Why Holiday 2023 Will Reshape Live Shopping in the West
For decades, holiday shoppers have had two primary options: brave the mall crowds and holiday season traffic to buy gifts in person, or spend hours scrolling through static e-commerce sites to cross off their shopping lists. While the latter offers unparalleled convenience, many shoppers may find themselves missing the energy and social interaction of the former. Fortunately, the advent of social shopping has enabled holiday shoppers to enjoy the best of both worlds.
Nowhere is this trend more prominent than in the evolving medium of live selling, a commercial mainstay in Asian markets that's now enjoying a surge in popularity in the West. In the U.S. alone, live selling is projected to reach $32 billion in sales by the end of 2023, and could consume 5 percent of the e-commerce market by 2026.
This past holiday season marked a major flashpoint for the trend. While major brands began testing the waters in 2022, retail giants like Walmart and Best Buy threw their full weight behind live selling during the 2023 holiday season, banking on engaging hosts and exclusive deals to lure customers and drive sales. For these retailers, live selling seamlessly integrates into larger shoppable content strategies which aim to entertain audiences while enabling immediate purchases of the products they see on-screen.
TikTok Shop also makes a bold case for live selling in the West, especially among Gen Z consumers, by introducing shoppable livestreams to users’ highly curated feeds. TikTok Shop boosted holiday sales for popular brands such as PacSun — already a live selling devotee — and Tarte Cosmetics, while providing small businesses and individual creators with new growth opportunities. The social media juggernaut has also partnered with live selling software companies to increase the efficiency and accessibility of TikTok Shop.
Here lies the critical advantage of live selling: it’s something that retailers and creators of all sizes can embrace, opening up the possibilities to consumers and creating a firmer foundation for the trend in the larger social commerce arena.
The accessibility and versatility of live shopping has the potential to revolutionize the retail landscape over the next few years. Social commerce is already expected to grow three times as quickly as traditional e-commerce, and as live selling strategies become more targeted, brands and creators will need to strike the perfect balance between product knowledge and entertaining content.
Live shopping could also transform the way retailers interact with influencers. They’ll be seeking new talent profiles, prioritizing creators who can command an audience’s attention for an extended period of time. These creators may not fit the traditional “influencer” mold, but they’ll possess the natural compassion and social intuition necessary to make every audience member feel engaged, empowered and included on the stream. The most influential live selling hosts will be the ones audiences want to spend the most time with.
At the same time, drop-shipping programs will turn influencers into retailers themselves, allowing them to sell branded merchandise directly, bypassing retailer partnerships altogether. These new sellers will need extra support on the backend, which will lead to the increased popularity of all-in-one live commerce platforms. Supply is one of the main reasons live selling hasn’t ballooned in the U.S. like it has in China, so as more retailers and fulfillment centers seek to remedy these problems, the format will grow tremendously.
By entwining shopping’s long social roots with current trends in content, live selling will prove a transformative force in the modern retail landscape, spurring new innovations in e-commerce convenience while pushing the boundaries of shopping as a pastime.
Dan Dan Li is chief innovation officer at CommentSold, a live selling video commerce platform.
Dan Dan Li is the founder of Popshoplive and chief innovation officer at CommentSold. She has worked as an entrepreneur for seven years and launched Popshoplive in 2018. Popshoplive merged with CommentSold in 2023. Li graduated from New York University’s interactive telecommunications program.