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Livestreaming e-commerce in North America: Opportunities and challenges

Livestreaming e-commerce in North America: Opportunities and challenges

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

In recent years, livestreaming ecommerce has become an increasingly popular trend in North America, with retailers and influencers using social media platforms to showcase and sell products in real time. This trend has been driven by the growing popularity of social media platforms, the increasing demand for online shopping, and the desire for more engaging and interactive shopping experiences.

Livestreaming ecommerce in North America first began to gain traction around 2018-2019, with platforms like Amazon Live, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and YouTube Live becoming popular venues for retailers and influencers to showcase and sell products. Since then, a number of dedicated live commerce platforms have emerged, such as Alibaba’s Taobao Live and US-based startups like Popshop Live and Talkshoplive.

According to Statista, livestream ecommerce sales in the US reached over $17 billion in 2022 and are expected to triple by 2026. Over 31% of shoppers also said that live commerce enabled them to make more informed shopping decisions, while access to special discounts was the highest perceived benefit.

Interactivity is the key ingredient to success in the livestreaming ecommerce space, for both customers and brands. From the brand’s perspective, having the ability to closely track the customer journey—from initial product awareness to final purchase—enables sophisticated marketing teams to create targeted promotions, including one-off coupons, giveaways, and timed offers that drive conversions and increase sales. Additionally, digitally native brands can leverage their live commerce platforms to set themselves apart from competitors in the crowded ecommerce market.

While livestreaming ecommerce has the potential to unlock many benefits, it is also important to anticipate and navigate various challenges and obstacles in order to achieve success.

1.      Technical difficulties

One of the key challenges is the technological gap between the US and China, where livestreaming ecommerce is more established and integrated into everyday life. In China, platforms like Alibaba’s Taobao Live and Kuaishou have been hugely successful in driving sales and building brand awareness through livestreaming ecommerce, in part due to the advanced technology and infrastructure available. North Americans have returned to in-person shopping after the pandemic, and, unlike in China, Western social media apps don’t have as many built-in payment features.

2.      Lack of charismatic talent

Livestreaming ecommerce in North America has yet to produce the kind of charismatic influencers and personalities that have been so successful in China and other markets. Finding talent with the ability to engage and convert audiences is crucial to success in this space.

Retailers need to be creative in their approach to livestreaming and focus on creating engaging content that resonates with their target audience. This might involve collaborating with influencers or brands, offering exclusive products or promotions, or leveraging the latest technology to create innovative and interactive live stream experiences.

3.      Logistics and fulfillment

Unlike traditional ecommerce, where customers place orders online and receive products through the mail, livestreaming ecommerce often involves selling products directly through the live stream. This can present a lot of logistical challenges, such as managing inventory, processing payments, and shipping products to customers.

To overcome these challenges, retailers need to have strong logistics and fulfillment systems in place. This might involve partnering with third-party logistics providers or investing in their own warehousing and distribution infrastructure. In addition, retailers need to be able to process payments quickly and efficiently and have robust customer service processes in place to handle any issues that arise during the fulfillment process.

4.      Competition from established platforms

While there are some dedicated live commerce platforms available, established social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are also investing heavily in live commerce features. This can make it difficult for new players to gain traction and compete effectively in the market.

To conquer these difficulties, retailers and influencers need to focus on building strong brand identities and cultivating engaged and loyal audiences. By offering unique and innovative content and building relationships with customers, retailers can differentiate themselves from competitors and attract a dedicated following. In addition, retailers need to be flexible, adaptable, and willing to experiment with new strategies and technologies in order to stay ahead of the curve.

Despite years of effort, major tech companies like Meta Platforms and ByteDance have encountered significant challenges in breaking into the livestreaming ecommerce market in North America. In fact, Instagram recently announced that users will no longer be able to tag merchandise during live streams, following Facebook’s decision to shut down its live-shopping feature last October.

Watch this space

Despite these challenges, the potential of livestreaming ecommerce to offer unique and engaging shopping experiences remains clear. With the ability to interact with brands in real time, ask questions about products, and make purchases directly within the live stream, this type of shopping experience could boost consumer engagement and drive sales for retailers. As the technology continues to develop and consumer preferences evolve, it will be fascinating to see how the livestreaming ecommerce market evolves and which new players will emerge in the space.


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