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How live commerce can benefit businesses with a small budget

Commenters in a live commerce stream

If you’ve ever stumbled across QVC while flipping through the channels, you might feel like you’ve stumbled across a relic of the eighties. And yet, in 2022, the shopping channel raked in $9.9 billion in annual revenue.

Today, many retail giants—from Amazon to Nordstrom—are looking to replicate their success online. In the same vein, small business owners are finding it to be an effective eCommerce marketing tool for reaching new customers, even with a tight budget.

What is live commerce?

Live commerce—also known as live shopping or live stream shopping—takes the likes of QVC and HSN to a whole new level. Rather than just displaying and discussing products, the live stream host engages potential buyers in an interactive experience that solicits their feedback, opinions and reactions. Viewers can talk to each other in the live chat and even make purchases from the streaming platform.

Create a website with Wix to feature your live commerce stream and your online store in the same place.

Live commerce's rise in popularity

Live commerce has been popular in China since its emergence in 2016. Experts estimate $497 billion in 2022 live commerce sales in China, making up roughly 7.7% of all retail sales in the country.

Although this form of retail is nowhere near as popular in the U.S. as it is in China, it started gaining popularity in 2020. After the pandemic disrupted offline commerce, vendors used live streaming to tap into the aspects of in-person selling that were missing on traditional eCommerce platforms.

By the end of 2022, only 22% of U.S. adults had attended a live shopping event and only 31% of U.S. adults knew that it existed, according to a study by Morning Consult. That said, the effectiveness of it has encouraged retailers to try it, while motivating social media platforms to develop live shopping features.

“The tech is getting so much better just in the last year, where all the social platforms are enabling buying a product,” says Melinda Lee, chief content officer of a live-commerce platform called Stage TEN. “There’s still a little ways to go to make it easy for people who want to do it, but it’s there.”

A Target live commerce stream with integrated product links, a live chat and poll results

Among the eCommerce tech trends spurring the adoption of live commerce:

  • Social commerce - As Lee noted, the advent of social shopping features like Pinterest Shopping List and Facebook Live Shopping makes it easier than ever to get started with Live commerce. In fact, social commerce is predicted to grow three times faster than traditional eCommerce, thanks to younger consumers who grew up in digital environments.

  • AR and VR - Advancements in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are opening up new opportunities to further bridge the gap between in-person shopping experiences and online experiences. Live streamers can create more immersive experiences using AR and VR, such as showing products in various environments or performing makeovers on the spot.

The modern-day benefits of live commerce

Despite how much room it has to grow, live commerce can be particularly useful for small business owners who don’t have the funds or experience to put together elaborate marketing campaigns. “The barrier to entry is almost nothing,” points out Lee. “Anybody can make content.”

And if that's not convincing enough, consider this: while the average eCommerce conversion rate is around 2.5%, Stage TEN customers are seeing conversion rates over 10%.

Lee thinks one of the reasons live commerce is so effective is that it’s so much easier to make data-informed decisions than it is with other marketing strategies. “The whole time [a broadcaster is streaming], they’re gathering data on what it is that people want to know about the product and what attracts them to a live stream,” she says. “It’s almost like live case studies.”

Because viewers are eager to participate, gathering data is as simple as incorporating prompts for feedback into the show. With platforms such as Instagram, you can even tack polls onto your streams. This sort of engagement is especially important now that cookie crackdowns are making data collection more difficult for marketers.

A live commerce stream showing a host taking a poll

Wix’s marketing trend analyst, Shachaf Rodberg, further explains that today's shoppers (which include Gen Z consumers and the emerging Gen Alpha consumer) respond best to marketing that offers them something. “People are either looking for entertainment, education or connection,” he says. Live commerce streamers not only entertain viewers with their performance, but they also inform them about products and invite them into the conversation.

People who watch live streams aren’t just watching the streamer or engaging with the streamer; they’re engaging with each other as well. People will actually log on early and stay after in order to chat with the other viewers. “The community becomes an element of the content because it’s really based on the questions people ask and how everyone’s reacting to one another,” says Lee.

In a nutshell, live streaming is not only accessible, but also has the power to bring people together and foster a genuine connection with your brand or with fans of your brand.

How to make the most of a live commerce stream

As with any new venture, getting started with live commerce can feel daunting at first. However, the tips below can help you get started on the right foot.

Tip 1: hire a nano-infuencer

If you don’t love the spotlight, hiring an influencer to handle your live commerce campaign can still be relatively affordable. Hiring nano-influencers (those with a following of 1,000 to 10,000 followers) can be a fraction of the cost of hiring influencers with large followings, and it can even be more effective because their audiences are so much more specific. They have higher engagement rates than macro-influencers, their content tends to be more relatable and followers tend to trust their recommendations more.

Netflix live commerce video featuring Jackie Aina and Pat McGrath selling an eyeshadow palette

“High following doesn’t automatically mean high engagement,” reminds Essence Gant, founder of Gant Media Group. “It doesn’t mean those skills are going to translate on a live stream where they’re selling a product.”

In her experience hosting and leading creative direction on multiple live commerce streams, the influencers who perform well are those who are authentic and down-to-earth rather than those who are refined and polished. Because of that authenticity, their “cult-like fans” trust their recommendations and will follow them anywhere.

Case in point: when running creative direction on a nine-part live commerce series for Target, Gant recommended pairing influencers Kirah Ominique and Allyiah’s Face for a stream. Despite the fact that the other influencers Target hired had much larger followings, Kira and Allyiah’s stream had the best engagement.

“They were just so genuinely themselves, and their followers are so loyal that they followed them right on over to Target,” she explains. The pair not only did a great job interacting with commenters, but they also knew how to demonstrate and discuss the products in an engaging way.

Tip 2: promote your live stream early and often

It’s not enough to just hire an influencer to run the live stream and call it a day. Promoting the event beforehand is vital. Post ads for the event on all your social media accounts, put a countdown clock on your website and ask the influencer you work with to do some video promotion it as well. “Make sure to work that into the talent’s contract because promotion is a separate service,” says Gant. Promising incentives such as gift cards or discount codes can be a great way to encourage people to tune in.

Tip 3: repurpose content to lengthen its shelf life

Live commerce streams can continue to pay dividends after they’re over. In addition to mining the data you collected for information on how to better sell to interested consumers, you can also repurpose the recordings to make other types of videos. You can edit and post them to YouTube, share clips on social media and take screenshots for your websites.

Tip 4: give your brand a personality

Besides the efficiency and ease of this marketing strategy, live commerce enables differentiation. The crowded nature of eCommerce means that sellers need to tap into their branding to stand out. The authentic nature of a livestream makes it a valuable tool in your brand development efforts.

“If you’re doing a live stream, you have no choice but to give your brand a personality,” says Lee. “There’s somebody up there talking about the product and showing what your brand has to offer. People can ask questions and all of a sudden, it comes alive.”

Tip 5: start live streaming with Wix Video

Wix’s built-in live streaming tool lets you ‘go live’ whenever you want. Schedule an event for later, or start streaming right away. Then, cast your video to YouTube and/or your eCommerce site. The latter can help you attract even more people to your store and keep visitors hanging around for longer.

Wix's live stream dashboard

Emily Shwake headshot

Emily Shwake Editor, Wix Bog

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