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Shoppable Livestreams: Are They the Future of E-Commerce?

Revenue & Finances

Isadora Teich wrote this article


Have you heard about shoppable live streaming yet?

Established giants like Facebook, Walmart, TikTok, and Nordstrom are getting in on it. Apps are popping up specifically for it, and boutique beauty brands are adapting to it quickly.

So, how did it start, how is it being used, and where exactly could shoppable livestreams take us next?

Let’s take a look.

The Roots Of “Shoppertainment”

Of course, there is a name for it.

Like many trends in social media and tech, the direct blend of social media and e-commerce picking up steam in the Western World initially began in China.

During the pandemic, it has become unsafe to visit physical retail stores, and online shopping became the only way to buy new things for months at a time. Those who were working from home had a lot of extra income, and no other way to spend it.

Online shopping orders were up by 80% in North America alone last spring!

In response, digital retail started to evolve.

This swept China first, with data showing that shoppable live streaming has actually become the primary way that influencers interact with audiences. This has already shown incredible potential in the Chinese market. Taobao Live, the main live commerce platform in China reported that its gross merchandise volume has grown by 150% per year over the past three years.

Will Americans Embrace Shoppable Livestreams?

While it has yet to be seen if this will become the standard way of Shopping in the US, major players are working on cracking the code. TikTok, Instagram, and Amazon all are on board.

While not every trend that takes off in Asia translates to a western market, for example,  Super Apps, companies are taking notice of the success of live shopping in a changing digital landscape.

The numbers coming out of China show real potential, but, this does not guarantee success in other markets. However, because of how well this has worked in China, it is likely that major players will find ways to push shoppertainment to try and get the same results.

According to Coresight, shoppable livestreaming drove about $125 billion in sales in 2020 in China. This is up from $63 billion in 2019. In the U.S., however, this market is smaller and more slowly growing. It was worth about $6 billion last year and could reach $11 billion in 2021. Coresight expects the U.S. e-commerce livestreaming market could overtake $25 billion by 2023.

Some of the Big Names Involved

It’s interesting to see so many companies with such different markets take on the idea. For example, one less obvious player in the shoppertainment race is Nordstrom, which is launching a live platform dedicated to shopping. NBC reports that Nordstrom has big ambitions to expand live shopping. Fanya Chandler, a senior vice president at Nordstrom said:

“There’s so much opportunity for us to get closer to the customer. We hope customers see this as an opportunity to seamlessly shop and participate in an informative and entertaining event.”

Amazon was one of the earliest companies to adapt to this type of idea. Even though they debuted Amazon Live in 2019, it somewhat flew under the radar at the time.

Facebook is working to make social shopping a bigger part of both Facebook and Instagram. TikTok has even partnered with Walmart to host live shopping events. Beauty brands of all sizes are taking to it too.

Why Shoppable e-Commerce Makes Sense

In some ways, it is surprising that this has taken so long to catch fire in the US.

Over the past 15 years, there has been a complete revolution in how we approach shopping as a society, which can be clearly seen through the rise of the online influencer. Whether you love or hate the idea, it is impossible to deny that being an influencer is an incredibly lucrative online career.

What influencers really do is build a strong parasocial relationship with an audience and leverage it to sell products. Commerce has been blending with more social and interactive experiences for some time because it works. That’s what people overwhelmingly seem to want and value.

Not only do people value a more social experience when it comes to how they shop, but video is now the preferred way that people consume content online. Blending a live social aspect and e-commerce via video is an ideal way that all of these puzzle pieces fit together.

New Shoppertainment Apps

A host of new apps are popping up to fill this niche in interesting ways. Some, like Shop LIT Live, are even gamifying the experience of live digital shopping. They do this by offering users incentives for leaving reviews and fulfilling other actions in the form of coins that they can use to make in-app purchases.

Shop LIT Live is backed up by early TikTok investor Toby Zhang. PR Web reports that he has said of the app:

“Our vision is to bring back the joy of ‘window shopping’ in its truest form to consumers, something that’s largely forgotten in today’s ads-driven e-commerce industry. Users can log onto our App daily and join live-shopping events where exclusive new products and brands are introduced. Our users discover brands and products through personalized content and are inspired by the shopping experiences shared by other users.”

Shop LIT Live is not the only recent app with a live shopping element to get a lot of buzz.

Supergreat is a beauty-community-focused app with live shopping elements that recently raised a ton of money in VC. Last December it raised over $6 million in Series A Funding Led by Venture Capital Firm Benchmark with involvement Thrive Capital and TQ Ventures. To date, Supergreat has raised about $9 million.

Final Thoughts

Based on the demand for shoppertainment in China, it seems many industry professionals have decided that it will be the next big thing in the US.

However, so far, it has not exactly caught fire. While it has been an option presented by large companies like Amazon since 2019, it doesn’t seem like Americans have exactly snapped it up yet.

The big question is, does the US market actually want this, or are businesses trying to engineer opportunity. Will they be successful at this and be able to convince American consumers that we want this?

While Americans do snap up many social media trends from other countries organically, like TikTok, which was panned by many for years, it seems like it is harder for major changes like this to come from the top.

One big barrier I have not seen discussed much online is the movement of anticonsumerism and the culture of consumer fatigue that exists in the US.

Do We Actually Want This?

China has entered its hyperconsumerism phase in full swing, making it an ideal market for basically everything and anything. It is also a much larger market than the US. The US, on the other hand, spent decades and decades with this idea being the prevalent moving force of the culture.

However, nothing lasts forever. Currently, many Americans are feeling burned out and don’t want to be advertised to or buy anything.

Minimalism is a huge social media buzzword, and influencers who have been in the game for a long time are now centering their content around “decluttering”, basically throwing away, all of the things they bought when hyperconsumerism worked better for SEO,

What do you think? Do you think that shoppertainment will take over North America? Have you taken part in it or do you plan to?

Talk to me.

About Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.

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