How 'shoppertainment' and live stream e-commerce is filling physical store gap in APAC

E-commerce companies in South East Asia are taking inspiration from China's 'shoppertainment' trend to sell goods during live streams

Lazada's “See Now Buy Now” fashion shows held in Thailand and Philippines featured local labels.

Lazada and Shopee are among those that believe live stream e-commerce shopping can greatly help brands and sellers can connect with audiences in South East Asia. As Amazon's Twitch creates shoppable experiences in the west, in China, Alibaba is seeing great success also turning e-commerce into entertainment on a grand scale.

A spokesperson from Alibaba-owned Lazada tells The Drum it can learn from its parent, Alibaba’s Taobao, which has long turned static images on webpages into a real-life, real-time product review.

“Live streaming helps to bridge the omnichannel retail gap as consumers no longer need to visit a physical store to see a product, speak to a store attendant and fulfill the order,” the spokesperson explains.

“All of this can be done online. In fact, live streaming could potentially offer greater convenience to shoppers and buyers who can communicate and transact from the comforts of their homes or on the go. It has even helped rural farmers gain more visibility with online shoppers."

Taobao doubles as a content community as it is home to over 4,000 live stream hosts, who generate 150,000 hours of content on a daily basis. Over 80% of them are women. During these, fans can shop for the items they see immediately within the same app, around 600,000 a day.

In SEA, Lazada has coined the term 'Shoppertainment', which it said are innovations that merge shopping with entertainment and social experiences, so consumers watch, play and stay. These innovations include in-app live streaming, gamification, and the integration of commerce with these functions such as its 'See Now Buy Now' technology.

Lazada also live streamed a music concert on its app simultaneously across its six markets in APAC, as part of its 7th birthday celebrations in March 2019, and again during its inaugural Women’s Festival a month later.

Meanwhile, Tencent's Shopee launched Shopee Live during its month-long Great Shopee Sale campaign where over 100 sellers including L'Oréal, Chope, and Innisfree. conducted live streams during the Great Shopee Sale.

Zhou Junjie, the chief commercial officer of Shopee and head of Shopee Singapore claims the feedback from sellers is positive. Participants saw sales increase by up to 75%, attesting to the appeal of the new feature.

“Shopee Live was designed to integrate the personalised, social element of live interactive entertainment into the platform, and deliver an integrated shopping experience for users,” he tells The Drum.

“With the high demand for convenience and interactive shopping environments, e-commerce businesses that can provide a unique and engaging omnichannel online shopping experience will come out on top.”

Mike Head, general manager of partnership cloud at partnership automation platform Impact, says brands partnerships have become increasingly crucial to business growth for e-commerce platforms like Lazada and Shopee.

Historically sales and marketing were the main drivers of growth but in recent years, a new wave of enterprise growth has seen the partnership channel emerged as a vital engine for customer acquisition, conversions, and brand loyalty.

“You can see its impact in business revenue streams, in business budgets, and even in the makeup of the C-suite. In a recent Forrester study, companies with a mature partnership program drove nearly 30% of overall annual revenue through partnerships,” he tells The Drum

“Companies who invest in this channel are seeing long-term sustainable growth and a way to diversify away from Facebook and Google. Partnerships are a great way for brands, publishers and influencers to work together, providing authentic content and experiences for their consumers.”

He adds: “Eventually, brands will be less dependent on the increasingly expensive duopoly and more in control of their own future with partnerships driving new revenue streams.”

Why should brands make use of e-commerce livestreaming?

As video and live streaming present a major opportunity for brands and influencers in APAC, brands should look to connect with influencers whose audience and content aligns closely with their products, says Head.

In China, live streaming has become the primary medium for key opinion leaders (KOLs) to engage their audience in China, as fans can ask questions about the products, talk to the hosts and even send virtual gifts as a token of appreciation.

A fitness influencer that is filming a new workout routine can reference a certain piece of gym equipment or what they are wearing in stream. Or offer their video audience a discount code to purchase one of those items directly from the brand.

“These partnerships perform best when brands and influencers work together to create relevant content and find authentic ways for influencers to recommend a brand’s products during a live stream,” Head explains.

“As partnerships become increasingly crucial to revenue growth, organisations must, of course, develop operational strategies and channel tools to manage them efficiently.

“For the success of any partnership program you need to look at these four key areas of collaborating with other teams in your company and set up the right team structures, managing your partners across the entire partnership lifecycle, automating and centrally manage partner acquisition, payments, performance measurement, and per-partner ROI, as well as working with different types of partners (influencers, mobile, media partners, B2B and more) to diversify your program.”

He explains that instead of hard-selling, these influencers hosts broadcast in real-time, videoing themselves modeling clothes, trying on makeup, or conducting product reviews, and viewers can then immediately purchase the products featured from a product catalog without having to close the live stream.

“On social media, we can choose who we want to follow, and we tend to follow influencers that we trust. As such, brands that engage popular influencers to host their Shopee Live sessions will benefit from tapping on the influencer’s following to drive traffic, as well as the added credibility and authenticity of having the influencer representing them,” explains Zhou.

“Conducting a live stream session is also a great way for sellers to gauge consumer interest in various products, and generate additional revenue.”

For Lazada, its 'See Now Buy Now' fashion shows held in Thailand and Philippines featured local labels. It claimed fashion sellers such as Salisa Cheewapansri, who owns Salisa Clothing, saw their sales soar by at least 20 times compared to normal day volumes, with all her items sold out within half a day.

Lazada also held its first live streamed gameshow, Guess It!, which featured 2,000 brands and sellers across six countries and 20 days. It claimed the 672 gameshow sessions achieved over 7 million viewers, 2 million comments and an average viewing time of 8.1 minutes per session.

Testing and tracking

Head advises brands to partner with platforms that can connect second and third-party data with their first-party data to deliver a holistic view of the customer journey.

“Brands should have the tools to stitch all their data sources together to get the insights to drive better marketing and business outcomes,” he explains.

“Partner with platforms that share all the necessary data or to set up a small scale e-commerce website to identify and collect their own robust first-party data to leverage in marketing campaigns.”

Shopee's Zhou says e-commerce businesses must make online shopping more personal and create the feel of an offline store - consumers are looking for more than just a transactional shopping experience. They want to discover new products, be entertained, and even engage with the online community.

“Sellers can instantly connect with their customers through live streams that require just a mobile phone and a decent Internet connection. Sellers are able to address queries through the live chat function in real-time, eliminating the hassle of going through individual questions on item listings,” he explains.

The west is starting to catch on with Amazon entering the space earlier in 2019. It may look to replicate China's 'shoppertainment' boom or make good on the inroads seen on its Twitch platform.

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