Why Retailers Should Embrace Livestreaming in the Wake of COVID-19
As the coronavirus pandemic forced brick-and-mortar stores around the world to shut their doors this spring, some retailers turned to livestreaming to engage their customers. Many found the experiment a resounding success.
Case in point: InTime, a Chinese department store operator owned by Alibaba, leaned into livestreaming to boost its activity during the country’s lockdown. InTime saw its May 2020 sales nearly match those for May 2019, despite a 30 percent plunge in foot traffic.
But with lockdowns easing and shoppers returning to physical stores, will COVID-era livestreaming be remembered as nothing more than a fleeting fad?
To the contrary: Livestreaming has proven its worth as an effective customer engagement tactic, and the retailers that perfect the craft will reap big benefits even after the pandemic subsides.
Boosting the Retailer-Customer Connection
What makes livestreaming such a potent way of connecting with customers? Consider how it stacks up against pre-recorded videos or still images. While these forms of outreach facilitate one-way communication, livestreaming allows consumers and the retailer to communicate back-and-forth in real time with questions and comments. This dynamic gives the communication a more natural, authentic feel and amplifies the retailer-customer connection. Such authenticity holds great power. This is particularly important considering that 86 percent of consumers rank authenticity as a major factor when deciding which companies to support.
Moreover, livestreaming can significantly expand a retailer’s audience (and customer base). Anyone with internet access or a Facebook account can access a stream and see what a store has to offer, potentially converting them to e-commerce customers and creating new revenue streams for the retailer.
Even as countries gradually return to routine, livestreaming will continue to offer these same benefits to retailers — transforming what for many was a makeshift experiment into a permanent engagement tactic.
Using Consumer Behavior as a Guide
For now, the coronavirus is very much still with us. That's why, even as governments lift restrictions, many will remain wary of crowded areas and continue spending more time at home than they had before the pandemic.
The impact on consumer behavior will likely extend beyond this current crisis, making it imperative for retailers to hone their omnichannel capabilities. That includes livestreaming, which not only offers an engaging way of reaching customers wherever they may be, but also shortens the sales cycle, enabling shoppers to instantly purchase products featured in a stream with a simple swipe or click.
To drive conversions, livestreaming retailers can utilize a range of tactics, including flash sales and special offers exclusive to livestreaming events.
Rise in E-Commerce to Meet a New Reality
As this spring’s lockdown orders vividly illustrated, unforeseen crises can massively disrupt business operations virtually overnight, making it all the more important for brick-and-mortar retailers to maintain robust online operations if they're to remain resilient.
In normal times, livestreaming can function as a powerful supplemental customer engagement tactic, bolstering online shopping while also encouraging consumers to visit the physical store. In the coming months, retailers will continue to experiment with new modes of engagement, including in-store livestreams where sales associates engage with shoppers and even fulfill customer orders, providing a new kind of in-store experience.
With brick-and-mortar retailers likely to see their square footage shrink by up to a third post-pandemic — as brands look to curb expensive real estate costs and scale up their e-commerce capabilities — establishing a standout online presence is more essential than ever. And while livestreaming may never replace the in-store shopping experience, it will be a vital part of a holistic retail strategy long after COVID-19 is history.
Daniel Mayer is the co-founder and CEO of BeLive, the first of its kind live broadcasting engagement tool. BeLive empowers retailers, SMBs, and other content creators to harness the power of livestreaming.
Daniel Mayer is the Co-founder and CEO of BeLive, the first of its kind live broadcasting engagement tool. BeLive empowers retailers, SMBs, and other content creators to harness the power of livestreaming. With a global team of more than 30 people in 5 countries, the company has grown its user base nine-fold under Daniel's leadership. Prior to BeLive, Daniel founded numerous other startups in web-based broadcasting and beyond.