Every day now a different retailer announces its attempt at some sort of live interaction with consumers. While this is an exciting time for the industry, it’s important to think through where value is derived in these exchanges and what decisions will reflect careful consideration there.
Livestreaming has several key attributes embedded in its value proposition.
Firstly, it’s flat-out entertaining. In our increasingly virtual, gamified world, consumers want and expect to be entertained by brands at all times. Second, it’s educational in that it’s designed to demonstrate all use cases for a product, while answering a consumer’s questions as they arise. The third quality livestreaming boasts is its ability to provide a sense of community. With other shoppers’ mutual visibility, there’s a social aspect we might otherwise lack from the digital path to purchase. Lastly, there’s a sense of urgency in the live component. Knowing that you can’t catch the launch, exclusive deal, or real-time content later on lights a fire in shoppers' hearts and wallets. Given these four pillars of value, it’s no wonder livestreaming is becoming a go-to relationship-building strategy for retailers.
However, despite all the wonderful consumer desires livestreaming indulges, retailers have overlooked a glaring opportunity in the post-pandemic revival — the physical storefront. Initially a reaction to brick-and-mortar becoming unavailable to shoppers, livestreaming got its big U.S. break as a substitute for physical retail. Although it was a smart use of the otherwise underutilized (read: closed) storefront, its use in this way uprooted an omnichannel approach, suggesting that if consumers were tuning in online, the physical store had served its purpose, without anyone there. Now that in-person shopping is making a noticeable comeback, retailers would be best served to invite consumers into their brick-and-mortar locations as they simultaneously encourage virtual shoppers to tune in.
Blowing livestreams that are recorded in stores into larger experiential events is one key way to retain the relevancy of brick-and-mortar, but strategic incentives motivate shoppers to the physical space. For example, offering one-to-one virtual chatting outside the store with top sales associates, or special log-in information for signing into customized versions of the website at a later time would establish a connected retail bridge between the virtual and physical worlds.
Inversely, special in-store privileges could be awarded to those online livestream audiences to redeem at a later date. Virtual attendee rewards in-store could include distinguished, extended hours just for those who caught the livestream and/or expedited curbside/in-store pickup options if they choose not to have an item shipped to their home. Connected retail ecosystems only work when all touchpoints are treated as integrated vs. mutually exclusive, and livestreaming should be considered a gateway into more connected retail experiences, not another vertically isolated path to purchase.
Melissa Minkow recently joined CI&T as retail industry lead after two years in merchandising strategy at Target, six years covering omnichannel, e-commerce, and social commerce at Gartner, a short tenure in pharmaceutical market research, and the completion of a Kellogg MBA.
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Melissa recently joined CI&T as Retail Industry Lead after two years in merchandising strategy at Target, six years covering omni-channel, e-commerce, and social commerce at Gartner, a short tenure in pharmaceutical market research, and the completion of a Kellogg MBA. She is a retail futurist whose methodology is rooted in cross-industry consumer insights and innovation. She measures her success by how far out of the box she can inspire a client’s customer-centric solutions.