- The global live video shopping market is growing at an exponential rate, with forecasts indicating that in the USA alone it’ll top $25 billion in 2023 (up from $1 billion in 2020).
- Viewers are demanding more and more video content from brands, with an additional 60% of shoppers saying that live-streamed content improved their online shopping experience.
- Though tried-and-tested best practices for live virtual shopping events are still in their infancy, the lessons brands have learned from elevating and celebrating user-generated content offer key clues on how to optimise the experience for viewers.
It’s the stuff of marketers’ dreams: a curious, engaged and receptive audience, the ability to personalise and answer questions about your product in real-time, and the opportunity to own (and act on) the data. Ever since Alibaba’s Taobao Live debuted in May 2016, the use cases for live video shopping have been well explored – and endorsed – by digital marketing teams right across the globe. Yet for brands looking to make that link between watching and shopping, the best way to gain a foothold on the opportunity is still unclear.
Video marketing in 2022
The explosive growth of online video consumption shows no sign of slowing: by 2022, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic — 15 times higher than it was in 2017 (Cisco). That growth is being driven on an individual-by-individual basis, with 96% of consumers increasing their online video consumption YoY (Hubspot) and the average internet user predicted to be spending up to 100 minutes per day watching online videos (Zenith) in 2022.
For brands considering how to most effectively hedge their content investment bets, the case for video gets ever-stronger: according to HubSpot’s “State of Video” report, 9 out of 10 viewers said that they wanted to see more videos from brands and businesses.
So if increasing video output is a clear no-brainer for brands in 2022, the question we really need to ask becomes “how do brands truly make the link between their video content and their commercial imperatives?” How can eCommerce businesses develop a clear strategy around video production that goes beyond “impressions” and brand association metrics, and into the nitty-gritty of increasing their conversion rates?
The metrics that matter
While it was widely reported in 2021 that shows on NTWRK had reached one million dollars in sales in 10 minutes, any attempt to separate the signal from the noise around live video shopping can feel like a foolhardy endeavour. Headlines like “Livestreams are the future of shopping in America” (Bloomberg) proliferate, while reports from McKinsey and others trace the contours of the opportunity for brands heading into 2022 and beyond.
For marketers looking to go from “agree in theory” to “ready to activate in practice” though, there’s a growing pool of more tangible proof points. Consumer insight group Coresight Research has made an important link between basket return and acquisition channel: they observe 50% fewer returns on products purchased through live shopping channels as compared to other eCommerce acquisition methods. The experience – which might take the guise of an online fitting room, a guided tasting, cooking class, make-up tutorial, tech unboxing, etc. – means that shoppers can ask questions about a product, see its form factors (size, colour, fit), and get a sense for how it’ll integrate into their world in a novel and transparent way.
And live video shopping experiences are helping brands deepen their links with difficult-to-engage demographics, too: McKinsey report that companies are seeing their share of younger audiences increase by up to 20 per cent.
Amongst all the conversation and hype though, there’s a factor too often underserved: the requirement to produce content that strikes an authentic balance between immediacy of experience, and sales. It’s at this juncture that the stats around individual video consumption and the early success stories of brands adopting social shopping platforms become less potent. Instead, it’s time to talk about what eCommerce marketers readying themselves for their first stream can learn from user-generated content.
It’s a time-tested fact that no content format is more successful in forging a connection between brand and customer than user-generated content. According to Nielsen, more than 92% of consumers worldwide say they trust recommendations from others over other types of advertising.
Marketers considering their approach to shoppable video face a unique dilemma: how to produce content that inspires conversion, maximises ROI (it’s no secret that the costs associated with running a live shoppable video feed can be high) but that also meets the viewer on their terms, not the brand’s. Thinking about it as “digitised QVC” is one approach (Bloomberg), but exactly how attractive that format is to a viewer remains debatable. In the absence of tried-and-tested best practices that brands can lean on ahead of launching their live video shopping strategy, we can instead look to one particularly powerful tool that brands use to boost user engagement and conversion: User-Generated Content.
The rules of (audience) engagement, as we see them:
- Do your research: there’s no better way to look for how and why people are celebrating your products than by surveying the UGC out there already. By identifying those trends, and then proactively celebrating user-generated content through the course of live streams you’re closing the gap between your current customers and your next customer.
- Activate your UGC: real people trust real content. Brands have typically relied on user-generated content to do the work of “showing, not telling” – in the case of live video, that principle is worth keeping front of mind. Getting questions from viewers during the feed? Have some customer-created content at the ready that answers their queries. Know that a particular product has an ardent following? Invite some of those customers along to advocate in the chat (you might even arm them with discount codes).
- Loosen the brand controls: it’s a couple of steps too far to say that throwing the brand handbook out of the window is the way to go, but – and as is the case with UGC – getting comfortable with letting some of the little things go is a key ingredient of delivering a natural-feeling shoppable video. Over-engineered scripts delivered in staccato fashion to-camera don’t engage, they alienate.
- Keep the conversation alive: your live shopping event might be triple-circled in thick red pen on your content calendar, but for your viewers and customers it’s just another of the many ways they will engage with your brand. Keeping the conversation going post-event is key, and by encouraging buyers to share their stories you’re nudging them towards advocacy status while securing even more brilliant UGC for using right across your eCommerce sales funnel (and during future live shopping events).
What Streams may come
When it comes to creating a live video shopping strategy, Brands jumping aboard needn’t feel like they’re starting from a standstill though: customers have long been telling them what they love most about their products in the form of user-generated content.
For the latest Live Video Shopping best practices check out the StoryStream eBook guide, or see what consumers are saying about the technology in our exclusive report published with the IMRG.