Jan 5, 2023

Live Shopping: The Next Big Thing?

Wanting to shop but not leave your house? And yet….regular online shopping isn’t delivering the feeling of shopping that most shoppers love to begin with. Enter: Live Shopping.

Image Credit: John Tuesday

 Whatnot, is a livestreaming shopping platform-cum-online marketplace that co-founder Grant LaFontaine describes as “eBay meets Twitch.” One of the success at livestreaming as a seller is the appeal of making a living from it—serves as a testament to what many are predicting will become the next frontier of e-commerce: the live shopping era. Already, we’ve seen the live function across social media, primarily on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. But as livestreams exist right now, from a shopping angle, they’re all over the place. No one has definitively cracked the code, so to speak. That means they all exude different vibes, formats, and formulas, depending on the streamer, the inventory, and the platform. But don’t expect that to last for long. As the days pass and the demand for live shopping continues to expand it’s only a matter of time before all the nooks and crannies of its difficulties are swept out and coordinated to share a perfectly synched experience for users everywhere.

Amazon recently relaunched its livestream platform (the tech giant’s first attempt in 2016 was met with little fanfare), ramping up the feature by partnering with its influencer program (including the likes of Lala Kent and JoJo Fletcher) to ensure success. YouTube hosted “YouTube to You,” a week-long holiday event featuring shoppable shorts and long-form videos with 30-plus content creators and brands—one of which included a joint partnership between Ulta Beauty, Tula Skincare, and YouTubers ​​Manny MUA, Amber Scholl, and Mai Pham to name a few, for a true quality produced livestream (complete with a stage, a director, and teleprompters) that felt like QVC-meets-HSN for the digital age. On Whatnot, some streams are reminiscent of live auctions (inclduing the super chaotic, super high-energy, associated with bids). Whatnot even includes giveaways during their livestreams bringing in even higher numbers of purchasers based on their wish to win freebies alongside the rush of winning the bid of their precious item.

“Live shopping in China has this huge celebrity and influencer ecosystem behind it, so while I do expect the landscape in the U.S. to follow a similar path, we’re in the early days of consumer adoption and awareness—and these things take longer than people think,” says LaFontaine, who initially launched Whatnot to provide hobbyists and collectors of Funko Pops, sports cards, and comic books a meeting ground to gather, sell, and buy. But Whatnot has since expanded to 80 categories, with fashion as the fastest growing segment. “Nothing’s ever one-to-one, but I don’t think it’s crazy to say that in five to 10 years, 40 or 50 percent of e-commerce sales will occur through video. It’ll look different, because it’s certainly starting in a different place.”

Livestreams provide viewers with direct access to streamers (and by extension, the product itself) through real-time interactions. And because of that, it fosters kinship, trust, and, on a grander scale, community.