In western markets, live shopping or live commerce are relatively new concepts, and certainly haven’t been adopted en masse. The premise is simple: host a sales event online via a live stream during which you unveil new products, send out offers and vouchers, answer questions, show off items, and convert viewers into paying customers. In other markets, it’s been proven to be an incredibly effective strategy.

It likely won’t be long until live commerce starts to gain popularity across the UK once online stores work out how to tailor the experience to British preferences. Live streaming has become one of the most widely adopted tech solutions of the last few years, with 23 per cent of global viewing time being spent on live content. Facebook Live also saw over a 200 per cent uptick from March to May 2020, and the live-streaming market is set to eclipse $240 billion over the next five years.

Live streaming is now commonplace; customers know how to use it and enjoy its ability to deliver entertainment and information. Now, the UK’s many online stores should look to capitalise on the advantages offered by the tech and the desire from customers to watch live streams.

The many ways live streaming is deployed

An important place to start is by examining the many ways that live streaming is currently used and why it has become so successful in these areas. Streaming live sport used to be its main deployment, but now streaming platforms create communities based around charismatic personalities. These live streamers host videos that show them playing games, showcasing talents, or just chatting with their followers. Viewers find it all very engaging because the streams are personable and, in the moment, anything can happen to deliver the thrills.

In more of an interactive deployment of live streaming technology, with the help of a few extra add-ons, live game shows and live table games have become popular too. At a dedicated live casino, players can click on a tile to take a live seat at any game being played. Traditional and newer variants of table games are hosted by professional croupiers, from Live Eclipse Blackjack to Live Lotus Speed Baccarat and even Live Monopoly Big Baller. The live stream adds a level of authenticity and immersion that standard online games can’t reach.

There are countless new eCommerce sites and brands going live each month, from new stores to software firms, and each of them has an opportunity to expand into the live shopping space. Using live tech in this way will require a UI that allows for purchases in the moment, as well as a presenter for the event who can offer insight and useful replies to questions about products.

China is already crushing it in live commerce

If there’s one market that you can look to for inspiration and proof of concept, it’s China. Live shopping hasn’t been around for a long time, but it’s caught on like wildfire. Li Jiaqi is a prime example of how high you can go with a live stream, making some $1.9 billion in one day, having put on a huge range of products for some live shopping. The most notable platform is Taobao Live, which only arrived in mid-2016 but made over $7 billion in a half-hour show in 2020.

Perhaps the main reason why live commerce hasn’t surged in the UK as it has in China is because customer preferences vary significantly. In China, personable influencers sell a lot of products, and while that’s also fairly common in the UK, it’s nowhere near the same scale. Brits prefer to go to stores and brands directly (in-person or online) rather than via people who can set up a live stream online. That said, the instant gratification that comes with live shopping is something that can be leveraged and be very successful locally.

Slowly but surely becoming a thing in the UK

It’s clear to see that online shoppers in the UK aren’t simply passive beings. There are social media followings for boutique small businesses, product opening videos posted online and watched, and customer reviews continue to be a core part of the experience. Live commerce can deliver on both sides of completing purchases and offering an immersive form of shopping from the comfort of your home. We’re starting to see some big brands and new platforms attempt to get the ball rolling.

Marks & Spencer set up its own series of live streams and continue to host them for events like the reveals of new fashion collections via their Sparks Live page. Ted Baker has also partnered up with Bambuser to create live video shopping in the UK, showcasing new launches live to followers. In 2021, Aldo teamed up with stylist Mimi Cuttrell as well as a TikTok personality Nate Wyatt to go through products, share tips, and ultimately sell products during the live stream.

Live commerce certainly isn’t widespread in the UK yet, but online stores that can find the formula to appeal to British customers will benefit from being early adopters of the tech with such lofty proven potential.