Tune onto any social media platform and you’ll probably find a business livestreaming their products. Be it fashion brands showcasing their new collection, bidding or simply selling goods, livestreams have been the “in thing” since 2020, with little signs of its growth stopping.
According to Meltwater, more than 1.4 million social media conversations around livestream shopping took place in Southeast Asia last year, double the same period in 2020.
A study by iKala also revealed that 33 per cent of Singaporeans who shopped on social media platforms in 2021 did so because of its engaging experience, such as through live-selling.
However, while some businesses’ livestreams rack up thousands of viewers at their height, others struggle to hit double-digit viewership. In this article, we break down the appeal of livestreams and how businesses can better tap on this platform to help them boost sales and customer engagement.
Starting up with livestreams
Every week, 23-year-old Teesha Izat props her phone on a tripod armed with a curated selection of clothes and clicks the ‘Live’ button on Instagram, ready to spend up to five hours per session selling clothes from her online fashion business The Summer Babes.
What first started as a means to sell her preloved clothes has now become an integral part of her business, with more than 200 of her loyal customers tuning in to her livestreams at any one time.
“It took me by surprise that there was quite a number of viewers watching and purchasing, and that got me thinking that it would also be easier to sell all my instock items during live sessions,” said Teesha, who is also the founder of The Rattan Baby.
“Live streaming makes it faster and easier to sell my products. Due to the thrill and quick response needed from buyers to bid, it’s entertaining for both buyers and sellers.”
She added that because livestreams are much more fast-paced, buyers have little time to have second thoughts about products before they purchase them.
There needs to be a balance of keeping the customers entertained but at the same time, sell my items, so that they will stay throughout the entire live session.
– Teesha Izat, founder of The Summer Babes and The Rattan Baby
Businesses aren’t the only ones jumping onto the livestreaming bandwagon in recent times. Influencers and celebrities are also being engaged by companies to sell their products on these live sessions.
Notably, getai singer Wang Lei racked up over S$1 million in sales last December within two hours of livestreaming on Facebook from a Gucci store in Paris.
Celebrities Pornsak Prajakwit, Michelle Chia and Addy Lee also made almost S$3 million in sales in August and September 2021 from their livestream business Mdada, selling luxury products among others.
BeLive co-founder and CEO Kenneth Tan said that he saw a huge increase in interest in their commerce solutions since 2020 as livestreams gain popularity.
In the livestream service provider’s white paper, it noted that 35 per cent of marketers globally adopted livestreaming as part of marketing efforts in the past two years.
Unlike traditional browse-to-buy experiences, live video shopping is incredibly interactive. The platforms are jam-packed with live shopping streams hosted by Key Opinion Leaders and even celebrities, who can communicate directly with their audience in real-time, with no edits or scripts.
This builds a layer of trust and authenticity that increases conversion rates — live shopping streams record up to a staggering 36 per cent add-to-cart rates.
– Kenneth Tan, co-founder and CEO of BeLive
Quick, Engaging, Interactive: The draw of livestreams
When Covid-19 forced the world to come to a standstill and cooped everyone in their homes in 2020, Chinese restaurant and caterer Pin Si Kitchen turned towards digitalisation to sell ready-made meals to keep the company afloat.
“When we first started livestreaming, we didn’t have much experience or knowledge about livestreaming, the tools and features that we can use, and how to effectively engage and build up our viewership,” said Peggy Koh, 33, sales and marketing manager of Pin Si Kitchen.
With not much knowledge, they turned to e-commerce platform Shopee for help, which provided training and assigned a coordinator to answer any of their livestreaming inquiries.
The restaurant now holds daily livestreams on Facebook, racking in about 200 viewers on average. Additionally, they draw more than 1,000 viewers to their weekly livestreams hosted on Shopee LIVE — the e-commerce platform’s livestreaming feature — or during special events, with regular customers making up most of their viewership.
While the F&B enterprise did not share exact numbers, they “saw significant improvements to our page visits and sales on Shopee” since they started livestreaming.
“We feel that shoppers today want more interaction with their sellers, learn about the different products on sale, and ask questions in real-time, similar to buying something from a physical store,” Peggy shared, highlighting that livestreaming has grown into a significant focus in their business plans.
E-commerce giants like Shopee and Lazada have been vocal about their ventures into the livestreaming realm, viewing it as a focal point in their businesses.
Since Shopee launched its Shopee LIVE in 2019, it has seen an uptake in viewership and interest from sellers. In 2021 alone, it saw a 2.5 times growth in viewership and 300,000 hours of livestreams watched across its 11.11 Big Sale campaign period.
The company has seen the fastest growth among viewers aged between 34 and 50, which is attributed to how livestreams on the platform are often tailored towards viewers’ interests while remaining authentic and providing intimate live experiences.
To do this, Shopee has adopted the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to recommend personalised livestream content to users, masterclasses for sellers and brands to learn best practices, and tools such as in-stream calls to increase engagement between brands and customers.
Lazada has also enshrined lifestreaming as part of its ‘Shoppertainment’ strategy since 2018, allowing users to “See now, Buy Now” through its LazLive livestreaming feature directly on its platform, according to a spokesperson from Lazada.
The authenticity and intimacy of “live” communication fosters a deep connection between businesses and consumers, replicating an experience highly similar to the offline shopping experience.
It also adds an element of fun to the shopping experience of consumers and allows businesses to tailor the shopping experience delivered to consumers – from virtual try-outs to after-sales care and personalised consultations.
– Lazada Spokesperson
It saw over 18 million viewers tune in to its 2,800 sessions on LazLive during its 11.11 sales last year, with shoppers watching livestreams for double the time on average compared to the year prior.
For the e-commerce platform, fashion, health, beauty, electronics and home appliances categories are among the best performing on livestreams.
Aside from integrating sellers’ inventory into their LazLive session, viewers can easily redeem discounts and vouchers, add-to-cart and make payment from the livestream directly. Sellers are also equipped with the skillsets to livestream through masterclasses.
“In Singapore, LazMall brands and sellers can book livestreaming sessions at the studios located in the West Fulfilment Centre after completing the necessary livestreaming modules on Lazada University,” said its spokesperson, adding that they also provide equipment such as lights, teleprompters and cameras.
Challenges behind the camera
However, livestreaming comes with its own sets of challenges. For one, there’s heightened competition as more companies jump onto the bandwagon, so being unique and standing out is difficult.
“There is competition for eyeballs as there are multiple livestreams available at any one time. For companies, they need to constantly bring in relevant products and know their target customers well to keep them continuously engaged,” said Singapore Polytechnic’s School of Business lecturer Lim Xiu Ru.
And as fast as sales come, customers expect similarly quick delivery time between purchasing an item and receiving a product.
Lim also shared that as people are more vocal in their feedback during livestream sales, they may also be more vocal about any unhappiness they feel after the sale.
Customers of livestream business Mdada, for example, had voiced their unhappiness when the company met logistical issues, resulting in products taking up to two months to be delivered.
She further noted that the livestream market in Singapore pales in comparison to China, where dedicated livestreamers have a stronger “celebrity status”.
The most notable one is ‘Lipstick Brother’ Li Jiaqi, a livestream influencer in China who holds the record for selling US$1.9 billion in products in a 12-hour livestream marathon, attracting more than 250 million viewers.
Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Business and Accountancy Course Chair Lim Shee Chee also shared that the buying process through livestreams may not be seamless.
“Often, the shopper needs to exit the livestreaming platform to complete the purchase on another e-commerce platform,” said Lim, adding that some e-commerce sites are able to overcome this with their own integrated platforms.
“Being time-bound, shoppers may also miss livestream events. This contrasts with conventional e-commerce activities where a special sales event can last several days and shoppers do not need to feel rushed to buy something online.”
Livestreams leading the future of “social commerce”
Despite these downsides, Lim holds the belief that livestreaming is an “exciting sales channel” that will continue growing in Singapore.
Sharing that livestreams are substituting the hustle and bustle of ‘pasar malams’ and physical sales and promotions that Singaporeans love, livestreams will continue to grow.
“In the long run, I see livestreaming as another sales channel that enhances social media interactions through social-selling. This will complement conventional e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail stores as well,” he added.
Lim shared her optimism for social commerce as well, believing that alongside gamification, livestreaming engages shoppers while providing a frictionless shopping experience that consumers crave when shopping online.
BeLive’s Kenneth Tan also feel that there is still room for growth in Singapore that brands can benefit from.
He shared that brands can keep viewers engaged by making sure their content is authentic, engaging and they ensure two-way interaction.
“Empathy and storytelling is extremely effective if done well… It is incredibly refreshing to see a content creator unabashedly promoting a product on livestream,” he said.
He also noted that livestreams do not require deep pockets as the playing field is even, as viewers look for livestreams based on their loyalty.
Noting the lack of a “superstar live streamer” outside of China, Kenneth shared that brands can build loyalty by streaming frequently and engaging their audience by doing simple things like knowing loyal fans by name and giving them a shoutout.
“Live video is here to stay, and brands across industries can benefit tremendously from the unstoppable growth of this medium.”
Featured Image Credit: Lazada