Retailers and consumers alike are wondering whether live shopping is the future of ecommerce.
It's a fair question. While live stream shopping is already a major channel in China, estimated to generate $3.487 billion yuan (about $547 billion USD) in 2022, it's still just emerging in North America and Europe markets. In comparison, live shopping was forecast to generate just $11 billion USD in the United States in 2021.
Part of the adoption for live shopping in North America will come down to the vision of retailers and ecommerce brands who understand the potential of connecting people through online video shopping experiences.
To simplify things, we figured we'd share some of the top use cases for live shopping, as well as best practices for live shopping along the way
1:many vs. 1:1 live shopping
Before we get going with the main use cases for live shopping, we wanted to make one pitstop when it comes to defining the difference between a 1:many live shopping event or shoppable livestreams and 1:1 live shopping.
In both cases, customers are shopping live with a real human, on video. And in both cases, customers should be able to see what products are being featured and checkout with them on the spot.
The difference comes down to the level of interaction between the shopping experience host and the customer.
The definition of 1:many livestream shopping is right in the name - multiple customers are all logging on for the same live streaming experience. In general, 1:many video commerce really does involve many customers, tuning into a live stream event, as opposed to a small handful. A livestream shopping event may be hosted on a retailer's website, or they might use tools like Instagram live shopping or Amazon Live to get the word out.
The definition of 1:1 live shopping is equally simple: One customer and one retail associate are on a call together, with no one else present. 1:1 video commerce is generally offered exclusively through a retailer's website, although it may be promoted across a range of channels, including through social commerce.
1:1 live shopping is sometimes also called clienteling, although we would argue there's a difference. Clienteling involves building a specific book of customers and doing outreach to them directly, which may include other channels such as SMS, email, or social media messaging. Video shopping in a clienteling situation may or may not allow a shopper to check out on their own.
Our guide to the best use cases for live shopping will attempt to cover scenarios that could be applied across 1:many, 1:1 live shopping, and clienteling live commerce scenarios, but of course, some might work better in some situations than others.
Use cases for live shopping
The use cases for live shopping are varied, and can be further broken down by industry. In general, the primary aim of live commerce is to help customers find the right product and feel confident in their purchase.
The other perks of live shopping of course, include bringing the 'theater of the store' to the customer's home, allowing them to experience the perks of being in a three-dimensional space without needing to leave the comfort of their home. Interestingly, live commerce presents a unique opportunity that has previously never existed at all - letting the retailer into the customer's home, and all the advantages of doing so.
We've broken down our live shopping use cases into four primary scenarios:
Support hesitant shoppers
Generate higher average order values
Keep reading to learn how live shopping can assist your business across all four of these areas.
Live shopping use cases to drive conversions
First and foremost, live stream shopping is an incredibly useful tool to help customers feel confident enough to hit 'checkout', driving up online sales. Think of live shopping like a stand-in for a helpful sales clerk in a brick and mortar location. If you needed assistance to find a size, understand a product's function, or just get a second opinion on something, live commerce can be the helping hand potential customers need to go from browsing to buying.
Find the right size
Swimsuits, jeans, and lingerie are a few of the primary product categories that shoppers are hesitant to buy online because fit is so imperative. Best case scenario, a shopper might add multiple sizes to their cart and hope something fits, while tipping the scales negatively for a retailer's return rate. Worst case, they don't convert at all. Have a fit expert hop on a call or live event to speak to whether an item fits big or small, take in the customer's morphology, and recommend the best fit.
Find the right color
Everyone knows that the color you see something on screen may be 100% different from the person sitting next to you, owing to whatever settings you have in place on your preferred browsing device. Help customers see products in different lighting, in real time, to get a better sense of whether it's the shade they were expecting to find the ideal hue and avoid returns.
Shop with someone that has similar physical characteristics (e.g., skin type, hair type, skin color, body type)
User-generated content (UGC) has become an essential part of the online shopping experience, with some savvy sites allowing users to filter reviews to find customers with similar characteristics ranging from size and height for fashion retailers to skin type and complexion for beauty brands. While these reviews are helpful, they're ultimately limited to whatever commentary the shopper was willing to provide. A live shopping experience allows customers to have a more dynamic conversation with someone that fully understands what a customer would be considering. For example, a customer might choose to online shop with someone that has the same hair type to zero in on their experiences with specific products and find the one that'll likely work best for them.
Shop with someone that has the same interests
Many retailers offer subsets of products that appeal to specific customers. For example, a bike shop may carry racing bikes, off-road bikes, cruisers, and commuter bikes. Live video shopping or live shopping shows allow brands to replicate the offline in-store experience by helping a customer or viewers interested in a specific niche get expert insights and support to find the right product.
Learn about fabric or material details
Retailers have increasingly seen the importance of providing detailed photos of their products to give customers as much as a 'tactile experience' as possible in two dimensions. Pre-recorded videos, augmented reality, and 3D models have helped customers understand more about a product, but actually getting onto a call with a personal shopper is an excellent way to get their questions answered. Is fabric see-through? What undergarments might be required? Does it have stretch? Will it drape? How does an item 'close' (zippers, buttons, clasps, etc.)? The little nuances of a garment's wearability can all be explored through a live video platform.
Let's say a customer is interested in two (or more) products but they aren't sure which one is right for them. This can lead to paralysis analysis, causing them to potentially buy neither option. Or they might order both, with the intent to return one. Having a conversation over a video platform gives customers the chance to rationalize their decision, and potentially collect additional information to make a choice - including seeing two products side-by-side, in real life, an experience that can't be replicated online otherwise.
Understand the size of a product in three dimensions
Pictures can be deceiving, and quite often, negative reviews can come in when a customer discovers a product is much larger, or much smaller than they anticipated. Even when a brand makes an effort to provide dimension or show a product in a contextual shot to give a sense of scale, there's still the risk of a customer returning a product simply because it wasn't quite how they envisioned it. Augmented reality and 3d modelling tools can help, but sometimes just seeing the product held up to the customer, on camera, will give them a clear picture - that handbag is too small for their wallet. The sample sizes in that beauty kit do feel like a great value. That mirror frame isn't too bulky for the hallway.
See a specific element of the product that's not clear in photos
The best consumer brands in the world spend a significant effort ensuring their product images are selling their products in the best way possible. But still, they can fall short. Customers can easily send back a product because they didn't realize that the fastener on a pair of jeans was cumbersome. Or that there were cutouts on the side of a dress they bought for work. Shoppers appreciate the ability to see a product from any specific angle that they choose - one that may not have been covered or considered from the photographer.
Experience audio firsthand
Photos may tell a thousand words, but they speak zero. For products with an audio component, such as a speakers, instruments, or alarms, or even decorative items like wind chimes or fountains, hearing (not seeing) is believing. While static videos can be a helpful to see an individual product, it misses the mark on allowing customers to compare the sound of multiple products side-by-side, or testing them for specific use cases, such as what is the maximum volume of two portable speakers. There's also a use case here tied into the sound of items that aren't necessarily designed to make noise - customers can return things like humidifiers or home appliances because of the ancillary 'noise' they make. Giving the customer a chance to hear a device firsthand before buying can help clarify this point.
Close a sale with a promotional incentive
Getting onto a call with a live shopper gives that associate the opportunity to walk shoppers all the way to checkout, just as they would in a store. However when shopping online, there are always distractions and risks that can keep a shopper from dropping off before converting, such as hunting elsewhere for an online coupon code. Equipping associates with a tool to generate promotional codes can be a great way to close a sale right then and there. The associate can even enter the code into the cart page so the customer doesn't have to do it, ensuring they feel great about their entire sales experience.
Live shopping use cases to support hesitant shoppers
Ecommerce may have seen a major surge in adoption during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, but it's far from completely saturating the market, accounting for only about 1 in 5 retail purchases. There are several reasons why ecommerce adoption is still growing, and one of them is some shoppers simply don't feel they have enough information to feel comfortable checking out online. Brands, in turn, have adopted dozens of tactics to help shoppers - everything from an increase in UGC (user-generated content) and reviews to 3D imagery and videos detailing products.
Having live 1:1 video shopping available is another great way to give reluctant online shoppers a helping hand to guide them through any concerns or questions they have. Adding a touch of humanity to the otherwise one-sided interaction of shopping online can be all it takes to convert more consumers into ecommerce evangelists.
One of the simple reasons for cart abandonment is one of the hardest to understand: A shopper may simply not trust your store. While there are review platforms that can help with this, it might not be enough, particularly for high ticket items, or items with a high potential for counterfeit or fake goods, such as designer handbags, watches, and fine jewelry. Connecting with a real person who can answer questions, show products in real life, and provide reassurance about the legitimacy of the business can go a long way to building trust that leads to conversions for your business.
Launch a new product
There's always an element of risk when debuting a new product. Customers used to a certain cut of jeans or a go-to serum may balk at the idea of shaking up their routine. Solution? Promote live video shopping support specifically (possibly exclusively) on new product pages. If shoppers are already being directed to product pages for new arrivals, take advantage of that traffic by giving them access to a helping hand to go from consideration to conversion instead of waiting for the reviews to roll in.
Find a replacement or coordinating product
Let's say a customer breaks a product, or needs to order a refill for an item. Instead of having a customer guess what product they actually need, speaking on a video call can ensure they're getting the right item. This is especially valuable for less tech-savvy shoppers who might not be able to say, track down past orders, product SKUs or serial numbers, or manuals. Ensure customer satisfaction the first time by giving shoppers the helping hand they need to be able to use their product again.
See the product on someone else
Retailers have seen a lot of blowback over the last decade about the types of models they employ, whether based on body type, skin color, or some other metric of inclusivity. Some savvy retailers will now photograph products on multiple models to give an idea of how an item appears on different body types, but shopping with someone in real-time - who isn't a model! - can give shoppers an even better idea of whether an item will work for them. While this is particularly true if the store associate has similar physical characteristics as the shopper, sometimes just seeing a product on a living human can be all a shopper needs to assess whether it's a purchase they want to make.
Understand if a product is right for a specific need
There are generally two types of purchases - a shopper looking for a product to fulfill a certain need, and a shopper finding something they didn't know they were looking for. In the case of the former, the customer is likely coming in with some sort of checklist related to budget, use, and other considerations. When it comes to use, a customer might need to ensure a product is suitable for their specific purposes. For example, can a sleeping bag withstand freezing temperatures? Does that backpack meet standard airline carry-on requirements? Giving shoppers the chance to explain their scenario in a way that might not be covered by product detail page (PDP) copy ensures they're getting the right product for their unique scenario.
Get a product demo
Sometimes the biggest obstacle to conversion is simply not knowing how to use a product. Having a brand rep walk through anything from the setup to the use of a product on a video platform can give customers confidence that they'll be successful in using it as well. This type of service also works great for post-purchase support; giving customers an extra boost of help to avoid returns.
Get technical specs
One of the downfalls of many products is clever copywriting and marketing getting in the way of a customer trying to solve for a specific need. Often, a customer just wants a yes/no answer to their question. Will this concealer hide my dark undereye circles? Does this home appliance have a pressure cook setting? Is this device compatible with this existing item a customer owns? Does this portable speaker come with a charging cable? Instead of going through the support chat gauntlet, a quick shoppable video check-in with a retail consultant can give audiences the exact answers they need to be confident enough to hit checkout.
Find a gift for someone
Pretty much every retail associate has a story of someone walking in with a panicked look on their face, not knowing what to buy for someone - almost always at the last minute! - for a gift. Some shoppers might not even be brave enough to take this step, say for example, walking into a lingerie store. Online 1:1 shopping helps clueless customers feel comfortable shopping in a category or store they might not otherwise brave at the mall, all while getting tailored suggestions that take the pressure off them to find the perfect present.
Complete a custom order
More and more brands are offering custom product variants, recognizing there's big business in gifting and corporate purchases. Whether it's a custom gift set, white labeled items, or an entirely custom product from the ground up, there's often quite a few details a brand will want before they fulfill the order. While corporate gifting and bulk orders can be handled via email or telephone, live video chat is a perfect happy medium. Shoppers can still compare products, clock visuals of what they're interested in, talk through budgets, requirements, and desired options, and make sure they're not missing any steps when they walk through a custom order process.
Help low-tech customers
Ecommerce only accounts for about 20% of all retail sales, in large part because adoption with older generations is still lagging. A co-shopping experience can help customers that feel less comfortable with navigating a website on their own find the products they need, and even walk them through the checkout process.
Understand a company's business model (e.g., preorder basis)
Setting the right expectation with a customer is paramount to a positive experience. There are a few companies where this is particularly essential, such as businesses that often deliver products based on preorders, or offer unique white glove services such as installation or training. Allow shoppers to talk through their questions about what happens after they hit checkout - when will the product arrive? What if they have a problem with it? What should they expect when the product is there? Answering these unknowns that are service and experience-based, not product-based, can be all a customer needs to convert.
Describe a specific problem or use case that would otherwise require extensive back and forth customer support
Sometimes a customer isn't looking for a product, but a solution. They might have information about who they're shopping for, the space or wardrobe they're buying for, or other factors, but they really just need someone to point them in the right direction. Instead of having a back and forth conversation over email, a video chat can streamline these technical queries. A customer might say they need something to darken their baby's room, and a home furnishings brand can walk them through the choice between curtains or blinds, see if their window is a standard size or would require a custom order, explain fabric / material choices, talk through different levels of blackout window furnishings, and complete a transaction within a single call.
Support shoppers with disabilities
Several policies exist that require businesses to make their sites accessible to all. But as that audience will tell you, not all sites are created equal. Live shopping can assist shoppers that otherwise have challenges navigating a site on their own - oftentimes simply having a conversation, even a non-verbal one, can help shoppers that may not be able to get into a store to have a more productive shopping experience.
Live shopping use cases to generate higher average order values
Many products exist touting the ability to 'personalize' a customer experience based on their browsing or buying behavior. While AI-based product recommendations and segmentation can automate some of the experience, this one-sided engagement never fully takes into account something a customer might never buy, essentially serving up useless product recommendations or cross-sells that they'll never convert on.
Having a one-to-one live shopping conversation is a unique opportunity for a customer to get curated advice that's as unique as their preferences. These conversations can also inspire trust in the retail sales associate, who can support customers in finding products that will enhance their customer experience without feeling like a cash grab.
Find products that complement something a customer is interested in
Sometimes a customer might see something they love, but hesitate because they can't picture what it 'goes with'. This could apply to anything from fashion - "What can I wear these platform striped boots with?" - to furnishings - "What types of accessories would look great on these open kitchen shelves?" A customer can point to something they like, such as a foundation, and the retail associate can help the customer find the primer and brush they need to make the look work.
Style a look
One of the classic use cases for 1:1 shopping is of course, personal shopping, an industry that's been around since the 19th century. Personal shoppers have typically had two chief jobs: Pick products that their customers are the most likely to buy, and present looks that combine different items. The same can happen on live 1:1 shopping call. A customer could explain an event or situation they need a look for and ask for the personal shopper to find them a look, or they could pull an item out of their closet and request coordinating items.
Build a relationship with a particular associate and see what they recommend
Live 1:1 personal shopping is really all about building relationships. These relationships can take place within a single call, but they can also grow over a series of calls, to the point where a customer seeks out a specific associate to support them. This associate may be a trusted point of contact to share new releases or recommendations to a specific customer, similar to the way a personal shopper traditionally functions, or to use a more modern example, social influencers. If a shopper loves an associate's personal style, they may be more apt to connect with them specifically and listen to their recommendations, ultimately driving higher order values.
Get guided shopping recommendations for related items or items bought together
Amazon's 'Frequently Bought Together' algorithm famously generates significant revenue lift for the mega retailer - to the tune of 35% of their total revenue (across all recommendations). While algorithms can be a handy self-serve way to treat customers, it's hardly personalized. A virtual personal shopper can show customers how a product is styled or paired with others in store, or spotlight similar items that work well as a set, tailored to a customer's specifications. For example, on a fashion retailer's website, a skirt might be recommended to be paired with a backless top. A customer could note they would never wear something backless, and the associate can find something that's more to their specific tastes.
Showcase the difference between value-priced and premium products
Virtually every brand has upscale versions of their product to upsell, whether it's simply based on something like volume, to more premium features. Customers can be naturally suspicious of these products when placed side-by-side, often opting for a lower-cost item because they don't understand what value the upper tier product actually offers. A personalized conversation helps the customer understand whether they need the advanced features or functions of the higher-priced item. For example, a customer considering two different phone models might realize they need the higher-priced phone because it has a significantly better camera, and a large portion of their role is to take photos at events for PR purposes.
Live shopping use cases related to geography
Finally, the last major primary use case for live shopping has to do with extending the reach of a brand's brick and mortar footprint (assuming they have one at all - live shopping can be done with entirely digitally native brands too!) Customers can enter a store without leaving their home, and retailers can bring the store experience to a customer. This experience is particularly exciting for brands
Check local inventory
Many retailers have implemented systems that help customers see if their local store has a product they're interested in purchasing before they head out the door, sometimes right down to the bin in a specific aisle. But if the product visibility isn't that detailed, or not available at all, shoppers might appreciate being able to talk to an associate to physically locate a product, and answer any questions about it before the customer leaves their house. The associate could also put the product aside to make it even easier for a shopper to get what they want once they arrive.
Check out the in-store experience of a store that's not easily accessible to a customer
While many digitally native or DTC brands are getting into the retail game, their retail footprint is still significantly smaller than legacy retailers, meaning many shoppers might not have access to browse a store in-person. By the same token, many more shoppers simply live in rural areas that have limited or no commercial retail whatsoever. Live shopping allows customers to transport themselves into a physical store environment without having to leave their homes, browsing concept stores in New York City that they may never get the chance to experience for themselves, or seeing a flagship branch of a favorite local outpost.
See what's new in store / if there are products a customer can't find online
In-store and online merchandising are often out of sync, at least by a few days. Connecting a customer to a retail store can give them the option to see new arrivals in store that may not have arrived online yet. Alternatively, a customer may have spotted an item in-store that they can't track down online. The retail sales associate can look up the item in their brick and mortar location and either track it down online, give information about its availability, or find similar items.
Help a retail associate see a customer's space or closet
For the first time ever, live shopping enables customers to invite a retailer into their homes. This can help the associate understand the space a customer lives in, from the color of their walls, to the shape of their windows, to the amount of room that they have. What previously would have been handled through a back and forth chat with photos or text can be easily answered within a video call. This also applies to seeing what's in a customer's closet. A shopper can hold up a skirt and ask for recommendations for tops that'll match it.
Shop on the go
Sometimes people are just busy, and live 1:1 shopping is a handy shortcut to find what they want. Instead of a leisurely browsing session at their desktop computer or in a store, a shopper could simply connect with a store associate, explain what they're looking for, and get the order completed without having to do a lot of browsing. This is particularly effective for brands with BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In Store) options as a customer could order a product while en route to a store, complete the sale, and simply walk in and pick it up with minimal effort on their end.
Take part in an exclusive shopping experience
Imagine getting to shop with influencers, creators, or even a celebrity - something that's possible with live 1:1 virtual shopping. To help promote the launch (or ongoing existence) of a live shopping service, brands can enlist special guest co-shoppers to answer calls for specific promotional periods. Not only will a customer who might not be able to visit a store get the chance to virtually visit, they'll get to do so by connecting with a personal shopper they've otherwise only gotten to interact with from afar.
Shop with a virtual shopper while in-store
The typical setup for live virtual shopping involves a customer that's at home or on the move, connecting with a retail associate that's either in-store, or working in a studio space. However, there is a use case where it makes sense for the customer to be able to connect with a live shopper while they're browsing in a store, particularly for products with high levels of technical specifications. For example, a bike retailer could have QR codes by their bikes. Scanning a QR code could pipe that customer's call to the bike manufacturer, or an expert about a particular type of bike, to answer specific questions, or to order a bike that's tailored to their specifications.
Choosing the right live video shopping platform
Chances are at least a few, or even dozens, of these use cases for live commerce will resonate with your product offering and desired customer experience. With GhostRetail, you can implement live video shopping in weeks, not months, giving customers a tailored, personalized experience they'll not only remember, but return for.