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Best Live Streaming Solutions for Ecommerce and Beyond [2023]

Top live streaming services for influencers, ecommerce, and retail businesses in 2023. Read our list of the top 21 online platforms for live video streaming.
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Live streaming has come to offer a myriad of solutions for users across a vast amount of platforms and apps. Even before the huge live stream boom during pandemic-driven lockdowns many businesses, brands and influencers were already using live streaming as a way to communicate, promote themselves, support customers, close sales and much, much more.

In fact, in 2019 alone, 1.1 billion hours of live video were consumed. So, it’s no wonder that many companies are looking at how to best integrate live streaming into their marketing strategies.

The best live streaming solutions are going to be different depending on the type of business, who the customers are, and how online sales are made. So, let’s dive into what needs to be considered before choosing to use a solution for live streaming-and why you’d want one in the first place. Then, we’ll look at the top live streaming solution companies in 2022 and how these kinds of tools are truly changing the landscape of the retail industry.

How to choose a live stream software solution

Companies or individuals looking to incorporate live video streaming into their digital strategies need first to decide who the platform will serve, and how they will use it. Are you an influencer looking to live stream to your followers? Are you a beauty brand doing a live product demo? Or maybe you’re a retailer looking to guide shoppers to make a purchase? The nature of the interactions on live streaming matter-a lot. Be sure that the platform is helping you reach your overall marketing or customer service goals.

In this guide to the best live streaming solutions, we've specifically broken down video streaming platforms that work for a range of generic purposes, as well a specific guide to best streaming software for retail, as a unique subset. Why the callout? Forbes has singled out live video shopping as one of the top trends for ecommerce in 2023, and live shopping platforms have their own distinctive set of features worth noting.

What is live streaming software?

First of all, let’s clarify what exactly we mean by live streaming software. Live streaming software is a program or app that allows users to broadcast live video content in a digital format that can be consumed by viewers who are also using the program or app.

There are typically two kinds of live streaming software. One type is browser-based, meaning viewers can watch directly from a web browser and the user can broadcast using just their web browser, as well (like Facebook Live, for example). The second type requires users to download and install software in order to broadcast or view (like Zoom).  

Why you’d want a live stream software solution

For many online businesses the appeal of live streaming is that it offers a humanized and personalized way to interact with their followers, shoppers, current customers or whatever other kinds of audiences they have.

If you’re an influencer, it gives your audience the chance for some intimate face-time, a look into your life at home, for example.

For businesses, it allows educating potential customers, launching exciting new products, rewarding loyalty, or simply providing personalized customer support throughout the online shopping experience.

How live stream shopping is changing retail

Live shopping is already a multibillion industry in Asia with it making up 10% of China’s entire ecommerce market, where as early as 2016 the “ability to watch and shop at once skyrocketed sales, leading to live commerce becoming a key part of China’s ecommerce market”. (etailbankerinternational.com)

European and American markets are quickly playing catch-up, where CX-minded merchants are recognizing the value of the human touch when it comes to converting online browsers into happy customers.

The top 4 reasons retailers should offer live shopping via live steaming solutions:

  1. Improve conversion rates: Sometimes shoppers need a little guidance to feel comfortable checking out
  2. Increase AOV: Grow basket sizes by offering more personalized service
  3. Lower return rates: When customers can make more informed purchases, return rates improve
  4. Give them a show: Give shoppers the chance to visit a store they might never have the opportunity to visit in person or allow them to watch an influencer have an exciting shopping experience

The 9 Best Live Streaming Apps 2022

1. Facebook Live

Facebook Live was created as a place to give marketplace sellers another channel to sell their wares, making it an ideal tool for Facebook Shops owners, crafters, or reps at a multi-level marketing company to host live demos. In 2018 the company launched live shopping as part of the platform, allowing for product tags in the videos themselves. But after a short run, Facebook announced via its blog that they were shutting down its own live shopping feature as of October 1, 2022.

Facebook Live will still be available for broadcasting live events, but products will no longer be able to be tagged in these videos.

Best suited for:

Facebook Live is still a fantastic live streaming platform for video content for those with large Facebook followings looking to get messaging, demos, classes, performances and more out to their audience. Why? Because Facebook is still a powerhouse when it comes to the most-used social media tools. Plus, it’s free for both broadcasters and viewers.

Keep in mind, of course, that like with any free platform, however, there are limitations - like Facebook turning off Facebook Live Shopping functionality. Even if that feature was something one particular business used, they’re ultimately at the mercy of the platform for which features are in and out.

2. YouTube Live

YouTube Live is a free feature with any Youtube/Google account that allows for live video streaming. Users are able to live stream via webcam, mobile device or encoder streaming. There are some conditions on who can stream and where. To be able to live stream on a mobile device the user must have at least 1,000 subscribers, and to embed video content on an external site, users must first set up an AdSense account. The added value for users of YouTube Live comes from its excellent searchability and live video SEO. The major drawback with this tool is that users give up control of their content-YouTube can take content down at any point, and dictate which advertisements end up on which videos. Also note that YouTube Live is different than YouTube TV, which is the social video platform's subscription streaming service. While YouTube TV does broadcast live content, such as sporting events, they control what programming airs on the service.  

Best suited for:

YouTube Live would be an ideal solution for those already using YouTube or Google and who don’t plan on embedding their live stream videos anywhere else. Those who can benefit from the live video SEO and excellent search functionality-perhaps those who do not have paid SEO strategy in their own marketing budgets.

3. IBM Watson Media (Formerly Ustream and IBM Cloud Video)

IBM Watson Media is a video streaming platform that focuses on virtual events and corporate communications. The platform claims it is “built for privacy, reliability and to scale” that is powered by Watson AI for automated CC and speech-to-text conversion. The platform allows users to create, store, manage, live broadcast and analyze video content. The platform offers a free trial and a free version, with a distinction between enterprise streaming (for internal communications) and video streaming (external events and monetized video).

Best suited for:

IBM Watson Media offers two kinds of solutions, the enterprise streaming is a great tool for large companies that have ongoing needs for private, secure, internal communications. The live streaming solution is ideal for companies running virtual events who could benefit from the time-saving AI features, and who want to easily embed their video content in other places.

4. Twitch

Twitch, by Amazon, is the top platform for live streamers broadcasting video game sessions. Many gamers consume content on Twitch as a way to garner insider knowledge, tips, tricks, hacks and more. Broadcasters can use PC-based software or their mobile phone. Twitch Studio offers a free version of their streaming platform, and has optional upgraded, premium features.

Best suited for:

Twitch is regularly reviewed as an easy-to-use tool for real-time gaming broadcasters, although it offers other creative content as well. It is the best option for live gamers looking to gain an online following.

5. Brightcove

Brightcove is a video hosting and publishing platform that allows users to sell to customers, stream live broadcasts and monetize video content. The company targets two kinds of users: media who are looking for a broad reach, engagement through monetized content, and enterprise users who want to increase brand awareness, digital marketing strategies and internal communications through video content. It offers many integrations with existing MarTech tools. While there is a free trial, there is no free version of the platform.

Best suited for:

This live streaming tool first and foremost is for users who have a significant budget to spend on their live stream platform. Ideal users would be digital agencies and media professionals looking to incorporate monetized, branded live video content for their clients, and who require integrations with existing tech (i.e. HubSpot). It would also be well-suited for large enterprise-level companies that have needs for both internal employee communications and branded live-streamed content.

6. Wowza Streaming Engine

Wowza is scalable video software used for creating and publishing professional-grade video content. The platform offers highly customizable live streaming and boasts being able to support extremely high-quality video. There is a free trial for this solution but no free version.

Best-suited for:

Wowza is best-suited for users who need to build customized live videos that require professional-grade picture quality, and those who have a budget to spend on a live video streaming solution.

7. Vimeo

Users with a free, starter, or standard Vimeo account can only live stream once, as a demo, for up to 10 minutes. The Advanced Vimeo plan allows users to live stream ad-free, HD video content. Branded graphics can be added to videos via a web browser. Additional features include live Q&A, polls and chats along with registration for up to 100 per event, branded invites and reminder emails and other marketing integrations. Vimeo also offers custom enterprise-level live streaming services.

Best suited for:

The Advanced or Enterprise plans on Vimeo are best suited for those who have a healthy monthly budget to spend on live streaming events. Those who are looking to host virtual events with sleek branding elements regularly, along with those who need to track viewer registration, would most benefit from a live streaming tool such as this one. The enterprise solution is ideal for large brands that need unlimited streams, seats and bandwidth.

8. DaCast

DaCast is an end-to-end video streaming and live streaming provider. It offers monetization as well as advanced security and content management features. Using DaCast, businesses can publish, transcode, organize and even analyze their live streamed content. It is consistently reviewed as a cost-effective tool for those looking for a streaming platform, as well as offering excellent customer service.

Best suited for:

DaCast is best suited for clients who want a reliable and affordable live streaming solution with the ability to look at analytics. It is ideal for associations, non-profits or simply budget-conscious clients who want to live stream events or announcements.

9. TikTok LIVE

TikTok is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms on the market, and its live feature allows “creators” to broadcast a live video feed to their subscribers. While TikTok LIVE is free for creators with at least 1,000 followers to use, the live broadcasts are able to be monetized, allowing followers to send “coins” or gifts to creators that are redeemable for cash. Creators can interact with their audience in real time, do Q&A, and collaborate with other creators to co-host live streams.

NEW: Additionally, TikTok just launched an in-app shopping feature. According to TechTimes the “upcoming feature is set to launch in the United States and marks TikTok's second attempt to introduce live shopping outside of Asia, as the app initially tried to promote the feature in the UK. The feature will be called TikTok Shop and is a separate tab within the social media app.” Merchants can sell products through in-feed videos, LIVEs, and the product showcase tab. While signing up as a merchant costs nothing, TikTok will be taking a commission on each sale.

Best suited for:

TikTok LIVE is perfectly suited for influencers who are looking to build their online following, collaborate with other influencers or brands, and who want to engage with their audience (and make money). Given the demographics, it is best suited for those whose target audience is in the 10-29 age range (AKA Gen Z)

10. Wirecast

Wirecast Studio is one of the oldest live streaming platforms around, debuting in 2004. With that much history behind them, you can imagine that they've invested a lot in features suited for professionals - including the ability to plug in multi-track audio, multiple live camera inputs, screensharing and slide presentations, and more. Wirecast Pro is designed for, well, professionals looking to put on a complex broadcast with production features like layer-based compositing to bring up keys, graphics, playlists, and other actions in a fully configurable setup. Like many video streaming platforms, Wirecast Studio live streams can be cross-promoted to YouTube, Facebook, and more.

Best suited for:

Wirecast Pro is a definitely designed for professionals looking for advanced, polished setups. It's recommended you bring in a video / live production expert to make the most of the video streaming platform's comprehensive feature set.

Live streaming vs live stream shopping

Retailers may be wondering, do I need a regular live streaming platform (as listed above) or a live stream shopping solution? And, what’s the difference? Well, if the goal is to make online sales, a live shopping platform is likely the best way to boost those checkouts.

While a regular live streaming service can be incorporated into an overall marketing strategy that can improve sales, the functionalities of live stream shopping apps have been designed to specifically help guide customers into making retail purchases. Typically live shopping apps allow customers to browse the products more intimately, get live access to the retail space, get virtual “hands-on” experiences with the products, ask questions in real-time, get customer support if needed, and can be carefully guided throughout their shopping journey.

Not every live shopping app works exactly the same, but the overall purpose remains true: get shoppers to make a retail purchase. With that in mind, let's take a look at the best live streaming software for retail.

The 11 Best Live Streaming Shopping Apps

1. GhostRetail

First up, we've got GhostRetail - which offers something a little different than your typical live streaming shopping platform. Unlike many live streaming shopping apps, Ghost supports live shopping calls between a single shopper and associate, instead of one associate broadcasting to many shoppers.

As a video co-shopping solution, GhostRetail customers can jump on a call with a live shopping associate when browsing a retailer’s website. While they wait to get connected, shoppers can browse the entire brand website. Once matched with a live shopping associate, they can co-shop the entire together, with the associate answering any specific questions a customer has. Live shopping associates can send products over to a customer, including the specific variants they may want, and even add them to the cart.

The primary advantage to this type of video streaming software is customers can get one-on-one support, in a way that will actually drive conversions. 16% of shoppers noted in a Statista survey that their biggest challenge in shopping a one-to-many video streamin event is important information like cost, shipping times, and return policies are either unclear, or downplayed. These are the types of customer service inquiries that can be easily supported in a one-to-one conversation, which is possible through a platform like Ghost.

Keep in mind that the best streaming software solution might be a combination of offering a one-to-many experience to generate top of funnel awareness, followed by offering one-on-one support to drive purchases.

GhostRetail is best suited for:

Brands and businesses that are looking to offer 1:1 live streaming support to their customers. It also is great for brands looking to bring an in-store experience to their ecommerce channel and enhance CX. Retailers of any size with an existing, rich ecommerce experience can benefit from this kind of solution.

GhostRetail has been proven to drive incremental revenue for merchants. Specifically:

  • 12x conversion rate on connected calls
  • 40% average order value increase

2. Livescale

Livescale is focused on providing authentic and connective digital experiences through shoppable live video. This mobile-first solution integrates directly with a retailer’s website while allowing viewers to purchase items from right within a live stream.

As with any one-to-many live stream shopping solution, Livescale does require you to BYOA-bring your own audience. Many brands use Livestream’s technology as a way to host special real time live shopping shows natively, as opposed to relying on third-party platforms or social media sites. Livescale offers in-depth analytics on audience and customers. The platform offers a free trial, but as with many native live shopping apps, it is not free to use.

Best suited for:

This kind of live shopping solution is best for brands looking to host their own QVC-style live stream shopping series on a regular basis.

3. NTWRK

While NTWRK could be seen as a one-to-many live shopping solution it has branded itself as consumer-driven live shopping platform, similar to many other social media channels. Shoppers will actively visit NTWRK to check out the latest product drops, live streams, and festivals, with plenty of social interactivity and the ability to shop during a live stream.

NTWRK has positioned itself as a network of creators rather than a live shopping solution and its niche specialty has quickly become appealing to ‘fandom’, often by spotlighting brands and artists with major cult followings or highly covetable collectibles like sneakers, trading cards, and toys. Because of the exclusivity that NTWRK looks to achieve, one must apply to be “reviewed” by the platform’s curators to be able to sell there.

Best suited for:

NTWRK is the ideal platform for cult-status brands.

4. Streams.live

Companies looking to host live shopping parties will definitely want to consider using Streams.live. This interactive platform requires a bit of upfront setup before events, including choosing which products will appear during the live stream shopping event. The live commerce session is then hosted on a specific Streams.live event page, or can be embedded in an ecommerce experience. The tool can be used for live selling or prerecorded video.

One thing Streams.live boasts is the ability to sell NFTs (non-fungible tokens) live, building trust with customers and allowing brands to easily mint and sell NFTs on the spot.

Streams.live does offer a free version for those looking to only use one live channel. It then has three higher, paid tiers, meaning that it’s a scalable platform that could be great for beginners who may grow.

Best suited for:

Streams.live is an excellent solution for NFT sellers and regular live streaming retailers looking to host their own shows.

5. ShopShops

ShopShops offers something a little different in the world of live shopping apps-it brings on hosts to do ad hoc live shopping shows in various retailers. The hosts are the big selling point on the platform, so retailers have much less control over the experience. In short, ShopShops hosts build up a following and take shoppers with them as they visit stores, answering questions and interacting with viewers.

ShopShops can also be used by individual makers to promote their own products. The app bills itself as a great solution for shoppers to browse their favorite brands while learning about new ones. It is an app-based platform that is free for shoppers to download and use; those looking to make money as a shopping host must apply.

Best suited for:

This kind of live streaming platform is really ideal for makers, brand ambassadors, and influencer partnerships who will benefit from being associated with the shopping host.

6. Instagram Live Shopping

Instagram Live Shopping, by Meta, turns Instagram Live into a shoppable video. Meaning that ecommerce can happen directly via the app during the broadcast, or, retailers can save the videos to their profile and customers can come back to them later. Products from the video are tagged at the bottom of the screen, both during the live broadcast and on the saved videos, where viewers can make purchases. Viewers can also ask questions in real-time during the broadcast.

Broadcasting on Instagram Live Shopping is free for Instagram users (although they take a fee on each sale). The only other drawback, currently, is that to broadcast on Instagram Live Shopping you must be a U.S.-based brand or creator with an Instagram Checkout account. To shop on Instagram Live Shopping experience, you need to be a U.S. Instagram user.

Best suited for:

Instagram Live makes total sense for brands with already-established, impressive Instagram followings and those with heavy Instagram creator partnerships.

7. ShopThing

ShopThing calls itself a “live luxury shopping” tool and is on a mission to bring designer brands to anyone that uses their app or follows their Instagram account by offering the best prices around. ShopThing is more of a self-contained shopping tool than the other options we’ve covered. Their team of shoppers and influencers shop deals and discounted luxury brands and then pass the savings on to users, who can securely check out via the app or from an IG live streamed video. Shoppers need to act fast though-the products featured don’t always last very long, and the deals only live for 24 hours.

Best suited for:

Luxury bands looking to sell off their collections with minimal overhead and exclusive positioning to luxury enthusiasts. Companies that specialize in selling off discounted luxury brands and discontinued items.

8. channelize.io

Brands already using Shopify, WooCommerce, and Magento looking to enable live stream commerce on their site might want to check out Channelize.io. This live stream shopping platform lets you integrate live shopping into an existing site, or launch as a standalone video shopping app and website.

One thing that makes stand out is it comes with a mobile app to enable show hosts to lead a live stream shopping event from anywhere. Retail associates, influencers, or hired hosts can all lead a live stream shopping party without needing to be in the retailer’s physical space. The platform also includes live chat tools to give hosts the ability to do some 1:1 interactions with viewers during their shows.

The platform does offer a free version, however charges an overage fee per live attendee after a certain number is reached. There are two additional paid tiers and custom account options.

Best suited for:

This solution is ideal for brands looking for a fully-featured, interactive live streaming solution.

9. Whisbi

Whisbi offers a more classic sales experience as a live-selling platform that includes live streaming and interactive video and text chat functionality. As a mobile-first conversational commerce platform, Whisbi looks to increase online sales for its clients. In doing so, Whisbi can send sales leads from the website to a sales agent either remotely or in-store.

One big drawback is it doesn’t allow both parties to browse the website together and make a purchase; the one-to-one feature is for support and troubleshooting only. The one-to-many feature, however, would work great for product drops or collection launches, but with the caveat that you have to check out on the site separate from the livestream-in-app purchases are not supported.

Best suited for:

Whisbi could work well for a range of industries beyond retail, including telecom, automotive, and banking. Any businesses looking to provide both live video support and live streaming would be a great fit for this platform. It is also well suited for industries where customers require more hands-on customer support than traditional channels may allow

10. Amazon Live

Great news for existing Amazon merchants-the ecommerce giant has already got a one-to-many live shopping platform built in. Amazon sellers can build up a following and host live events to show off products and even interact with viewers.

While brands can host their own shows on Amazon Live, there’s also the option to tap into Amazon’s own host network, or to use Amazon influencers through the Amazon Live Creator app. These staffing solutions make Amazon Live a great fit for product-focused brands that don’t have a dedicated consumer-facing team.

According to Amazon “You can create your own Amazon live stream for free by downloading the Amazon Live Creator app, or collaborate with us for an Amazon-produced live stream. Amazon-produced livestreams typically require a minimum spend of $50,000 (US).”

Another caveat is that the Amazon Live Creator app is currently only available in the U.S. to vendors who have a store and professional sellers enrolled in Amazon Brand Registry.

Best suited for:

Amazon Live as a live stream shopping solution makes perfect sense for product brands already using Amazon as a primary selling channel.

11. restream.io

Restream.io is a web-based live streaming platform that allows broadcasters to go live on multiple channels at once. It currently integrates with over 30 live stream destinations. Brands that use YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and more can benefit greatly from the cross-platform chat functionality. It definitely saves companies time and resources who want to stream across multiple platforms live. It also allows users to upload and stream recorded videos in order to host live chat Q&A sessions. The platform offers comprehensive analytics on streaming videos.

Restream.io is surprisingly cost-effective, offering a free plan and a standard plan that starts at only $19/month, and even the professional plan comes in at under $50/month. This could likely be because while the platform does enable nicely produced video content and multi-streaming, it is primarily build to increase engagement and awareness to drive online sales, but does not offer in-app purchase functionality.

Best suited for:

Large companies that use multiple channels for live stream content, and those who want to record, edit, perfect and then schedule video content to stream live at a later time.

How to choose the best video live stream software for ecommerce

When considering whether live video streaming or live stream shopping may help engage new customers and increase revenue, retailers should closely examine their needs and use cases. Factors like customer demographics, customer support, monetization, scalability, ease-of-use, and mobile vs software are all super important.

Live video co-shopping with GhostRetail can connect customers with real, in-store salespeople who know the products and can help shoppers make meaningful purchases. It helps shoppers through conversion stumbling blocks, increasing sales and boosting brand loyalty.    

If you're interested in offering one-on-one live stream shopping support, GhostRetail is a great place to start.

Connect with the Ghost team to get a closer look at how the platform works and the ways it can create the best experience possible for your customers to drive more sales, more often.

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