The COVID-19 health crisis has led to shifts in consumer behaviour. As a result, retailers need to work hard in order to meet the ever-evolving requirements of the customer experience in order to succeed and remain relevant.
For many years, live video and retail were kept as two separate entities. However, with the growth of livestreaming, which has been especially perpetuated throughout the global pandemic, consumers and businesses alike are looking to use the technology as a way to communicate and interact.
From the perspective of retailers, by taking advantage of livestreaming and video content, it opens them up many opportunities, from customer service to marketing, and as a result, revenue.
Channels like QVC and Amazon have their own live video platforms for shopping, which doesn’t come as a surprise that this is where shopping experiences are heading.
As retail starts to become increasingly focused on its use of technology, as well as creating an immersive experience for their consumers, eCommerce retailers, as well as physical stores need to consider how they can utilise immersive brand experiences like livestreaming and other live video content. It can be used as a way to engage with consumers in a completely different way and lead to an increase in sales as a result.
In a report by Forrester, it was found that as a result of the pandemic, in 2020, retail experienced nearly a 10% loss in sales globally compared to previous years. As there is an element of ‘catching up’ to do for retailers, focusing on how to revolutionise the in-store experience is of paramount importance.
The pandemic has had a ‘supercharging effect’ on a lot of eCommerce sales. As a result, it doesn’t bode well for retailers that are already hindered on sales, such as specialist stores as well as department stores. A high number of retail stores and brands will open their physical stores soon, ready for a new way of working. Analysis of the 2008 financial crisis is something that retailers can learn from in order to come back from this crisis. It showed that the retailers that focus their investments on improving and innovating in their customer experience service, saw a much shallower downturn, rebounded faster, and achieved three times the shareholder returns over time, compared with the market average.
Time to change
The pandemic has led to a change in consumer behaviours, some changes likely to be permanent. Consumers are shopping differently, with a consolidation of shopping trips becoming more of the norm. McKinsey has found that in China, as an example, the number of transactions reduced by 30% but the value of each transaction was increased by nearly 70%. Many customers, particularly in the US, tried omnichannel models, such as buying online and then picking up in store. This grew 28% in February 2020, compared with 18% in January 2020. Grocery deliveries were also up by over 50%. These new consumer engagement models have worked and are here to stay.
Now is the time for stores to think about how they function, making them into more than just a storeroom, and maximising their value to showcase products. But what form will showcasing products look like? The trends suggest that there will be a strong link to social media and content creators, as now, unlike any time before, the use of social selling (or social commerce) will be important. What it is, is incorporating social media and content creators into the shopping experience, to give consumers real customer recommendations, showcasing visuals created by real users and influencers, and providing social proof for consumers, when making purchase decisions. Considering 90% of Instagram users do follow at least one retail brand, there is no denying the possible potential that social feeds and influencers recommendations have in order to drive sales.
We have seen the impact that social media has had on retail, both in-store and online, as well as influencer marketing. The way that new products are launched or introduced has changed in recent years, with a big presence online and across social media. This is something that is being done at all levels, from national and international, to local launches and projects, helping to create a following for brands, as well as turn ‘swipe ups’ and website clicks into conversions.
Going forward, it is time for surviving retailers to think about what they can do to improve. Although there are some things that won’t replace the in-person interaction and experience that some consumers crave, there is still going to be a big demand for online and live content. A great example is what has been going on in China over since 2016: livestream shopping. Retailers have had a lot of success, with Taobao and JD.com being the first to launch livestream shopping sites over there. A Chinese network for livestreaming, for example, has had over 400-million views on shows, in 2019. It isn’t just a novelty factor either. In total, this amount of views, from over 50,000 livestreams, brought in billions of dollars.
As well as what we are seeing from China, there have been big changes with social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, who have added shopping services to their apps. Amazon also has a livestream shopping service to their website and app too. Brands of all sizes can take action in order to tailor their marketing strategies to incorporate these new tools that social media platforms are now offering. This will help brands to engage with their consumers and lead to an omnichannel experience for shoppers.
Social commerce will revolutionise the content marketing strategies for brands forever, combined with Influencer Marketing, stellar content marketing, and entertainment all thrown into one. With celebrities hosting, as well as influencers, livestreaming has shown to be a great way to promote products, in China. With lockdowns still in place in many places, as well as other entertainment still off limits, consumers have the time to check livestreams, and can be done from home or on-the-go for consumers. As retailers start to open their doors, livestreaming is what is needed to improve the retail experience for customers. Going forward, a lot of stores are going to need to think about how to transform their marketing strategies to boost social content and experience, in order to improve future sales. When this is done, sales, both in-store and online, can be maximised. The potential here is endless.
- Video marketing company Wyzowl found in December 2020, 96% of people say that they have watched a tutorial video or explanation video of a product or service that they then went on to purchase. Wyzowl also found that 89% of consumers said that watching a brand’s promotional video helped them make a decision to buy a product, and that 75% of consumers said that they find videos helpful when doing their shopping.
- According to StreamElements, Twitch is the biggest live streaming platform worldwide, with over nine-billion watched hours.
- Video content on social media helps to generate more than 1200% more shares than content with just text or images (Smith, 2017).
- Businesses that have used video content get more than 41% extra traffic from searches, as a result (Adélie, 2016).
Video streaming market
The global video streaming market is reported to reach over $220 billion, by the year 2028. With technology improving, block-chain technology, video streaming and also artificial intelligence can help to improve the quality of video streaming. It just goes to show that now is the time to be making use of video streaming, because the technology has never been better. Retailers can get some amazing quality video streaming content. Using the technology available for livestreaming, it will make for a revolutionary experience for shoppers.
Leveraging AR and VR to enhance experiential shopping
There is a lot of talk about how experiential shopping in a store is more about curiosity than it is compared to experiential shopping done online. It is easy to see why this might be the case, with having an in-store experience as a way to help a retailer to stand out from the crowd and make their mark as a physical store retailer, compared to an online shopping experience. When using augmented reality (AR) alongside virtual reality (VR), it challenges the idea that online retail is only about quick and fast purchases. Using AR and VR in-store and on websites is important to revolutionise the experience for all.
Believe it or not, a lot of large retailers are looking into the idea of turning an online shopping experience, such as grocery shopping, into a sensory and full experience through the use of VR. Back in 2018, Walmart published two patents in this area that is all about creating a way to shop at home, using VR. The patents help to show that with a VR headset, along with sensor gloves, could mean that consumers can shop in Walmart in a virtual world, but still end up with the products getting delivered to their door.
Brands and retailers wanting to use AR and VR to improve the shopping experience could think about creating a physical element for the consumer. This could be something like fitting furniture in a room or applying makeup, as examples. When using AR and VR in this way, it adds value to the experience. Both technologies can revolutionise the in-store experience.
Video content for product launches: an example from Kjell & Company
If retailers are looking for a way to enhance the shopping experience, then one way of doing that is when looking to launch products. A good example of a product launch using these modern methods is Kjell & Company, one of the largest consumer electronics retailers in Scandinavia.
When they were looking to launch new digital products, they wanted to have live conversations that were one-on-one with consumers and the relevant experts from the industry, through their stores. This helped to make the whole process convenient for shoppers. Using this kind of interaction, consumers were able to see the products in action, and help to bring up different specifications on the screen, and be able to compare different products, aiding them and encouraging them to fill up their shopping cart. The purchases can then be seamless and secure and the consumers will have seen a real-time demonstration of how their chosen products work, and could ask the experts, being B2B influencers there and then any questions that they had.
A launch like this helps to improve the experience for all, and others will know that they have the option to do this too, rather than going into store. Having the option of a video call, an audio-chat, or just a text-only chat can also help accessibility to the store, which is another added benefit.
Meeting new consumer expectations
Prior to the pandemic, retailers were creating omnichannel strategies, blending physical and online channels in order to engage consumers in the channel that they would prefer. The impact of COVID-19 on customer behavior has changed things again. Looking forward, retailers need to focus on actions to create more resilience in their customer experience, which will help them to recover. Evaluating current omnichannel offerings is a must, as well as innovating with livestreaming and Influencer Marketing, to meet new consumer expectations and raise their engagement and brand advocacy. By bringing an in-store feel to a digital experience it will help retailers, as well as improve social selling.
Revolutionising retail and the in-store shopping experience is something that needs to happen, in order for it to grow and make up for the losses that the pandemic has brought. Livestreaming really is an integral part of that, along with influencer content. When a brand can put themselves into the shoes of their consumers, and can connect with them by providing engaging content that appeals to them, then it allows the brand to be relevant and to achieve great things, as they navigate a post-pandemic world. Livestreaming has been shown to be a success for businesses in China. With the tools for this available where you are, social selling and livestreaming can be what your brand needs to improve and revolutionise the in-store shopping experience.
Key takeaways and Recommendations
- For retailers looking to revolutionise the in-store experience, taking advantage of livestreaming and video content opens up many opportunities, ultimately leading to growth of revenue.
- The world of retail has changed, especially in-light of the global pandemic. How consumers shop is different, which is why retailers need to meet the growing expectations of their customers. Facebook and Instagram make it simple for any retailer to harness the power of social selling, whether that is through the shopping part of their apps, their live video features, or through using influencers and encouraging user-generated content.
- Incorporating social media and content creators into the shopping experience will be key, in order to give consumers real customer recommendations, showcase visuals created by real users and influencers, and to provide social proof for consumers, when making purchase decisions.
- Livestreaming content will allow retailers to engage with a broader spectrum of the market, as no geographical boundaries will be any more a limitation.
- Live experiences combined with the right influencer, will allow brands to create intimate and closer dialogues with the audience, on a real time basis. This will help retailers to humanise their brands and create stronger bonds with customers, beyond an in store visit.
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