Live Commerce Has Arrived. Will Retailers Finally Embrace it?
For the last few years, live commerce has been steadfastly developing and evolving. Undaunted by early rejection from most retailers and seeing its popularity soar overseas, live commerce has persisted as it waited for its coming out party. That moment appears to have arrived.
COVID-19 by any measure has shaken us to the core. However, it has also forced the re-examination of the ways business has been, and now will need to be, conducted. No sector is that more evident in than nonessential retail, which was hit disproportionately hard during the pandemic. For most of these retailers, there will exist two eras of their businesses: pre-COVID and, if they’re fortunate, post-COVID.
As retailers begin to pick themselves up off the floor, dust off their shoulders, and look towards the future, they face difficult, never-imagined decisions about how to move their businesses forward. A key, perhaps the key, issue they must resolve in this new normal is how to service their customers who are, for now at least, simply unwilling to shop in-store. As a result, live commerce suddenly appears on track to finally fulfill its destiny as the conduit between online and offline buying experiences.
The concept of retailers and brands marrying their physical and digital channels has been around since the birth of e-commerce. How can the website drive in-store foot traffic or how does a brick-and-mortar visit improve online conversion rates? Figuring out this yin and yang of retail has never been more critical, but also never more achievable.
Recent technological and streaming video advances have made true live commerce a reality, and the timing could obviously not be better. Retailers can now utilize their expert in-store sales associates to service online customers via live shoppable video, helping those previously anonymous and unassisted shoppers over the purchase finish line. This type of virtual in-store co-shopping experience is available today, and is one innovative way for retailers to blend their offline and online channels.
With several technologies available on the market and a recent pandemic to spotlight its necessity, what could possibly continue to delay the inevitable adoption of live commerce? The root of the answer is as old as the launch of e-commerce itself.
Most retailers still operate their online and offline channels as separate businesses. Each with their own siloed budgets and P&Ls. Furthermore, in many cases, retail and e-commerce divisions aren’t exactly allies and can be quite territorial about their domains.
Does an online transaction get credited to the store whose sales associate helped an online customer, or is it counted simply an e-commerce sale? Who cares, right? Well, for one, the people whose job performance and compensation are tied to those sales numbers.
So while COVID has certainly shown a bright light on the need for retailers to utilize live commerce, for it to truly transform businesses, the leadership within these companies must ensure a culture is established to act as one cohesive unit rather than two separate, self-serving arms.
If ever there was a time for that type of transformative philosophical change vital to best utilize live commerce, it is now, on the heels of a pandemic when a certain galvanized resolve is born out of the destruction. This is a time when groups of people previously at odds come together for a common cause or purpose.
So, if retailers can’t realign their thinking to get everyone pulling together in the same direction now, when can they? Forward-thinking companies, those that enable internal unity and launch live commerce to service customers where they’re comfortable shopping from — likely their couch — will thrive in the new normal.
Patrick Jacobs is co-founder and head of business development at Immerss, an experiential e-commerce platform that enables online shoppers to connect with a brand’s in-store sales associates via live, shoppable video.