“72 per cent of retail professionals said the crisis (COVID-19) accelerated their digitalization plans by at least one or two years, with 21 per cent saying it fast-forwarded plans by at least three years.” This interesting finding by Euromonitor International sums up the life of retailers in the past one and half years. The pandemic indeed forced many brick & mortar store owners to traverse the digital path. They started embracing an array of technological marvels such as: augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and live selling, way ahead of their scheduled adoption. 

Live selling, in particular, gained tremendous acceptance and became a household name after the pandemic. The market for live selling in the US is almost going to hit US$11 billion by the end of 2021, and in China almost every other retailer has embraced live selling after the pandemic. 

However, many other parts of the world, including Canada, are yet to explore this engaging medium. It presents a huge untapped opportunity for Canadian e-commerce giants and SMEs alike. But with COVID-19 (hopefully) reaching the climax, and people starting to step out of their cocoons again, a new elephant enters the room: will the numbers for live selling fall back to earth as consumers begin to return to brick & mortar stores? 

Let’s analyze. But first, some basics. 

What’s live selling all about?

Live selling is a hybrid form of selling – a smartly blended concoction of traditional home TV shopping, modern live video streaming, and powerful influencer marketing all rolled up into an entertaining, fun, and convenient shopping experience. 

Though live selling cannot promise a physical connection with a product, it does offer a compelling 3-D virtual alternative for the buyer to virtually participate in the testing, learning, and shopping of the product in a way that is not available in traditional eCommerce. 

With live selling, consumers can interact with the presenter, send their queries directly via live chat, where the retailer is able to respond to them instantly. Some mobile app-building platforms take live selling one step ahead, with features like auto-invoicing, waitlisting, reservation, and more.

Live selling is available on platforms like:

  • Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram
  • eCommerce platforms like Amazon
  • Video hosting platforms like YouTube

Tip: If you are a complete novice to live selling, pick a platform that offers both interactive and commerce features like live chat and the ability to make in-app purchases.

The much-needed deviation from monotonous shopping

Traditional online shopping on Amazon, Walmart, or eBay for the past two decades has been largely the same. Shoppers visit these websites, click aimlessly around, and usually buy the items that are the most discounted.

But we can’t really blame them. Many eCommerce product pages are static with a bunch of vanilla product photos on a white background. You have to place your bets on the three or four lines of product description and reviews, without any scope for physical evaluation or 3-dimensional viewing. 

Live selling addresses these teething issues. It is poised to take over the next phase of retail due to the progressive need of consumers to have human contact during online shopping. COVID-19 has just accelerated this process.

A solution for the present and the future

Live selling is quite popular amongst Gen Z consumers (63 per cent of people aged 18-34 watch live streaming content regularly). Celebrities and social influencers are having a growing impact on the purchase decisions of these consumers. 44 per cent of Gen Z’s purchase decisions are based on social influencers’ suggestions and advice. In fact, these audiences are demanding to see more live content from their favourite brands and influencers that they can relate to. 

The grass is green on the other side as well; influencers and retailers (even newbies) are reaping the benefits of live selling. Not only is it easy to host, but they do not need any advanced production equipment or management skills to conduct such events. Dale’s Clothing, Sweet M, Cactus Creek, Ruffled Robin are examples of retailers who are successfully running live selling events.

Is it a temporary fad?

Chris Cantino, Partner at Color Capital, says: “Live shopping engenders trust and community by connecting shoppers to sellers… we’re in an era where off-the-shelf options are ceding attention to digitally-native brands who broadcast and engage their customers face-to-face and create enduring relationships rooted in commerce.”

In 2020, nearly 265 million Chinese internet users bought goods through live selling, roughly 47 per cent of the total stream viewing audience. According to a Mckinsey report, Alibaba’s Singles’ Day pre-sales campaign in 2020 on Taobao Live alone generated an impressive $7.5 billion in total transaction value! 

Here’s what it implies- every second video streaming watcher is a potential live selling buyer. If we transpose the same rule to the Canadian audience, the market is expected to hit $40 billion by 2025. In short, live selling is here to stay!

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
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Baskar Agneeswaran
Baskar Agneeswaran is currently the Chief Executive Officer at Vajro, a technology company dedicated to enhancing the mobile app experience for small to medium businesses. Leveraging his years of experience in AI- and software-driven solutions, Vajro is becoming one of the global leaders in live video commerce technology.