The Chinese retail market is leading in the livestreaming trend. In the first quarter of 2020 alone, there were over four million livestreamed shows in China, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce, where platforms like TikTok, Kwai, Alibaba and Tencent competed for the audience’s time and spending.
“Many businesses have had to adapt and learn as a result of Covid-19, and we are no exception,” Henry Lee, CEO of Australian makeup brand Napoleon Perdis, told Inside Retail.
Lee said Napoleon Perdis’ shift to live commerce, which is the fusion of shopping and livestreaming, last March 2020 to reach its audience was born from the need to deliver content when face-to-face interaction and travel were limited during the height of the pandemic.
“Fortunately it has been very successful for our business and also quite cost-effective,” Lee said. “Instead of sending a physical team to every state to deliver brand strategy presentations and training to B2B partners and our staff, we were able to reach the same people from our office in Sydney.”
Lee said the attendance of the company’s livestream events was even higher than that of its physical events because it gave guests the ability to connect from their homes, eliminating the need for them to travel (sometimes hours) to a central location for the event.
He said livestreaming will likely still play a role in the business moving forward. Beyond higher attendance rates, the brand is also seeing benefits from a time, resource and cost perspective.
Last year, Napoleon Perdis created a Beauty To You strategy, which would allow it to continue to deliver beauty services, products and makeup education with as little disruption as possible and without losing the human element that is important to the beauty brand.
Platform for advice
For outdoor retailer Kathmandu, livestreaming helps customers and educates them on what is important to the company, its mission and values.
“We know our customers come to us for the best advice, our in-store teams are incredible fountains of knowledge who can help you with pitching a tent or choosing the right gear for your next adventure,” Eva Barrett, Kathmandu’s chief customer officer, told Inside Retail.
“We’re experts in the outdoors,” Barrett continued. “As a response to this, we recently introduced the Kathmandu Adventure Advisors online, where members of our staff and confessed travel and adventure addicts are there to help you with buying the perfect gear.”
According to Barrett, Kathmandu customers are passionate about the world and ethical purchasing decisions. Educating them about the company’s products and providing them with transparency are part of Kathmandu’s priorities.
“We are currently running a regular livestream series on Instagram called Kathmandu Sustainability Series, where you can hear from leading environmentalists on how all of us can make the world a better place,” Barrett said.
Amanda Essery, founder and CEO of personal skincare and wellbeing brand Lovekins, told Inside Retail that the brand has been using livestreaming for several years now, even before the pandemic, as her team found it an engaging tool with which to reach the masses.
“Over the past 12 months it has been even more important due to limitations surrounding physical events,” Essery said.
“It’s a great way to connect directly with consumers and talk more about certain aspects of the brand’s story, and importantly, it allows customers to ask questions and receive answers in real-time. Lovekins is an all-natural brand, so this is particularly useful when providing information about our Australian plant-based ingredients.”
Not a guaranteed investment
According to e-commerce strategist Nathan Bush, livestreaming is an exciting opportunity for retailers but is far from a guaranteed investment, at least in the Western world.
Bush said livestreaming in China moves products and has done so for everything from high-end fashion to agriculture. However, he said, it is still in its infancy in Australia.
“There is definitely a trend towards shopping and entertainment coming together, but the platforms are not fully integrated yet,” Bush told Inside Retail.
“There is an opportunity for brands with engaged followings, especially on Instagram and TikTok to start experimenting with the inbuilt social shopping features as they are (and will be) quickly integrated into livestreaming functionality.”
Irene Chan, partnerships manager at the livestreaming platform Be.Live, said there are now many tools available for retailers, mostly around live sales, such as live selling or online shopping with live sales tool, which includes a built-in video editor.
Chan said the ideal length of a livestream depends on the topic the retailer would want to convey, its target audience and the goal of the stream.
“If it’s a simple live Q&A, it can be as short as 20 minutes,” she said. “If it’s a live panel discussion with more than three people, it can be up to one hour.”
Lee said service and education were the company’s top reason for utilising livestreaming. In 2020, the company liv-streamed Napoleon Perdis makeup academy certificate classes, as well as a media event to launch their Christmas Collection, The Virtual Series collection of virtual makeup masterclasses, brand strategy presentations to B2B partners, and brand strategy and team training sessions for staff.
Livestreaming apps and technologies
Napoleon Perdis’ team used Zoom and Microsoft Teams for external and internal presentations and conferences but has also utilised services from Go Live Australia for major brand strategy presentations in the second half of 2020.
“We’ve kept presentations around one hour or less in duration, depending on the event, to ensure content delivery is quick and engaging,” Lee said.
Essery said Lovekins had tried WeChat, Naver, Instagram and Facebook for events that are usually between one hour to one-and-a-half hours in length and never longer than two hours.
“It’s critical to maintain consumer interest,” she said.
“We’ve also found that it’s important to make sure the livestream takes place in an appealing location with a beautiful, clean backdrop alongside equipment that produces a smooth streaming experience creates a seamless and more enjoyable experience for customers.”
According to Bush, the more popular livestreaming platforms in China are Douyin (TikTok) and Taobao, which are considered more advanced. He said that in the West, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok made significant moves in social shopping last year.
“Once [livestreaming] is rolled out on mass, you should expect livestreamed shopping to use these features,” he added.
Measuring livestream shopping success
According to Esser, there are many different ways to measure the success of a livestream, not just through immediate sales.
“Success depends on what the goal or expectations were from the event,” she said. “The number of people signing up and tuning in for the event is usually a good sign of interest and engagement via comments or questions, as well as the conversion of sales.
“Keeping the content fresh during the livestreaming is especially important to avoid dropouts and as people tune in late, hence a level of excitement needs to be maintained to keep the audience engaged,” she added.
One of the more successful livestreaming events last year was KitKat’s launch of its Australian-first Facebook Live shopping experience, Bush said.
“They got 133,000 views on their broadcast, but the shopping experience was less than optimal,” he said. “Customers had to Facebook message a hashtag to the Kit Kat account. In return, they were sent product suggestions, which linked them to the website for purchase. We aren’t at the stage where shopping is integrated with content, but it will come.”
Bush said if the shopping aspect is taken out of it, there have been many businesses, especially smaller businesses, that have used livestreaming video effectively, especially during Covid.
“One example is Hagen’s Organics, a butcher in Melbourne who has used live video to teach people how to cook, how to butcher their own meat and just to entertain while they are in the kitchen. It has helped develop a really differentiated and connected brand,” he said.
According to Chan, SKINN Cosmetics has hosted engaging live shows that feature VIP guests who talk about their beauty products and their positive experience using them.
Kwoff, a wine shop in the UK, makes wine night more interesting as it shares special craft beers and award-winning spirits in a live wine tasting.
Chan said nothing could ever replace an in-person shopping experience, but livestreaming is the next best thing.