UK Spotlight - Livestreaming: Social Commerce’s Newest Player

Livestreaming is the newest iteration of social commerce to reach the UK and pique marketeers’ attention. We can define livestreaming as the marketing and sales of products to online viewers through real time video streams, dominated largely by fashion and beauty. Many look to China to see how livestreaming looks in the mainstream. Shopping via livestream generates 20% of China’s total eCommerce share and is worth $239 billion, with global brands like Dior, Prada and Skims leveraging livestreaming to sell en-masse and launch new products. Until 2020 livestreaming was broadly a nascent gimmick in Europe and had relatively low adoption from brands. As Covid-19 forced a rapid digitalisation of retail, UK brands began incorporating livestreaming into their mixes in a bid to maintain strong brand engagement and place products in consumers hands. 

We should draw comparisons between the UK and China with a degree of caution, however. Livestreaming is a significantly profitable revenue stream for brands and influencers in China. Leading KOL Mr Bags sold 1.2million Givenchy bags in 12minutes during a WeChat livestream in 2019, and monetary tips sent to KOL hosts from viewers brings in more revenue than advertising does on Taobao. Retail psychology & product developments in the West are lagging China with in-app checkout largely in beta. 

But advancements in shoppable livestream technology across Europe are significant nonetheless; leading players like TikTok, Twitter and Amazon’s Twitch is driving the increased adoption of livestreaming in the West. Amazon’s Beauty Hall Live and YouTube’s Beauty Fest are the newest additions to the retail calendar, activated wholly via livestream. TikTok’s partnership with Shopify offers in-app checkout via TikTok Live, significantly shortening the path to purchase. Balmain used TikTok Live to stream their Fall/Winter 2021 show, reaching over 240k live viewers, gaining 50k+ new followers and over 22m video views. The live show was promoted by in-feed ads beforehand, generating mass awareness across the platform.  

London Fashion Week 2020 was an entirely digital affair. Luxury brands like Burberry, Fenty and Off-White livestreamed runway shows to audiences via and in partnership with video platforms like Amazon’s owned Twitch. Brands experimented with shoppable technology integrations into livestreams as well as more branded experiential formats. Burberry enabled viewers to buy products direct off the runway, whilst Mulberry streamed poetry readings alongside product showcases, and Fenty Skin threw a virtual house party giving viewers the chance to dance alongside Rihanna and ASAP Rocky.  

In 2021, 73% of UK consumers expressed an interest in livestream shopping, indicating a significant shift toward this new route to market. Evolutions in retail psychology towards more digital sales channels means it’s important for brands to begin adopting digital-first thinking in their 2022/23 planning. Testing and learning in this space, as well as other planning tactics, will be fundamental for success:  

Create a Cross-Functional Team 

Brands must adapt to support digital ways of working; this means creating a dedicated function within the business that enables fluid alignment across divisions. Livestreaming has shared responsibility between sales marketing, merchandising, technology, and customer service teams. The role of the agency is to drive collaboration and help to streamline across divisions.  

Generate Demand with Your Product Strategy 

Social commerce works best when an impulse purchase demand is matched with product availability. Consumers are less likely to convert if they can browse the same SKU in their own time once the livestream has ended. Brands are generating increased demand via livestreams by selling exclusive and limited inventory or pre-release SKUs; offers like this both increases viewership and sales conversion rates. Billie Eillish and Target released exclusive collectibles via livestream platform NTWRK, selling out in 20 seconds. Those who missed out could purchase via mass-release on  

Apply a Test and Learn Mindset  

Successfully navigating livestream as it constantly evolves and innovates requires frequent testing and learning to gather insights. Allocating quarterly budgets to testing and learning ensures investment is protected in this space. Publicis Commerce can support clients in defining a test and learn roadmap for shoppable livestream activations, and leverages NextTechNow’s network of innovation partners to help clients deliver exciting and market leading activations.  

For brands wanting to stay apace in 2022, livestreaming is undeniably one of the newest and most important digital channels to consider in your media plans this year.