Thursday, December 1 2022

Walk down any street in New York City or Beverly Hills or any mall, and you’ll likely come across vacant storefront after vacant storefront. Brick-and-mortar retail, once shrouded in prestige, has been in decline for the better part of a decade as e-commerce has become the preferred shopping method for people around the world. And with a seemingly limitless collection of items available online and ever-faster shipping, there’s no need to visit a physical store again.

But even with all the convenience and access it offers, there is one conspicuous absence in the online shopping experience: the curation and guidance offered on a traditional shopping journey. In recent years, however, this shortage in the e-commerce market has given rise to a new approach, live shopping.

Although it’s technically been around since the 1980s, with the advent of HSN and QVC TV channels, a handful of tech companies have made it their mission to bring live shopping to more contemporary platforms and consumers. younger. With the help of cloud-based software, these vendors have created websites, apps, and programs, where users can watch their favorite vendor, influencer, or host showcase a product and then can purchase it without leaving the livestream. .

Live e-commerce has already taken several countries by storm, generating a forecast of $387 billion this year in China alone, and its popularity in the United States continues to grow day by day. As live shopping platforms, like Bambuser and NTWK, arrive in droves and major companies – think LVMH, Samsung and Nordstrom – forge their own path in the space, many believe this will soon become the approach. dominant for shopping in a global market. level.

For Aaron Levant, co-founder and CEO of NTWRK, the potential was clear for a long time. “We launched in October 2018 with a simple idea,” he says. “We wanted a mobile-first, millennial/Gen-Z version of QVC, and we wanted to focus on very niche, pop-culture fandom-focused communities.”

At the time, live shopping was a fairly fringe concept in the United States, but Levant and his co-founders were convinced that the expert curation found in select specialty stores and conventions would attract customers across the country, especially those who didn’t. would not otherwise have access to this.

So, NTWRK has partnered with well-known designers and vendors to sell exclusive and high-demand products on its app, from hard-to-find comics and baseball cards to collectible sneakers and streetwear.

“We compete with a wide range of direct-to-consumer brands, other static markets and traditional retailers, but we put it all under one platform,” says Levant. “We provide an interactive experience, but we also bring together five or six different genres into one cohesive, buyable package, and I think that’s our big point of differentiation. With our app, you don’t have to go to five or six different websites to find the product line and talent we select. »

NTWRK works by implementing cloud-based technology that uses APIs to sync with sellers’ existing e-commerce backend database and allows them to stream live on the app. But these salespeople aren’t just shop owners and hired hosts; most often these are celebrity creators or famous authorities behind an article or category.

“Odell Backham, Jr. sold his exclusive pair of Nikes, Billie Eillish sold his collectible figure, and DJ Khaled sold his Beats by Dre headphones,” Levant explains. “And unlike YouTube or Instagram Live, where these creators have streamed historically, we rely on native commerce, so you can make a quick purchase directly on NTWRK without having to leave the livestream.”

The live shopping company has seen continuous growth since its launch in 2018 and has doubled in size every year, but while Levant believes NTWRK’s surge in popularity was always going to happen, he knows the COVID-19 pandemic played an important role. “Business has taken off beyond our wildest dreams at this point, and we weren’t expecting it,” he notes.

NTWRK now has thousands of sellers and more than three and a half million users on its platform, and Levant and its co-founders feel validated in the gamble they made on live shopping years earlier, but they don’t are not the only ones.

After seeing growing consumer demand for an enhanced online shopping experience during the pandemic, Nordstrom launched a live shopping channel in early 2021. “The way customers shop, from discovery to delivery , has evolved to become increasingly digital, and the pandemic has only accelerated these behavioral changes as customers become increasingly connected and mobile,” a spokesperson for the retailer said. We launched this offering to meet our customers’ ever-changing needs and expectations and to give our team the tools to deliver on our commitment to serve our customers where, when and how they want to shop.”

Nordstrom’s live shopping platform features dozens of events each month, from highly produced live streams with runway footage to industry expert discussions on the latest trends. Each event is purchasable, and customers can interact with the host in real time, asking questions about size, color, style, or any other item specifics. Nordstrom created its channel by partnering with a third-party technology provider, and it’s far from the only retailer to do so. With the growing interest in on-line shopping, an increasing number of software companies are creating and licensing the technology to retailers and brands.

Swedish company Bambuser was among the first to create software that enables live shopping directly on a retailer’s website, where purchases can remain within the native shopping cart experience. The technology, which was released in late 2019, saw a huge tailwind a few months later as many retailers, with their physical stores closed, looked for new ways to engage customers remotely. Over the past two years, Bambuser has partnered with brands across multiple industries, including Farfetch, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and multiple LVMH-owned labels, adapting live shopping technology to suit individual needs.

Since the main purpose of the B2B business is to license its software to brands and retailers, who can use the platform as they see fit, Bambuser has designed its technology to be incredibly versatile. “To go live, all they need is a mobile app, a team managing the chat and highlighting products from a dashboard, and the show that will be broadcast in a personalized player on the site. “, explains Sophie Abrahamsson, president of Bambuser for the Americas. “The live stream can also be simulcast to social media or partner websites, which is made possible by proprietary mobile streaming technology and AWS infrastructure.”

While other live shopping providers tend to target young people only, Bambuser believes there really is no limit to who can use the platform. “Retailers who have young, digitally savvy and video savvy audiences obviously have an advantage, and their audiences expect that interactivity,” Ambrahamsson says. “But on the other hand, retailers who experience long purchase funnels due to complex or expensive product lines can also benefit strongly from using live shopping, as customers get insights and can ask questions. questions, which significantly increases purchase intent.”

One such retailer is Samsung, which has partnered with Bambuser to introduce live e-commerce in May 2021 with the aim of providing an engaging, fun and informative shopping experience while highlighting its most popular products. latest and most popular. “It has become a new channel to showcase the best of Samsung’s durability, connectivity and personalization features across an entire product ecosystem,” a Samsung spokesperson said. “And this format gives the Samsung team the ability to answer customer questions directly via live chat and effectively show our consumers how Samsung’s connectivity features can help streamline their lives.”

It’s this kind of interaction that Bambuser says is behind much of the software’s success. As the current B2B market leader, the company has seen 118% year-over-year growth and 286% year-over-year growth in end-user adoptions, or the hearing.

“We believe that live shopping will be an integral part of e-commerce within a few years,” says Abrahamsson. “The end consumer will shop online in the same way they already interact online, and video commerce will continue to bridge the gap between physical and online retail experiences. What we’re seeing now is just the beginning.”

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com

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