The coronavirus lockdowns around the world have placed a greater strain on online retailers and e-commerce than ever before. While food and essential goods were the primary driver of online sales initially, most categories including clothing, home and furniture, and consumer electronics have also seen rises as consumers adapt their shopping habits.
A recent Kantar study revealed that six out of 10 consumers will continue purchasing online as they do today once the pandemic subsides. That means brands will be looking for new and innovative ways to reach their customers online, and increasingly they will look further afield to find state-of-the-art solutions.
Shopping meets live entertainment
Enter “live commerce.” For those new to the term, live commerce can almost be seen as a reboot of the shopping channel for the digital age — a convergence of livestreaming and e-commerce that is already hugely popular in Asian markets.
It centers around influencers, known in China as key opinion leaders (KOLs), broadcasting live to millions of viewers and showcasing products, which could include trying on items, demoing and describing them.
Retailers regularly offer discounts as part of a livestream and have garnered very impressive sales results. Taobao Live, the dominant live commerce platform in China, reported that their gross merchandise volume has grown by 150% per year over the past three years.
Elsewhere, during a joint livestream with Kim Kardashian ahead of Singles Day 2019, China’s top livestreaming celebrity Viya sold 15,000 bottles of perfume in the space of just a few minutes.
It’s only a matter of time before Europe and North America catch up. Amazon launched its livestreaming shopping platform, Amazon Live, last year and Facebook and Instagram are reportedly piloting their own versions of the service as well.
But for livestream commerce to gain traction with a generation of young, digitally native online shoppers, brands have to recognize live commerce for what it is — a form of entertainment. That means the online experience has to be seamless.
Keeping the stream flowing
E-commerce needs to look at the other forms of online entertainment to see how the model can be a success, and a great example can be found in eSports. Gaming, an activity traditionally enjoyed individually or in small groups, has been transformed into a global, interactive form of entertainment by the web, creating the eSports boom we are now witnessing.
The successful eSports platforms all invested just as much into performance and scalability as they did the entertainment, and ecommerce must too if it’s to have the same success with live streaming.
The more concurrent users on a platform, the greater the chances of it falling over. Slow page load times or a lagging stream will likely push consumers away, and that means lost sales. Thankfully, simple software fixes and a reliable content delivery network can speed up web platforms, eliminating customer-churning latency and providing the stability at scale needed to deliver excellent web experiences for users. This happens while protecting backend servers and minimizing operating costs, meaning brands can capitalize on heightened interest and maximize sales.
Retail companies have begun to embrace the power of video and 2021 could be the year when livestreaming in ecommerce really takes off on a global scale. Brands should use the coming months to look at their online infrastructure and ensure that when the rush comes, they aren’t left lagging behind.
Lars Larsson is CEO at Varnish Software.