Live streaming enables brands to create a commercial conversation with their audiences that's always available and accessible.

Mark Zablan

Mark Zablan, CEO, Astute Inc.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced more than 11,000 store closures in 2020, and brick-and-mortar stores have been struggling to bounce back since the Great Recession. Online shopping has become increasingly convenient for consumers, but traditional ecommerce is missing a store visit’s engagement factor. That’s why livestream shopping is likely to be one of the hottest trends in 2021.

For those who were born in the ’80s, live shopping is nothing new. Channels like QVC and HSN revolutionized shopping with their always-on approach to live selling.

Today, social media offers brands better reach and engagement capabilities than TV and an ideal platform on which the entire customer journey can happen—from product discovery to post-purchase care. Livestream shopping might be generating buzz with the digital-first Gen Z age group, but how can brands leverage the phenomenon to build outstanding customer experiences and create tangible business impact?


Livestream shopping

More brands are turning to livestream shopping to listen to, engage with and sell to their customers. Livestream shopping uses live video to share products, answer questions, and close sales with customers who are joining remotely to watch, chat, and buy.

We can’t deny that part of the allure of watching QVC and other channels was celebrities showing off products. And live streaming on social media is no different. It taps into that same overlap between entertainment and shopping. Many brands collaborate with the influencers or celebrities who help make the experience fun, memorable and most importantly, interactive. And that’s the critical distinction between traditional live shopping experiences on TV versus those on social media. Your fans can engage with one another, ask questions, and get tips from someone they admire.

Live streaming of video content has been one of the most engaging organic marketing tools for brands to date. The success of live video lies in its authenticity. By avoiding the overly produced look and feel of classic marketing videos, livestream shopping enables brands to deliver a more personal experience for those tuning in from their phone or tablet. Real-time interactivity replicates the urgency of an actual marketplace, prompting immediate action and enhanced community participation.


Live streaming enables brands to create a commercial conversation with their audiences that’s always available and accessible. It allows brands to extend their reach beyond a specific geographic area and engage with audiences at scale.

A great example of this is in China. In 2019, approximately 37% of China’s online shoppers made livestream purchases. China’s live-streaming ecommerce market was worth an estimated RMB 440 billion, according to Everbright. This equals almost 9% of the estimated total ecommerce market in China. Live-stream shopping is also slowly gaining steam in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

For example, Amazon launched Amazon Live that included an array of shoppable fitness, makeup, and cooking shows and offered a suite of tools that enabled brands to create programming. Facebook is developing native livestream shopping tools, with one headline announcing that “Facebook Live is the new QVC.” Recently, Shopify and TikTok announced their commerce partnership; merchants can now deploy in-feed, shoppable video ads on TikTok that drive traffic directly to their Shopify store. Livestream shopping aims to enable consumers to give feedback and make purchases without leaving the stream.

It’s worth noting that the live streaming industry is expected to be valued at $184.27 billion by 2027.


Building empathy with social care 

But live streaming isn’t the only thing blurring the lines between social media and other parts of the customer journey. Customer care has been on this path for years. Filing a complaint or asking a question no longer requires a phone call. Customers can and do interact with brands and businesses over social media platforms and, according to research done by Forrester, 80% of consumers use social media to engage with brands. Many companies use social media to augment their call-based customer support activities by addressing complaints, answering questions, providing guidance, and even issuing refunds via social channels.

Customers not only expect brands to offer social customer support through social channels, but they also expect quick replies. According to Facebook for Business, 76% of people who message a business do so for customer service or support. More than 150 million people message businesses through Instagram Direct every month. That’s because 64% of people would rather message than call a business. Social media is the preferred customer support channel for those under 25, with 32.3% of them saying it’s their top choice.

When you provide excellent social customer service, you build a rapport with your customers, increase loyalty and often build brand advocacy.

A look into the future

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed millions of consumers to increase their interaction with retailers and brands online and many will continue to do so long after the pandemic is over. It’s no question that the online shift is permanent. Brands can weather the latest retail storm by embracing the entire customer experience’s redesigns, including by leveraging social media for social care and live-stream shopping experiences.


No other platform can beat the reach and scale of social media. As our habits shift towards being digital-first, social media might well be the place brands can build customer engagement, trust, and brand loyalty, while positively impacting their bottom line.

Astute Inc. provides consumer-engagement software for omnichannel retailers.