthen those markets next year.
“For 2021, we will continue to improve logistics and user experience in Europe where AliExpress has a strong foothold, contribute to the local economy by facilitating local sellers in Spain, France and Italy to digitalise and internationalise their businesses,” Martin Wang said.
“We also hope our investment in shoppertainment, especially live-streaming, can bring more job opportunities and income streams to the local community in the years ahead.”