By Shirish Nadkarni
Last year, AliExpress set its sights on bringing ‘Shoppertainment’ — an integration of shopping and entertainment — to Europe, kicking off a Livestreaming Program in France that incorporated more than a thousand livestreamers to produce 3,000 real-time brand experiences.
This year, however, AliExpress’s Shoppertainment strategy has gotten even more advanced and ambitious. The retailer has trained its own in-store salespeople to become livestreamers and further enhance the impact of this program.
Even as Amazon’s Twitch creates shoppable ‘experiences’ in the West, Alibaba in China is experiencing great success by turning e-commerce into entertainment on a grand scale.
Many retail brands are discovering that bringing the engagement of an in-store experience to their e-commerce environment is critical for further success — as long as you have a plan to collect, capture, and make use of the first-party data feedback to personalise their interactions.
China is widely recognised as a global trailblazer in the shoppertainment field; and its commitment to this program is only likely to get bigger this year. For example, Lalo Lopez has been recording at a studio in Shanghai, where he usually live-streams to offer products on an AliExpress channel in Spain.
Chinese consumers find the live-stream shopping experience more social and interactive, and market growth numbers reflect their entertaining engagement. Taobao Live, the dominant live commerce platform in China, reported that its gross merchandise volume has grown by 150% per year over the past three years.
It was in South-east Asia that Lazada coined the term ‘Shoppertainment’, which it said are innovations that merge shopping with entertainment and social experiences, so that consumers could watch, play and stay. These innovations include in-app live streaming, gamification, and the integration of commerce with these functions such as its ‘See Now, Buy Now’ technology.
Lazada also live streamed a music concert on its app simultaneously across its six markets in APAC, as part of its 7th birthday celebrations in March 2019, and again during its inaugural Women’s Festival, a month later.
Speaking during ‘The Drum’s Digital Transformation Festival’, Michelle Yip, Chief Marketing Officer for Lazada Singapore, said: “We recently had our brand report that found consumers think of Lazada as a platform where we help them to connect with each other and a place for them to be entertained and to relax.”
Since those early days of shoppertainment, the convergence of live streaming and e-commerce has become not just China’s but the world’s favourite way to shop. America may have been a little slow to hitch itself to the shoppertainment bandwagon, in comparison with Asian markets, but it cannot be denied that the concept has come a very long way all over the globe since it was first floated.
It was not all that long ago that live streams were only possible on TV. Hefty production costs shunned all but the biggest brands away. However, when Facebook and Instagram launched their own live streaming products, the new feature took off quickly. That’s because videos, especially live ones, can draw much more attention, compared to texts and pictures.
Engaging and unpredictable visual content – paired with the opportunities users get to chat in real-time with the personalities in the video – saw a usage boom in the world of social media.
With a predicted 82% of all internet traffic coming from video by 2022, live video remains an attractive marketing option for businesses. With these videos hosted on social media platforms after the video has ended, brands can continue to leverage engagement to attract more viewers.
Why stream live?
It’s cheap, it’s easy to do and you don’t need production professionals to get started. With the ability to reach more people in a short time, many businesses are using live videos to further increase their followers on their social media pages.
As Red Bull has shown, albeit on a grand scale, live video can be a boon to showcasing events. Two out of three people who watch events on a live stream say they would purchase tickets for the same event. Putting viewers in the “digital front row” makes them feel empowered and important, so if a brand sells a product this way, there is a very high chance for it to be recognised.
The technical barriers to retail live-streaming are lowered by increasing smartphone penetration … and costs becoming more and more affordable. As shoppers look for more of an experience than just shopping for items, shoppertainment will continue to play an important role in retail.
Lest we forget what a transformative year 2020 was, it was a year that was constantly evolving, to say the least. As the world continues to grapple with the long-lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, online retail has been undergoing a series of sea changes, adapting rapidly to changing consumers’ shopping behaviour.
Over the course of the pandemic, consumers got used to going online for all sorts of activities that were once conducted primarily in-person — from virtual exercise classes to concerts, and beyond. And during that same time period, shopping largely followed suit, with e-commerce sales increasing by a whopping 180% over the course of 2020.
Given these trends, it is no surprise that consumers began to crave a convergence of online shopping and entertainment into one engaging interaction. And thus, today’s ‘shoppertainment’ trend was born.
In China, in fact, live streaming has become the primary medium for key opinion leaders to engage with their audience, as fans can ask questions about the products, talk to the hosts and even send virtual gifts as a token of appreciation.
For context, e-commerce kicked into high gear as Covid-induced shelter-in-place policies force many people to shift their shopping habits online. New data emerging from the Covid-19 Commerce Insight tracker shows that pure e-commerce revenue growth in Europe was up by 40% – 80% by April 2020 alone, compared to the preceding year. Within the same period, online orders are up 80% in North America.
Shoppertainment driving retail
The goal of shoppertainment is to draw shoppers to purchase from the online entertainment store by offering interactive and engaging activities. Broadcasting live on streaming platforms to showcase products has been yielding conversions to actual sales.
The success of this innovative approach is such that retailers internationally are just beginning to cotton on to the phenomenon of Shoppertainment – it may represent a ‘new normal’ in the retail marketer’s playbook for 2021 and beyond. The promise of Shoppertainment’s ongoing success is such that many of the biggest e-commerce firms globally are betting big on live streaming, adding retailer ‘live’ content to their shopping sites and apps.
Shoppertainment combines e-commerce, entertainment, and consumers’ everyday lifestyles to drive engagement with interactive online events and experiences that are every bit as immersive and informational as their in-person alternatives were, prior to the pandemic.
With the live commerce market rapidly growing and thriving amidst the new normal, the first livestream shopping network in the Philippines, “Shoppertainment Live”, opened several diverse and fully functional ‘Livestyle’ studio sets. Bringing together a group of presenters and influencer sellers who are called ‘influensales’, the live e-commerce network also launched its incubation program through Shoppertainment Academy.
As a tech-enabled livestream shopping network for e-commerce and social media, Shoppertainment Live enables big advertising agencies, multinational companies such as Unilever, Del Monte, etc, and e-commerce giants like Lazada and Shopee to properly sell their products in an online broadcast setup. These are produced at their studios inside their Quezon City headquarters, where they have in-house presenters from their talent pool.
Former shop host and Shoppertainment Live CEO, Hiyasmin Neri-Soyao, explained that through their data and experience, they were able to identify which categories are going to be on the rise and in demand, hence the creation of multiple studios:
- Style Studios for Fashion & Beauty;
- Kitchen Studios for Cooking & Home Appliances;
- Lifestyle Studios for Talk Shows & Homecare;
- Technology Studios for Mobile & Gadgets; and
- Music + Recreation Studios for Entertainment.
“With more studios, we expect more action for the market,” said Neri-Soyao. “The team’s confidence stems from handling the smallest local businesses to the biggest global brands as part of our roster of clients.
“Shoppertainment Live’s strength is making products sellable, handling diverse products such as cosmetics, clothing, electronics, and everything in between.”
Academy to produce ‘influensales’
Moreover, Shoppertainment Live also launched its incubation program for its influencer sellers who are called ‘influensales’ through Shoppertainment Academy, a company initiative that educates and equips Shoppertainment Live presenters to be sale-centric, entertaining and engaging to hordes of consumers, young and old, awaiting for immersive shopping experiences.
Shoppertainment Live was launched a year before the world was hit by the pandemic in the first quarter of 2020, seeing the opportunity that live commerce brought when it was just growing in China. For the last two years, the company has been aiding local and multinational brands in this arena of digital transformation, serving over 200 clients.
They started out with an average of 20 live streams a month, but are now producing 100 at the moment, with the number steadily increasing in 2021.
With a numbers-driven mindset and a natural disposition to entertain and inform shoppers about their purchases, the Shoppertainment Live presenters are the next generation of marketeers working for brands in real-time to reach a wider range of a brand’s market in a more engaging and entertaining way.
The livestream shopping network is also working on its South-east Asia and global expansion plans, citing the potential of Filipino livestream presenters because of their “strong communication skills and infectious enthusiasm”.
“Not all presenters can produce the same numbers for every lifestyle,” said Neri-Soyao, a sprightly lady who took an executive course in the birthplace of livestream shopping – the Alibaba Headquarters in China.
“That is why Shoppertainment Live brought together a diverse group of presenters whom we trained to do ‘influensales’ as opposed to simply producing buzz and engagement for the brand.
“This follows the company’s philosophy wherein we believe that content is king, but they like it better when the cash register rings!”
And cash registers will be ringing loudly around the globe as the ‘Mother of All Sales’ is right round the corner … a great opportunity for broadcasters and streaming operators to keep a close watch on what other interesting money-making Shoppertainment trends will emerge on November 11.
Question: How best can traditional TV stations work with brands and e-commerce operators to level up their revenues in the Shoppertainment phenomenon?
Do share with us how your company can help broadcasters to monetise their facilities and expertise to produce immersive content that can keep cash registers ringing. Please send your solutions to email@example.com.