The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Social Media Insider.
I recently wrote a lot about livestream shopping, but it was for a good reason: We seem to be at a crossroads of traditional social media platforms and the nexus of digital communication, entertainment, and commerce.
Live shopping––notoriously popular in China (and unpopular in Europe)––could be what keeps the older platforms now creeping into TikTok’s shadow relevant and profitable, or what boosts success for emerging players.
Will livestream shopping be the future of social media in the U.S.? Or will brands and retailers take the reins themselves?
Right now, it’s a bit of both. Some brands have inserted themselves into recurring streams hosted by YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and new platforms like Twitch, which continue experimenting with the format (Facebook shut down its live-shopping feature in October). Meanwhile, Amazon, Walmart, Gucci and many other retailers have hosted their own livestream shopping experiences in 2020, finding some success.
Either way, the trajectory is still somewhat of a toss-up.
To help make more sense of what’s to come, let’s check out a new study by technology company Morning Consult, which found that while almost 80% of Americans still haven’t participated in a live shopping event, their intentions are pretty evenly split, with 44% saying they would consider attending a livestream shopping event and 41% saying they would not.
Right now, it’s also more of a young person’s game, with Gen Z (45%) and millennials (42%) being most aware of livestream shopping, compared to only 19% of baby boomers.
“Making purchases through social media and other video platforms is essentially a native behavior for young people,” vice president of research and insights at Interactive Advertising Bureau Chris Bruderle told Morning Consult, adding that the more tactile elements of shopping, like trying on a product in person (not virtually) aren’t as important to younger generations as they are to older ones.
But age isn’t everything. Analytics firm Coresight Research still predicts that revenue for livestream shopping in the U.S. will grow to $20 billion this year and $57 billion in 2025, up from a measly $6 billion in 2020.
“The Gen Z consumer sees content creators as trusted friends,” Maggie Adhami-Boynton, CEO of video commerce platform ShopThing, told Morning Consult. “They would rather shop by watching personal videos of people they love trying out products than have items pushed to them via traditional advertising.”
While social media-like formats attract younger users to livestream shopping, the study also shows that social media may be a major reason livestreaming shopping won’t work: its association with social scares off too much of the older population.
More than half of respondents (54%) cited a lack of comfort with making purchases through social media as a major reason why they would not participate in live shopping events in the future, while less than 35% of respondents said product quality, seller integrity and shipping concerns were major issues.
Either way, the study concludes with a portrait of live shopping’s slow, brutal climb to a peak defined by China’s success, while pointing out that “the real win” lies in “the unification of a fragmented retail landscape” if live commerce does its part in connecting brands, retailers, publishers, platforms, creators and consumers in an engaging way.
With the rising popularity of short-form video, gamified experiences, and mixed reality, livestream shopping seems like an eventual mainstay in our society. But it may take a few years, and by then the social media landscape may have new leaders.