April 25, 2020 / Technology

Retail’s Live Stream Future

Live streaming is not a revolution. It is an evolution. Yet, with consumers in quarantine and physical retail currently subject to shuttered doors, brands have been opting for live-stream. It is a trend that has accelerated globally due to Covid-19.

One example that illustrates this accelerated growth is a UK based yoga brand; More Yoga. In light of Covid, the brand witnessed its audience grow from 10 on the first day of live streaming in response to studio closures, to 90,000 after three weeks.

Globally, the appetite for live-stream services is strong. We now live in a climate whereby 80 per cent of audiences would now rather watch a live video than read a blog. The trend is already booming in China. Chinese internet research company iResearch estimates its live-streaming market will reach 43bn yuan this year.

An Already Established Appetite

However, this communication tactic is not new. Last December, H&M’s owned fast-fashion brand Monki was the first western brand to create a live stream strategy to promote products. Generation Z in nature, the youthful and digital-first brand capitalised on an e-commerce opportunity to live stream a ‘Buy From Broadcast’. Shoppable across 19 territories, including Asia and Europe, consumers could watch Monki staff present products, whilst they tried them on and explained the various features. In order to purchase, consumers could hover over a product on the screen to attain further details and simply add the item to their basket and then exit the video to check out. Shrewdly, for those who were unable to attend the broadcast in real-time could have access to a replay.

As such, virtual consultations have become a brand’s lifeline and is making way for the rise of remote retail engagement. In light of our current climate, live stream selling will not be slowing down anytime soon. Instead, retailers will be privy to consider how to continue the strategy in store once it is safe to reopen physical spaces. Innovation agency Stylus predicts that we will see this live streaming movement transgress into physical spaces and it reshape retail experiences post Covid-19.

Lessons for the future of retail

Stores will begin to conduct zoom events including masterclasses, workouts and panels. At the same time, walk-in services have the opportunity to be one-to-one calls, as illustrated by Credo Beauty in our last blog. However, other examples include Chanel’s Atelier Beauté store in NYC that now allows consumers to text the brand to book for a chat with an expert and a one-to-one consultation. The client is able to choose the topic and receive advice on products they already own. Makeup consultations are $20 and skincare costs $18. Also launching this month, digital-first and community-centric beauty cult brand Glossier now offers a Glossier Live Edit service. Based on a first-come, first-served basis, 150 fans are able to tune in to a programme that enables them to connect with editors live for 15-minute appointments. Here they can get tips on their skin regimens and discuss all brands they use, not just glossier.

On the one part, the desire for human connection and wellbeing in times of social distancing that are fueling the growth, yet the undercurrents of this strategy are facilitating community, providing content and enabling commentary. We just have to look at Netflix Parties and gaming platforms such as Discord to see how consumers are increasingly using platforms where they can consume content, yet comment with friends in real-time.

Moving forward, we will see an uptick in this style of commentary commerce, where consumers are empowered to experience the brand moment and participate. We have moved from a time whereby brands dictated the experience, but rather consumers are creating and directing the experience in line with the brand. Live stream retail and commentary is an experience-driven by participation that welcomes and facilities spontaneity. Not only is this essential for nurturing brand communities in today’s world, but it will be key to future growth. We expect to see more brands across varying sectors utilise live-stream retail – not just whilst consumers are still adhering to lockdown measures, but life post-Covid too.

Potential opportunities for live stream to impact retail post-covid

When it will be safe to reopen stores again, the role stores play in terms of brand communication and education will need to be reconsidered. Life pre-COVID, consumers could attend stores without hesitation. Simultaneously, the goal was to get as much consumer traffic through the door as possible. There was a time when ‘retail experiences’ was a buzzword phrase, and brands would create numerous ways to invite and entice consumers into the store, whether it be through an in house coffee shop, masterclasses, panels, treatments or even yoga.

Yet, we still live in a world where experience is key. However, we will be entering a world whereby we will be looking to monitor that traffic and ensuring consumers are able to maintain a safe distance when shopping and experiencing brands they love. Brands will have the opportunity to offer exclusivity for a select number of people for instore events, yet live stream can offer an event en masse, illustrating the two can work in tandem. When it is safe to reopen stores again, retailers will have to redefine the USP of a store experience versus a live stream one. Why would a consumer come to the store, when they can have an experience at home? In this instance, brands will have to reshape the uniqueness of physical experience and ensure there is no digital trade-off. Additionally, there is potential for retailers to reconsider the role of locality and how brands can build more intimate relationships with consumers by combining live streams to local communities. A couple of weeks ago, Chanel hosted a live stream audio with Belgium artistAngèle. This was available to the brand’s entire Instagram audience globally. However, how can brands go that one step further, and offer a live stream for a London store that is then different for a Paris location, to fully optimise the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with live stream and store locations.

Whilst digital has been the lifeline for brands in this crisis, we must ask ourselves that when it is safe to reopen, how will stores redefine their experiences to sit alongside digital and offer difference. Live stream has disrupted brand communication and experiences. However, the opportunities for this tool once stores reopen will be limitless.