It’s interactive. It’s hands-on. It’s immediate. And that’s why we’ve all done it: We’ve shopped live at least once in our lives. There’s a little bit of shame in buying something when you can’t sleep at 3 a.m.—yet there’s also a sense of excitement when the package arrives at your doorstep (pretty quickly putting that shame to bed as you unbox your new goods).
The thrill of the product chase—will I be able to buy a limited edition item before it sells out?—is what most brands and companies strive for, and what few have the resources to accomplish…until now.
Live shopping started with the Home Shopping Club in the early ‘80s before it transformed into the now famous Home Shopping Network (HSN). It was late at night. You were flipping channels, and suddenly an on-air personality was having a one-sided conversation with you: “Tonight’s a great night to buy this. We have limited stock, and it would make a great addition to your household!”
“I would definitely use (or wear) that all the time,” you likely thought. And as you saw the item nearing “sold out,” you took a chance, picked up the phone and purchased it—right on the spot, no questions asked. Alas, the birth of live selling was born—and we were all hooked.
By the ‘90s, the industry had earned $3 billion a year and reached more than 100 million homes. Currently, HSN is live 19 hours a day, 364 days a year, with celebrity partnerships galore—a feat that is nearly impossible for any mom-and-pop shop or small- to mid-sized business. And that’s just one of many live shopping programs that have state-of-the-art equipment, multi-camera views and popular hosts—often celebrities—hocking everything from jewelry and knickknacks to major fashion and lifestyle brands.
While HSN is still around and selling plenty via TV screens, creators are taking shopping into their own hands via live shopping, a way for smaller retailers, and even larger ones like Macy’s, Nordstrom and Avon, to livestream items available for sale via social media or on their website/app, giving you the chance to buy on the spot.
The U.S. livestreaming market is expected to reach $11 billion by the end of 2021 and hit $25 billion by 2023, according to Coresight Research, a global advisory and research firm. The U.S. is playing catch up to China, which has a livestreaming market tracking at $150 billion in 2020 and estimated to reach $300 billion in 2021, reports Coresight.
Companies are taking note: With Amazon Live, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Instagram among the biggest, other apps like Twitch, Shoploop and Livescale are also making waves in the industry.
Live shopping is clearly here to stay, but up until recently it has been a very expensive endeavor for small businesses trying to endure in a post-pandemic world—and investing in technologies to make it happen is nearly impossible. Luckily apps like Switcher Studio—with low-cost subscription models and the ability for businesses to use their own iPhones or iPads—are changing the game.
So, what makes live shopping special? Well, live shopping creates an opportunity for small businesses to drive customer engagement, connection and profitability in an ever-evolving retail market. With apps like Switcher, the vertical video features are a direct response to the continued growth in live shopping, and the customer’s desire to see the product in action, with the ability to engage with the seller in real time.
The retail landscape is challenging. With supply chain issues, labor shortages and a surge in pricing, small and mid-size retailers need to find new ways to grow their customer base, as well as address the expected triple-digit growth in the live shopping market—but they have to do it in a way that makes financial sense to their business and their brand.
Many of the live selling videos available online today lack the personalization and graphics that are needed to create interest and engagement among potential customers. Up until this point, the alternative has been investing in a highly produced video with talent and crew, which can cost as much as $20,000 for a single live selling video. That just doesn’t make economic sense for most businesses—especially those who are still climbing out of the pandemic trenches.
With the pandemic, so many businesses lost that in-person touch. In 2020, gone were the days of stopping in at neighborhood shops to peruse in person. Many smaller businesses closed their doors and had to reinvent themselves—and their customer base—to survive. But most couldn’t afford to hire teams to amp up their engagement and hype up their business. And businesses just getting off the ground last year were in a similar position—and few could take the risk of opening up shop when so many customers were heading online. Cue live selling.
Businesses who tap into tools, like Switcher, are now able to easily personalize in-app templates through one-tap live selling cards to display product images alongside their logo and camera as part of a fully customizable experience. Businesses can stream to platforms like Facebook Live Shopping—and they don’t need to have a degree in social media management or video production to do it.
Online boutiques, e-commerce merchants and small brick-and-mortar retailers now have an opportunity to expand their sales through online video and compete against larger national chains that have the capital and the capacity to try new technologies.
What retailers need to live sell are real-time editing tools that create multi-camera videos and recording clips and highlights to share on Instagram, Snapchat and Tiktok. The product and the host need to be on the screen at the same time in order to build up brand credibility—and unfortunately, that kind of engagement is something a lot of small businesses are lacking.
We’re all about helping businesses grow by building further customer engagement. Switcher’s goal, as the CTO and cofounder of Switcher, Inc., Gabe Mondada, so succinctly put it, “has always been to develop solutions that help people create, edit and share video content in a polished, simplified manner without needing to invest in expensive equipment.” I couldn’t agree more.
Nick Mattingly is the CEO of Switcher, Inc.
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