Live shopping, also known as live stream shopping or shoppable streaming, combines live video, social media and e-commerce. It’s a trend that’s been huge in East Asian countries for several years and is finally making its way to Europe and North America. Social commerce has been increasing in the U.S. since 2019 and is projected to double by 2025 for platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. The number of buyers on TikTok skyrocketed from 3.5 million in 2020 to 13.7 million just one year later.
If you’re wondering what live shopping is and how your brand can take advantage of this rising trend, this guide’s for you. It covers the basics of live shopping, including how to choose a platform and tips for making your shoppable live streams a success.
What is live shopping?
Live shopping is the browsing, buying and selling of products via real-time video broadcast. You know those home shopping channels on TV? Those shows feature a presenter who showcases or demonstrates products so viewers can call in to order them. Today, live shopping takes place online more so than on TV, on platforms like Amazon Live, YouTube Live, TalkShopLive, Taobao and many others.
Live stream shopping is more convenient than TV home shopping networks, however. Because live video platforms have built-in features like live chats and polls, these streams are much more interactive. They’re also accessible; viewers can access them from wherever they can get an internet connection, on just about any device.
How does live stream shopping work?
Live stream shopping combines the best qualities of in-person and online shopping — personalized attention and convenient purchasing.
Live stream shopping is similar to regular live streaming, but with added features to allow viewers to buy the products they see on the stream. If they see something they want to purchase, they can click on the product and order it right then and there.
Social networks with live video features like YouTube and Instagram have started adding shopping capabilities, but not all major live streaming platforms have product purchasing widgets. Facebook had a live shopping feature until it decided to shut it down in October 2022. To maximize sales on your broadcast, you should consider the following options:
- Stream on platforms dedicated to live shopping like Amazon Live or TalkShopLive.
- Stream to your e-commerce website where you sell your products.
With a multistreaming service like Restream, you can broadcast your live videos on social media and on a live shopping platform to maximize your reach and deliver branded content to your social media followers.
all at once
The benefits of live shopping
The retail e-commerce industry grows every year, with sales reaching approximately $5.2 trillion worldwide in 2021. E-commerce is lucrative but it’s crowded. If you own an e-commerce business right now, live streaming your products or partnering with influencers to stream your products for you could be the best way to stand out.
There are several other benefits to creating shoppable live videos, including:
- Fewer returns: Returns of products bought on live shopping streams can be up to 40% lower than traditional e-commerce channels.
- Interactive content: With live comments, questions, polls, and other features available on live broadcasts, shopping streams can make viewers feel more engaged and connected to the brand and the products.
- More social media engagement: When you broadcast a live shopping stream on social media networks in addition to shopping platforms, you create more chances for viewer engagement and boost your social presence.
- Brand awareness: Live shopping streams are one more type of content you can add to your overall content marketing strategy — another avenue for getting your name out there.
- Customer accessibility: The rise in online retail has already made shopping more accessible for consumers. Adding a live stream to the experience makes it even more useful as customers can get more details about a product before they decide to buy.
- More hype: You can use tactics like limited-time offers or viewer-only discounts with live shopping videos, which helps generate hype for your products and drive more sales with impulse buys.
How to get started with live shopping
To make live shopping videos, you need to do five basic things:
- Choose your products
- Find a host
- Select the format
- Pick a platform
- Rehearse the broadcast
1. Choose your products
Live streaming is known for being spontaneous and improvised, but you’re here to make sales. So you need a plan. First, figure out which products or services you want to promote on your live broadcast. There’s no best practice when it comes to which products will sell better; it depends largely on your business. Try featuring some of your current bestsellers, or products you plan to discontinue soon. Experiment and see which of your products do better on your live sessions.
2. Find a host
The featured products and services might be the stars of the show, but you need a host or presenter to showcase them. Generally, you have two options for a live shopping host:
- Host it yourself or with someone from your company. This is the better choice if you know viewers will ask more technical questions about your products.
- Hire an influencer. Get an influencer or brand ambassador with an existing fanbase to present your products or services if you want to maximize exposure.
3. Select the format
You have your products and a host, now you need to decide what structure your live shopping video will take. Some commonly used formats for live stream shopping are:
- Product or service Q&A
- Product demonstration or tutorial
- Existing customer interview
Figure out how long your live session should be and fill that time with various segments. You’ll have to decide how many products you’re including, how long they’ll be displayed or featured, and if you want to give out coupons or discounts during the stream.
4. Pick a live shopping platform
Next, you have to choose a live shopping platform for your broadcast. The top characteristics you need to keep in mind are:
- In-stream purchasing feature: The platform should have a way for viewers to purchase products that you highlight during the broadcast — that’s a must-have for a live shopping platform.
- Live chat: Interactivity is central to the live stream shopping experience, so a live chat function where viewers can make comments or ask questions is also a must.
- User interface: Setting up a stream and showcasing your products should be hassle-free. It should be a seamless viewing experience for your customers too.
- Pricing: Not all of these platforms let you stream for free, especially because you’ll be making money off your streams with product sales. Scope out the prices before committing to a platform.
- E-commerce integrations: A live shopping platform should have a way for you to integrate your e-commerce website (for example, using Shopify).
- Analytics: To see how well your broadcasts are doing, you’ll need audience analytics and insights. Choose a platform that provides metrics such as average watch time, concurrent viewers, and the number of purchases.
The most successful live shopping platforms serve the Chinese market, but there are some platforms outside of China that are gaining steam. Here are some of the biggest names to consider.
Social media apps with live shopping capabilities
Some social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have live shopping functions so you can promote and sell products or services during your live videos.
- Instagram Live Shopping: Instagram has a shopping feature enabled with its live video function, so you can stream to your Instagram account while showcasing products. It’s one of the most popular options because it’s such a well-known platform and many companies have already invested in building up an audience on Instagram.
- YouTube Live: In July 2022, YouTube announced that a Shopify integration is coming soon. For now, the platform lets you place a clickable link in your live videos so you can technically do a live shopping stream by inserting the link to the product page. You can also sync your Google Merchant Center account to place products directly in videos.
- Twitch: The popular gamer-focused live streaming platform Twitch has tons of features that allow for interactivity with viewers. It’s not known as a live shopping platform, but you can add clickable links for online stores in the live chat or your channel’s About page. For some video games, Twitch Partners can also sell in-game items (or the game itself) and get 5% of the proceeds. Creators can also create and sell custom T-shirts and merch on Twitch via Teespring, which partnered with the gaming platform in 2019.
Dedicated live shopping platforms
Although platforms with shoppable streaming as their sole or main purpose aren’t as well-known as social media sites, they’re becoming more popular.
- Amazon Live: Rather than a live streaming service that started offering shopping, Amazon is an online retailer that started offering live streaming. Streams on Amazon Live are geared solely toward the promotion and sales of products — and only products on Amazon. It’s a better choice for influencers or content creators that aren’t affiliated with a single brand.
- Popshop: Popshop is a mobile live shopping platform for iOS. Video hosts can upload purchase links using photos and integrate the app with an inventory management software to keep better track of sales.
- Buywith: The live shopping platform buywith was designed to make promoting products and scoring partnerships with brands easier for influencers. It allows creators to shop with their followers live on e-commerce sites.
- TalkShopLive: The “always live social-shopping network” TalkShopLive has become a big player in the live shopping market, attracting big-name influencers and celebrities who want to share their products. The emphasis is on both selling and the social connection.
- NTWRK: NTWRK is the live shopping platform that helps people discover new brands, products and artists. Users can subscribe to specific episodes for a chance to get limited-release products.
- Shopshops: Shopshops is a popular live shopping platform in China and has recently come to the U.S. as well. Its focus is on content creators and shopping influencers who can sell either curated products from brands or their own creations.
- Taobao: The Alibaba-owned live shopping platform is the market leader but until very recently, the customer base was primarily in China. Some companies from the West have started broadcasting shoppable streams on Taobao, and it’s a platform worth checking out if you’re considering making live shopping videos.
Hosting a shoppable stream on your own store
If you have your own e-commerce store and you want more control and customization over your streams, you can host shoppable live videos on your website. Brands like Nordstrom and Dermologica are going this route and making their websites the ultimate online shopping experience for customers.
- Restream: With Restream live shopping, you can import products to your live stream from e-commerce store, and display links to your products as a QR code on-stream. Viewers simply scan the code and make their purchase on your site, without leaving the live shopping event. Restream integrates with Shopify, Amazon, WooCommerce, Etsy and more.
5. Rehearse the stream
Do a test run before you go live to make sure everything works. You don’t want any equipment malfunctions during the stream and you’ll want a backup process in case you have internet connectivity issues. It’s also good to give your host a chance to review what they’ll say about each product and change the order they present products if needed.
Live stream shopping tips
If you want to make your live shopping event a success and attract paying viewers, keep these tips in mind.
Pinpoint your target audience
Understanding your audience is the key to making shoppable live streams. If you haven’t already done so, create audience personas to learn the following about your target customers:
- Where they live
- Typical age and gender
- Typical occupation or hobbies
- Recent life events
- Types of content they usually engage with
- The device or browser they use to access your site
You can find most of this information about your target customers by looking at your website data in Google Analytics.
Once you know who your audience is, you can make decisions about your live shopping broadcast, such as which products to feature, what time to go live, how long to make it last, and which platform to use.
Build a community
Finding your target audience is one thing, making them loyal to your brand is another. How do you build a community around your products or services? With these two things:
If you already have an e-commerce business, then you know what your niche is and you can keep making streams about it. Your brand is established and you can play it up on your live shopping sessions. If you’re a content creator that sells products from a variety of brands, consistency will be much more important for you. Once you find a product or range of products that resonate with your audience, tap into that niche and make it part of your brand.
The most successful live shopping streamers heavily vet the products or brands they feature. Don’t promote something that you wouldn’t actually use yourself — viewers can tell when you’re faking it and it’ll turn them off to your streams. If you’re a brand partnering with influencers for your shoppable streams, be selective about who you choose. Find creators who are genuinely interested in your products and care deeply about transparency with their audience.
Make your content exciting
Live shopping videos aren’t ads. Don’t make them feel like one. People tune into these live shows as much for the social connection and entertainment value as they do for the products. No matter how interesting or awesome your products are, you’ll need other ways to hold viewers’ attention throughout the stream. Try some of these activities to keep your content engaging:
- Q&A or AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) for more intimacy and authenticity
- Launch a new product with a live shopping stream
- Do a tutorial or demonstration with your products
Promote your live shopping streams
No one will tune into your stream if they don’t know it’s happening. Promote it on your social media channels with the date, time, and link to join, as well as a preview of the products or services you’ll feature. E-commerce businesses can inform current customers about the upcoming stream with an email or blog post. Build some excitement for the event by having limited-time offers or discounts for viewers and make sure everyone knows about them in advance.
What is a live shopping event?
A live shopping event is an online live stream that promotes products and services and allows viewers to purchase those products directly. Live stream shopping can take place on live streaming platforms that have shopping features, like Instagram Live, or on platforms dedicated solely to live shopping, like TalkShopLive.
Which are the best live shopping platforms?
The best live shopping platforms have shopping features that make it easy for viewers to buy the products they see in-stream, include live chat and polls for interactivity, and can integrate with e-commerce platforms like Shopify. Some of the best options for live shopping are Instagram Live, YouTube Live, Taobao, TalkShopLive, Popshop, buywith and Amazon Live.
How do I become a successful live seller?
To host live videos that actually garner sales, you should think carefully about your target audience and which products you want to promote to them. Make a plan for your live shopping session that includes interactive segments so you can engage with your audience. Choose the right platform to go live so you have all the features you need to create a live shopping video with ease. Be authentic during your live stream; share your personality, answer questions and make viewers feel like they’re part of your community.
Can I sell products on YouTube Live?
You can sell products on YouTube Live videos if you are based in a country where the YouTube Partner Program is available, your channel has been approved for monetization, and you have more than 1,000 subscribers or an Official Artist Channel.
What is Instagram live shopping?
Instagram allows you to add shoppable links to products you’re promoting in your live videos. You can also interact with viewers in real time using Instagram Live’s chat features.
Live stream shopping is a trend that’s gaining steam and before long, it won’t be a novelty. Give your brand a leg up on the competition by producing shoppable live videos now, and using this guide to ensure you’re doing it right.