Live-stream marketing is booming in Asia. Here’s why you should be paying attention

Live stream shopping (or live stream e-commerce) is being touted as the next big thing in retail. Whilst it’s probably fair to say that it hasn’t yet reached anywhere like its full potential with customers in the UK and Europe, or even the US, customers in South East Asia have switched on to it in their millions, and it’s become a major marketing tool for brands from cosmetics to fashion. It’s estimated to have generated somewhere around $136 billion in revenue in China in 2020.

In China, Taobao Live dominates, with 80% of the market, but other platforms are growing, and Douyin (China’s version of TikTok) is rapidly transforming itself from a social network to a home shopping channel.

And although it’s early days, TikTok in the US have started experimenting with it through a partnership with Walmart.

According to Mike George, president and CEO of Qurate Retail, inventors of TV shopping channel QVC, the seeds of what would become livestream shopping were first sown in China in the mid-2010s. Influencers began using live video apps to take their fans with them to boutiques in exotic locations. They would share information and explain products along the way. These virtual journeys offered viewers a glimpse of places like New York or Los Angeles, with the option to discover and buy products that were not readily available in China.

You can read more of what Mike has to say about the rise of live stream marketing in his article for Livestream shopping is the next best thing in retail.

What is live stream marketing?

Simply put, it’s when influencers and brands stream live content on platforms like (in Asia)Shopee and Lazada, and their audience can instantly purchase the things that they are seeing on the app.

These platforms have integrated features that allow viewers to see these influencers and key opinion leaders in real-time, promoting products and services. It’s big business, certainly in Asia. Shopeeis a Singaporean online shopping platform which streams 17,000 pieces of live content every day, accumulating 14 million daily views, equating to over 700,000 hours of viewing time from potential customers.

Live stream commerce originated in Asia, and was already big before Covid-19 saw lockdowns around the world, but the pandemic certainly didn’t hurt this form of marketing. In fact, Shopee reported 99% global growth during 2020. Even after lockdowns were lifted, it seems customers, now accustomed to online shopping, have no intention of turning their backs on it. Many more and brands are now looking into turning Live E-Commerce into a common shopping experience for their customers.

In Europe, Chinese online shopping giant AliExpress conducted a survey which revealed that around 70% of European shoppers are open to the idea of experimenting with live streaming ‘shoppertainment’.

How they prefer their content does vary by country, a factor which is essential for marketers to consider.

Vita Chang, Head of Content Operations Ecosystem at AliExpress, says ““When exploring the European opportunity, it is important to look into distinctions of each country to cater the right messages for different consumers in different countries.”

Some of the study’s key findings suggest that UK consumers favour trustworthy and entertaining mobile-friendly content, while French consumers prefer succinct content endorsed by influencers. Shoppers in Spain seek out the best deals and practical information.

You can read the full findings of the AliExpress study: Shoppertainment is landing in Europe here.

How do brands use live formats to attract customers?

Live stream marketing content can appear on social media platforms.Facebook, TikTok and Instagram have already gone for it in a big way and other platforms are rapidly catching up.

Facebook launched ‘Live Shopping Fridays’ this summer, going through to mid-July, and it includes partnerships with major beauty brands like Clinique and Sephora.

The beauty of live stream is that it allowsinfluencers and brands to communicate with followers and consumers in the moment. Unlike a standard ‘video ad’ format, live stream allows the audience to interact directly with the host, to ask questions, for example. And the host can provide answers and give product feedback. It allows the kind of awareness-building and engagement which might previously have taken weeks or months of campaign activity.

As you might expect, influencers have been a major (ahem) influence on this online marketing phenomenon, andmany brands have been quick to recognise the value of using them to host their live shopping streams. The clever brands script the presentation carefully to ensure that, whilst the host influencer champions the brand in a variety of ways, – through demos, reviews, live-testing and promotional offers – they remain on-message.  Then, if a consumer likes what they see, they can buy the product instantly in-platform.

Creating digital events

Not for nothing is it known as ‘shoppertainment’, and these streams are turning into mini variety shows – with concerts, cooking demonstrations and workout classes, among others, added to the mix to keep engagement levels high.

It’s also worth noting that, whilst Asian, particularly Chinese live stream marketing has tending to rely on big-name influencers (with the associated a hefty price tag), it’s not always necessary to commit that kind of investment. Interestingly, whilst many brands do start out using established influencers as hosts, it’s not uncommon for a brand’s ‘in-house’ host to work it the other way, and develop such a following that they become an influencer in their own right.

Driven in part by recent restrictions, a number of brands have all but dropped physical product launches from their calendar, opting instead for live stream events.

The Goat Agency, which works with clients across Asia, including Olay, reports a significant rise in these events, like a recent launch campaign for Olay Retinol, where influencerslive-streamed product reveals on their personal channels, and were joined by a P&G scientist to answer questions about the product, whilst engaging the audience. The live content was enhanced by gamificationwith trivia questions and other activities to let the audience win products, with the added advantage of educating them about product benefits.

What are the downsides to live stream e-commerce?

Although undeniably effective (when done right), it can get expensive. With its popularity comes rising media costs, and the expense of paying a high-profile celebrity or influencer.

It’s also important to remember that, just as with any retail experience, it’s about building a relationship with the customer. Relying on flashy tech, or the influencer of the moment, without paying attention to the detail risks your investment being a costly mistake – or at best, a short-lived success. Competitive prices, efficient customer service and distribution, and the power of storytelling are just as important as ever.

Where is live stream marketing going?

There’s no doubt that it’s a growing phenomenon, and that it has plenty of untapped potential for brands across a multitude of sectors. Beauty and fashion brands have been quick to see its potential, but there’s really no limit.

And for the future, Mike George, of Qurate Retail has some tantalising ideas.“Perhaps”, he says,“artificial intelligence on social media will enable us to provide each customer with a fully individualized channel of live, interactive content, curated just for them. Maybe virtual reality will allow us to transport the customer to a front-row seat at a livestream fashion show, right next to a friendly host who is ready to answer questions and take an order.”

If you’re thinking about how live stream e-commerce could work for your brand, let’s talk.

Gordon Glenister is the author of a new book, Influencer Marketing Strategy. Learn:

  • how to build an influencer strategy
  • what makes a great influencer
  • about the rise of Clubhouse and TikTok
  • about future digital trends for connecting with a digital customer

Order your copy from Kogan or Amazon

Find out more at:

A marketers’ guide to TikTok

One of the biggest and fastest-growing social media channels, TikTok is a phenomenon that looks set to stick around.

It’s particularly popular with millennials and Gen Z, with 69% of users being aged 16-24. It was the most downloaded iOS app on the Apple App Store for Q3-Q4 in 2019, has been downloaded over 1.5 billion times, and (as of January 2021 figures) had amassed over 689 million users worldwide.

The main reason for TikTok’s popularity is that it’s a lot of fun. It makes it simple for users to create, edit and share their own content, and popular content goes viral really quickly. The younger generation of users are smartphone natives, accustomed to consuming YouTube content created for them, and comfortable with the idea of creating their own, as well as being open to the idea of influencers.

But despite its opportunities, it’s an app that many marketers haven’t quite got the hang of yet. Captiv8, the largest AI-Powered Branded Content Platform, recently published a comprehensive marketers’ guide, and I want to share with you some of the key insights and TikTok marketing tools.

What is TikTok?

In case you’re unfamiliar with it (in which case, where have you been?), let’s start with the basics. TikTok is a social platform which allows users to create and share short-form videos. 15-second videos can be set to soundtracks using published music or original backing sounds, and lip-synching, dance and prank videos are all popular.

Challenges are also hugely popular on TikTok, where users are challenged to recreate a video on a particular theme, or using a particular piece of music, and share it using a challenge hashtag.

One of TikTok’s big success factors is its simple, lo-fi production capability. Millennials and Gen Z, although used to influencers, find content that is too ‘slick’ inauthentic and less trustworthy. TikTok ‘keeps it real’, bringing often unfiltered, unedited and deliberately imperfect content to users, in contrast with the level of ‘perfection’ which often characterises Instagram channels, for instance.

Another string to TikTok’s bow is its potential for rapid internet domination. Unlike other channels, where it can take years to build enough of a following for content to go viral, with TikTok, a single video has the potential to go viral within hours, catapulting the content creator to fame.

For millennials and Gen Zs whose ambition is to become an influencer, or even just those who enjoy the challenge of creating viral content, the potential is seductive indeed.

Let’s take a look at five key ways marketers use TikTok:

  1. Branded hashtag challenges

Hashtag challenges make use of the natural tendency of TikTok users to create and share content, rather than merely consume it.

Branded hashtag challenges take it a step further to create genuine brand engagement, and are one of TikTik’s most widely used and most successful marketing tools.

By sharing a branded video, and challenging users to record their own version using your sponsored hashtag, you can build affinity and drive engagement with your brand, potentially across millions of users.

In a recent campaign, E.L.F cosmetics created a song ‘Eyes, Lips, Face’ to use for their #eyeslipsfacecampaign which (at the time of Captiv8’s report publication had nearly 18,000 TikTok videos using the song and collectively the videos tagged with #eyeslipsface had been viewed nearly 1.2 billion times.

Find out more about how to create a branded hashtag challenge:

  1. In-feed videos

In-feed videos look like the typical social media ads you’ll be familiar with from other platforms. The video spots (up to 60 seconds, but 15 is recommended) havesound and you can choose from CTA types including website clicks, app downloads or to your brand’s TikTok Business Account. The video ads auto-play within a user’s feed, but can be skipped.

This is a relatively cost-effective way to advertise onTikTok, but some skill is needed to make sure your video is eye-catching enough to avoid a skip.The CTA options make it simple to measure your ad’s success.

Find out more and see some examples on in-feed video ads here:

  1. Brand takeover

TikTok Brand Takeovers are ads that are served to users immediately they open the TikTok app. It’s a 3-5 second full-screen ad which can be either a static image or a GIF, and users can click out at any point. You can use the CTA options to link to your brand’s TikTok page or to your external website.

You can also add interactivity and engagement by including a branded hashtag. It’s a great high-impact tool for generating high reach, as the whole screen is clickable.

Brand takeovers are exclusive to one advertiser in a category per day, so yours is the only ad in this format that users will see that day. This does make it a premium format, with a price tag to match, so is mostly used by larger brands looking for maximum exposure and reach.

  1. Branded lenses

Branded lenses are a feature that allows users to interact and play with the brand using their filter. They allow users to test products (so are ideal for cosmetic brands, for example) and choose to buy. You can also integrate branded lenses into a hashtag challenge, creating stronger interaction with your brand and promoting your products more widely. 

TikTokbranded lenses offer brands the possibility of using 2D, 3D and Augmented Reality (AR) to providecreative face filters and objects, including animated objects,for users toincorporate into their content.

Lenses appear within thetrending section of the TikTok app and users can select themwhile filming, giving them creative control whilst also interacting with, and promoting your brand.

They are time-limited, with branded lenses live for up to 10 days,and able to rank in the top 5 trends for up to 5 days. It’s an excellent tool for driving deeper brand engagement, and cosmetic brands have successfully used this ad format not only to generate sales, but also to trial new products through AR technology.

Read more about branded lenses:

  1. Top view

Top View is possibly the prime area of TikTok, appearing first when users open the app. Because it seems more native, users are less likely to skip it before it fades into an in-feed video ad up to 60 seconds long. By creating an engaging video, brands can develop a really immersive brand experience, and there’s no competing content to distract the user.

TikTok only allows one advertiser per day per category in Top View, so it’s great for increasing brand awareness in your category.

See a top view example here:

The future for TikTok – watch this space

These are the top five options currently, but in common with other social media platforms, TikTok isn’t static, and there are constant new developments for marketers.

TikTok’s future focus looks to be on increasing revenue through advertising, creating revenue streams for creators, and improving its user safety measures, especially for children. The platform doesn’t yet offer a direct way for creators to make money out of their content, though there are a number of ways in which you can generate income streams through it – developing your influencer status, or using content to sell product or services being two.

According to the Captiv8 report, advertising and in-app spending accounted for $100M globally in 2020, so despite some gaps, it’s a serious revenue generator as well as being a highly effective platform for forward-thinking brands to use for audience building and engagement.

Read the full Captiv8 report here.

Gordon Glenister is the author of a new book, Influencer Marketing Strategy. Learn:

  • how to build an influencer strategy
  • what makes a great influencer
  • about the rise of Clubhouse and TikTok
  • about future digital trends for connecting with a digital customer

Order your copy at:Gordon Glenister | Membership and Merchandise Specialist London

Find out more at:

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