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    I Went to a Live Stream Shopping Event — And Didn’t Hate It

    April 26, 2021
    11 minute read
    I Went to a Live Stream Shopping Event — And Didn’t Hate It

    In 2021, Nordstrom launched its new live stream shopping channel with a virtual shopping event, which they unveiled to great fanfare. Before the event, I must have seen a half dozen ads and articles talking about it.

    Being someone who specializes in ecommerce strategy — and who had never before seen the words "live stream" and "shopping" together — I thought I'd check it out.

    The event, which marked the official launch of Nordstrom Livestream Shopping, featured a Burberry collection from designer José Ramón Reyes, who showed the audience how to style runway looks.

    “Livestream Shopping enables us to stay closer to the customer with interactive and engaging experiences that allow for discovery, personalization, and service at scale," says Fanya Chandler, senior vice president at Nordstrom.

    While I wouldn't say this event allowed for personalization or service at scale, it's an exciting opportunity for discovery. Learn more about live stream shopping, and get my breakdown of the current pros and cons for brands.

    What Is Live Stream Shopping?

    Live stream ecommerce shopping — also called streaming ecommerce or live selling — is when brands or retailers leverage live video streaming technology to sell products to viewers online. If you’ve ever watched a shopping channel like QVC or the Home Shopping Network, you understand the basic format of live streaming. Live stream ecommerce shopping can take place on social media or via a third-party tool on a direct-to-consumer (D2C) site.

    But unlike TV shopping channels, live stream ecommerce allows the audience to buy products directly on the screen — versus calling a number. It also enables more interaction with and between shoppers, as most live shopping events offer chat feeds and product-ranking capabilities that allow the hosts to view product popularity in real time.

    How Does Live Stream Shopping Work?

    With today’s technology at brands’ fingertips, there are endless options for creating live streaming experiences for customers. Generally, here’s how it works:

    1. Pick Your Products

    For a successful live streaming event, it’s best not to boil the ocean. Instead, consider your overall strategy. Are you capitalizing on an already-hot product? Promote your best sellers. Are you hoping to generate interest in a wallflower product? Select products that have been sitting on shelves for a while. Or, create a theme with products connected to a certain holiday, customer interest, or event.

    2. Select Your Hosting Platform

    While social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram no longer offer specific live stream ecommerce shopping tools, you can still launch a shopping event through Instagram Live or capture a younger generation with TikTok LIVE Shopping Ads. Other solutions allow you to integrate a streaming platform directly into your ecommerce website.

    3. Hire Your Human Host

    Whether you use a brand ambassador, a celebrity, or an influencer, it’s critical to have an engaging host that can capture customers’ attention.

    4. Let Consumers Buy

    Use widgets, links, or quick-buy buttons to give customers an easy way to buy the products you’re promoting. After all, live stream ecommerce is all about convenience.

    What Live Stream Shopping Platforms Are Available for Brands?

    The best live stream ecommerce platforms balance two things: engaging, real-time video and easy, convenient purchasing pathways. To get the most out of your shopping event, you’ll want to select a platform that integrates into your brand’s selling tools, such as Shopify, Salesforce, social media accounts, or digital marketplace storefront.

    Platforms that seamlessly integrate into your existing solutions enable you to create exciting real-time videos with links, widgets, spotlights, and buttons that make it easy for customers to click “buy.”

    Some of today’s top live stream shopping platforms include:

    A Growing International Ecommerce Trend

    Live stream ecommerce increased in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down since.

    While this online shopping trend has increased more recently in the U.S., it’s been an enormously popular shopping option in Asia for years, according to CNBC. In China alone, it drove about $125 billion in sales in 2020 — up from $62 billion in 2019. Conversion rates for live shopping in China are exceptionally high as well, with expert Mary Ghahremani, CEO of live video shopping platform provider Bambuser, highlighting 20% to 40% conversion rates.

    In 2023, according to Statista, about six in every 10 shoppers in China use live streaming services to find and purchase products. Live stream ecommerce sales in the U.S. reached $50 billion that same year.

    Considering well-optimized product pages convert at much lower rates, you can see how this trend is too intriguing to ignore — despite any skepticism.

    Source: Nordstrom, Vimeo

    Live Stream Shopping Pros for Brands and Retailers

    Attending this Nordstrom Live Shopping event highlighted several exceptional opportunities for brands and retailers.

    Audience Interaction Offers Huge Opportunities

    Live video shopping is essentially an infomercial — as it should be. Combine this with the fact that you can interact with the audience, and it becomes an incredible opportunity to inform your customers and build brand loyalty.

    It's also possible to have a dialogue with the audience. They can ask questions, request specific demonstrations, discuss merchandising and accessorizing, and more. Essentially, it's bringing the in-store shopping experience to ecommerce.

    Live Video Shopping Drives Engagement

    Live video shopping attracts a more engaged shopper. These shoppers tend to stay on longer, according to Ghahremani, who highlighted an average of nine minutes on the live stream per customer, which is three to four times higher than a shopper browsing on an average website.

    Virtual Events Can Attract a Wider Audience

    Live video shopping is also an event. Even though the days of quarantined isolation are no longer the norm, virtual events should still be a central part of a brand's marketing strategy. They're cheaper, and they can attract a larger audience.

    Live Stream Ecommerce Could Build Communities

    Live shopping is a communal activity. You're there with other shoppers who validate your tastes and give you a sense of belonging. This community can also create a sense of scarcity that the products you're interested in may not be available for very long.


    Nordstrom Live Shopping Event Screenshot Salsify

    Source: Nordstrom

    Live Video Shopping Cons for Brands and Retailers

    Production quality for live shopping events can vary widely, and the Nordstrom Live Shopping event was no different, featuring some cons and areas for improvement.

    Technology Glitches Pose Challenges

    The production quality just wasn't there during the Nordstrom Live Shopping event. The sound was choppy, and at times I couldn't hear the host. The video quality was also like that of a bootleg movie I downloaded on LimeWire.

    The user experience (UX) of the platform also seemed a little off. I couldn't see the name of the products, but there was a prominent oversized thumbs-up button that didn't offer any feedback when I clicked on it. (It only displayed a generic message for everyone to see.)

    The video also wasn't clickable. Although this type of technology isn't something I've previously engaged with, I found myself wanting to click on the items the model was wearing anyway.

    Most live shopping videos have come a long way since this Nordstrom event, but this early example underscored the importance of high production quality.

    Content Inconsistencies Drive Drop-Off

    The images on the side panel didn't match what the model was wearing. You had to scroll and find the items that were being featured, which was annoying.

    Even worse, not all the products the model was wearing were featured on the site (shoes and belts were particularly neglected). Styling events that highlight complete outfits create an ideal scenario for buying items in a set, yet the product pages weren't arranged in this way.

    Content Can Stunt Community Building

    The moderator in the chat feed couldn't keep up with the questions coming from the audience. And since the chat wasn't threaded, you couldn't see the answers — so asking questions was essentially useless.

    There was also no voting up or down, so it wasn't much of a community-building tool. The host didn't engage much with the audience. He sounded like he was on a runway fashion show more than anything. To be fair, runway shows are probably the only public speaking experience he may have.

    Live Stream Shopping Will Continue To Evolve

    While live video shopping still has a long way to go, this growing trend could pose an enormous opportunity for brands and retailers to test and learn. If used properly, live shopping has incredible potential. And it's always better to be too early to a trend like this than too late.


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    Written by: SJ Petteruti

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