Live Shopping And Its Benefits In e-CommerceThe COVID-19 pandemic accelerated growth in U.S. e-commerce shopping, increasing its total slice of the retail pie to 19 percent, a percentage not expected till sometime around 2023 based, a prominent sector researcher said in a January 2021 article on RetailDive.com.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated growth in U.S. e-commerce shopping, increasing its total slice of the retail pie to 19 percent, a percentage not expected till sometime around 2023 based, a prominent sector researcher said in a January 2021 article on RetailDive.com.
The article, “What 6 charts say about the pandemic’s impact on retail,” by senior editor Cara Salpini, quotes Deborah Weinswig, CEO and founder of global advisory and research firm Coresight Research as saying the pace of e-commerce growth will “increase their [retailers’] rate of technology adoption to handle the greater share of online sales and keep pace with technology-fueled online retailers.”
To understand how technology might help brick-and-mortar retailer remain competitive in an environment that lends itself to shoppers defaulting to e-commerce as a way to reduce their possible exposure to the virus, one need look no further than what happened to foot traffic in U.S. retail stores in 2020.
In March 2020, the month the World Health Organization declared the pandemic, retail foot traffic was down 26 percent, crashed in April to -45 percent and slowly began to recover, recording -30 percent in May before climbing into the negative teen range for the remainder of the year, the article reported quoting figures from Placer.ai.
With declining foot traffic, retailers looking to engage with customers are finding a solution in live stream video technology.
While not the same as speaking face-to-face with a salesperson, these live shopping video interactions, frequently done via Facebook and Instagram, offer a far more intimate experience than the take-it-or-leave-it search, click and buy experience typical of many e-commerce sites.
The Advantages of Live Shopping
Unlike the all-to-familiar bot experience the public frequently has with businesses online, shopping live via streaming video enables retailers to build a stronger connection with customers.
If a retailer doesn’t know the answer to a customer’s question about a particular piece of merchandise during a live shopping session, there’s a mechanism—an email to or phone call with the customer following the live streaming shopping session— to convey the correct answer once it’s been determined. That level of interaction stands in sharp contrast to the frustration consumers frequently feel when dealing with a bot or being asked to wade through the questions and answers on a seemingly endless FAQ webpage.
While streaming shopping live can help to cement retailers’ relationships with shoppers, there are other benefits as well. Perhaps the most important is flexibility, especially during the pandemic.
A January 2021 Fortune.com article’s headline trumpets exactly why it’s so important for retailers to remain flexible.
The article, “A record 12,200 U.S. stores closed in 2020 as e-commerce, pandemic changed retail forever,” by Phil Wahba lists some of the most prominent casualties among retailers, including J.C. Penney, GameStop, Gap and Macy’s, and notes the “pain was concentrated among mall-based retailers, which had been struggling long before COVID-19 made its appearance.”
Live shopping enabled by video streaming gives retailers that have closed locations—or even those who do not have brick-and-mortar stores—a way to attract customers by promoting a more normal shopping experience while protecting employees and shoppers from possible exposure to the virus.
Beyond servicing shoppers, live streaming makes it possible for retailers to demo products for customers in a way that approximates in-store demonstrations. Just like being in the store, video makes it possible for shoppers to inspect the merchandise, and live interactivity makes it possible for them to ask questions of the person putting on the demonstration.
Live Shopping with TVU Anywhere
Used together with TVU Networks’ TVU Producer, it is possible for customers to connect to a retailer with a video stream and for the shop owner’s sales staff to interact with them in real time.
All that’s needed by the customer is a smartphone or media tablet running the TVU Anywhere app.
Beyond easy live video streaming, TVU Anywhere offers a few other advantages that make it an attractive alternative to Instagram and other apps. Perhaps the most important is TVU Networks provides its TVU Anywhere software development kit (SDK) free to developers. For larger retailers with their own shopping apps, the SDK makes it simple and straightforward to integrate live streaming into the retailer’s branded app—a natural fit that can drive higher sales.
Another major advantage of using TVU Anywhere is that its companion TVU Producer solution can publish the same live streaming video to multiple social media destinations, such as Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and others at the same time. That way retailers can reach customers where they like to hang out.
Used in this fashion, a retailer could demonstrate a product to one, a hundred or literally thousands of potential buyers at once.
Finally, because TVU Anywhere and TVU Producer originally were designed for professional video producers and broadcasters interested in live production, the solution reduces latency to a level that is imperceptible. That makes for a smooth sales interaction, not a clunky experience with unwanted added elements like video freezes, spinning clocks and disjointed audio and video.
2020 may go down in retail history as one of the toughest years for brick-and-mortar stores as stay-at-home orders slashed foot traffic and drove shoppers to e-commerce alternatives. However, live streaming shopping offers retailers a way to emulate—if not completely replace—the in-person shopping experience.
Tools like TVU Anywhere and TVU Producer give retailers a path forward so they can once again do what they do best, namely show a personal interest in shoppers, answer questions and guide them on their buying journey. It might not be the exact same as standing in the store with a customer, but it’s the next best thing.