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As a result of the accelerating shift toward online shopping, retailers had to adapt to new consumer behaviours and find new sources of revenue. The COVID-19 pandemic further tested their flexibility and their resilience to new limits.

Enforced closures of physical retail spaces have left online sales as the only source of revenue for many, and the only way to shop for their customers. But it’s also proving the catalyst for a further, rapid evolution of online retail, with streamed e-commerce surging in popularity.

Livestream shopping originated in China, and the market there is maturing rapidly; Chinese streamed e-commerce sales reached US$352 billion in 2021 (EcommerceDB). With the way consumers interact with retailers likely being changed forever by the pandemic, could live commerce in retail be the next big thing in the U.S.?

Live Stream Ecommerce in Retail Has Already Proven It’s Value

A mix of infomercial and variety show, often featuring celebrities or influencers, live streaming e-commerce has proven its value in China. A channel that represented over 35% of all Chinese retail sales in 2019 saw over 700 million people shop live online the next year, spending $1 trillion in the process (Forbes).

With much lower production costs than traditional shopping channels, and no need to buy airtime, live shopping events are a medium every retailer, from one-person operations to multi-nationals, can leverage.

Established names like QVC, which launched Q Anytime in 2019, are already on board (Econsultancy). They’ve been joined by Amazon Live, partnering with Jessica Alba on a live stream promoting her Honest Beauty brand. And new players are emerging, such as PopShop Live, which has raised $4.5 billion of funding and is building an online community similar to the Etsy model.

Social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook currently dominate as streaming media, but this is a growth area. TikTok have taken early steps toward offering online retail, with links to online purchase points for featured products, and have increased live-streamed content through the pandemic. Douyin, TikTok’s sister app, generated 1.5 trillion Yuan from its livestream ecommerce business in 2022 (Statista).

Inevitable Surge for Live Shopping in the U.S.

Live stream e-commerce is demonstrably successful. It speaks to an audience that continues to spend considerable time online after the COVID-19 pandemic (Statista). Live streaming online shopping offers interactivity, with live video stream Q&As and a 360-degree, up-close view of the product in real time. Influencers and celebrity endorsements can generate higher click ratios and greater customer loyalty through live commerce streams when compared with traditional online selling.

The continued growth of live commerce in U.S. retail seems like the closest thing to a certainty as is possible (Bloomberg). In a changing landscape, TalkShopLive saw sales increase seven-fold during the pandemic (CCW). BrandLive revenues doubled in 2020, and CommentSold sales have risen from $326 million to $1 billion (PYMNTS).

Mike George, president and CEO of QVC’s owner Qurate Retail, is certainly in no doubt. “Overall, we see that as an enormous opportunity for us,” he has said, adding that it’s a “very logical evolution of our business” (Bloomberg). The next big thing in U.S. retail is, it seems, already with us.

Online Shopping and Live Commerce – Final Thoughts

As the curtain rises on the world of e-commerce, live-streamed shopping emerges as the next big thing in retail innovation. Live commerce, with its mix of entertainment and retail, is set to revolutionize the way Americans shop online. Live streaming and online shopping together can engage customers with an immersive and interactive experience.

Live shopping platforms are an untapped solution for the retail industry. The integration of live streaming into the e-commerce landscape fosters a sense of immediacy, interactivity, and community engagement. From virtual product demonstrations to real-time customer interaction, live commerce bridges the gap between the digital realm and the in-store experience.

Furthermore, between in person shopping and the use of a live commerce platform means the retail sector can reach their target audience through multiple channels. Both small and global brands can reach both existing customers and new customers with a live shopping platform. In this era of digital transformation, live-streamed e-commerce isn’t just the next big thing — it’s reshaping the future of shopping online in the US. Retailers need to be ready for a retail experience that’s not just about products but about moments and connections.

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Saskia Johnson

Author Saskia Johnson

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