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People, consumers, and shoppers are no strangers to digital. Many of us already live and breathe it. This past year of lockdown has accelerated digital adoption across all age groups and has had a tremendous lasting effect on consumption behaviors. The combined popularity of e-commerce and live streaming has created an engaging and social online shopping mode that allows customers to shop in real-time from live-streaming videos. Also known as shopstreaming, this growing trend has allowed for consumers to discover and connect more deeply with brands.

Live commerce formats such as shopstreaming have found the most success in Asia, particularly in China. However, the west can certainly take a lesson in using live commerce as a way to build better relationships with their consumers.

Taobao x local farmers

Many of you might’ve heard of Taobao before; essentially, it’s China’s Amazon, but with much longer legs. It is the world’s biggest e-commerce site. In these uncertain times, the profits of small businesses, especially local farmers, are, particularly at risk.

Through live streaming, Taobao has managed to create an innovative way to keep these farmers afloat and, for some, to make them more successful than ever. Since launching its Rural Support Program in February 2020, Taobao has opened its live-streaming channel free-of-charge to all farmers, connecting them to its massive live-streaming network of 41 million followers. During the first three days of live streaming alone, over 15m kg of farm-fresh produce were sold. As another testament to this platform’s mindboggling speed and popularity, a single local farm sold over 30,000 kg of mangoes in under two minutes.

Not only would farmers and small businesses in the west benefit greatly from such programs, but so would consumers, who could learn more about niche products and brands that they likely never would have heard of before. Live commerce has given us the power to digitally teleport into more intimate spaces and get a peek into the kitchen.

There are endless possibilities for new creators, new micro-influencers, and new communities that can grow from these real-time channels that focus just as much on sales as they do engagement.

Pinduoduo x the Met Museum

Another platform that has taken advantage of the shopstreaming trend is Pinduoduo (PDD), which has become China’s fastest-growing e-commerce platform.

PDD launched live streams back in December 2020, allowing its 536 million users to shop from live-streamed videos of vendors promoting their wares. The app is even giving museum tours. Their museum roster includes six famous Chinese museums and the esteemed Metropolitan Museum of Art, which opened its virtual doors in March of last year.

With the app, users can livestream museum staff showing viewers around different display areas and guiding them through the various collections. Viewers can even comment on the livestream and interact with staff, asking questions about the exhibits or for more detail about the history. There’s even an in-app option to buy gift shop merchandise.

To go even further, PDD has since evolved this platform by partnering with foreign embassies and consulates to create cultural connections and sell heritage products via their live streams. This is yet another way that these innovative new platforms continue to innovate and tell stories in real-time.

Here in the west, we have to play a bit of catch-up. As older consumers become more comfortable with shopping virtually, the purchasing power of e-commerce will grow exponentially. To get them there, we need to find ways to make online shopping as frictionless and seamless as possible. O

ne of the best ways to create assurance with unfamiliar audiences is through community appeal and word of mouth. TikTok has tapped into this insight by partnering with Shopify to allow their creators to reach new audiences and drive sales in an authentic and engaging way. Rather than diving into the deep end and creating their own platforms, brands can dip their toes into live commerce through existing platforms and collaborations to better connect with their audiences.

The sheer convenience and connectivity that live commerce provides ensures that consumer expectations of experiences will continue to go up. In the face of a global pandemic, people will continue to find ways to resume their daily activities and carry on consuming. Live commerce opportunities like shopstreaming provides brands with an exciting, interactive format that sits between e-commerce and new channels. We should always strive to bring our brands and experiences to people in fast, convenient and entertaining ways.

This is not about digital for digital’s sake, or about forgetting the physical world altogether. It’s about enhancing people’s lives by transporting them to amazing experiences that are physically impossible, yet impossible without the physical. Regardless of the brand, consumers have set the bar increasingly high for experiences and they expect us to meet them there.

As marketers, we should continue to go above and beyond those expectations as we learn to embark on these new frontiers of storytelling.

Linda Xiao, strategy director, digital experience design, Momentum.