10 Best Live Stream Shopping Apps
What’s the big deal with live stream shopping apps? They take the convenience of online shopping and combine it with the intimacy and personal assistance you get when visiting a brick-and-mortar store.
Roughly six months ago, I wanted to buy a door. My first instinct was to turn to your typical home improvement department store. But if you’ve ever been inside one of these behemoths, you know how overwhelming and stressful they can be.
The retail staff tried to find me the right shape, size, and thickness for my doorframe measurements. They were extremely well-informed and helpful right up until they explained that I would need to find the door on their website. No, they couldn’t help me navigate to the correct door and order a shipment. I would have to do it myself.
Online shopping? No problem. That is, until it IS a problem. Buying a door online meant I’d have to make the purchase sans a professional to answer essential questions and offer advice. Sure, there’s something to be said for the comfort and ease of browsing and ordering from home. But when you need to talk to an expert, online shopping has its limitations.
Enter: Live stream shopping apps.
In this article, we’ll explain what they are, detail how they benefit both sellers and consumers, and highlight the most popular and illustrative uses of this emerging trend.
Table of contents
What Is Live Stream Shopping?
E-commerce has been around for a long time, but it has never been so immediate. Historically, it’s been dominated by websites like Amazon where individuals can browse and purchase from a list of options without ever speaking to a person. Now, as consumers become inoculated to the convenience provided by these traditional online shopping experiences, companies are tripping over each other to give them something newer, faster, and more authentic.
Live stream shopping accomplishes this by turning an interactive live stream into a shopping experience where consumers can actively purchase items all while interacting with the stream. In its truest form, it wouldn’t even redirect the consumer. They’d be able to make the purchase while continuing to participate in the event. The ability to make a sale while still holding the customer’s attention is at the heart of this trend.
Best Live Stream Shopping Apps
Live stream shopping apps come in many forms. Some act as platforms through which individual companies can easily host live stream shopping events. Others are proprietary builds, often using streaming solutions to help them achieve their technical goals. In this list, we’ll explore a little bit of both.
1. Taobao Live
Alibaba is China’s answer to Amazon, and Taobao Live is their live stream shopping solution. Integrated within the Taobao shopping app, Taobao Live provides an influencer-based live shopping experience. Often compared to Twitch, Taobao lives relies on these personalities to drive viewership platform-wide, a strategy that seems to be working as Taobao ranks as the eigth most visited site worldwide.
2. Instagram Live Shopping
Live stream shopping was a natural next step for Instagram at the end of 2020 given the influencer-heavy culture that it boasts. Now with Instagram Live Shopping, businesses can themselves (or via influencers) engage followers in live shopping events. According to an Instagram Trends Research study, 44% of people surveyed use Instagram Live Shopping to shop weekly. Looks like Instagram Live Shopping is sticking around, which is more than we can say for Live Shopping on Facebook. The latter reportedly shut down this past fall.
3. Amazon Live
The foremost name in online selling was not going to let live video shopping pass them by. Naturally, Amazon wanted a piece of the pie and became an early adopter, at least as far as the U.S. is concerned. Amazon Live hosts a network of shoppable videos, connecting individual brands and influencers with a broad customer base. The platform acts a bit like social media, allowing customers to follow content creators that most interest them and access recorded videos, turning ephemeral streams into a content driven hub.
NTWRK specializes in shopertainment, suggesting it’s as much about facilitating valuable content as it is about e-commerce. Celebrities, influencers, and brands host live shopping events centered around everything from product drops and special deals to virtual festivals and contests. Naturally, many viewers flock to the mobile app for the entertainment value alone, but thanks to their integrated payment info, they’re likely to leave with something limited-edition.
This unique live selling solution centers more around the hosts than it does around brands or retailers. These hosts set up on-the-fly videos at physical retail locations where they showcase various items. While this is a fun business model for any consumer to engage in, brands beware. ShopShops thrives on cult of personality. Viewers follow the hosts not the brands, and the highlighted brands have little to no control over the content.
Whatnot is the collector’s live stream shopping app. It capitalizes on cultural niches and the power of nostalgia, showcasing everything from dated furniture to comic books. Items are sold auction-style and sometimes featuring clever schticks like the “mystery box.” Whatnot is a haven for nerds everywhere and people who spend too much time thinking about the 80s (in other words, Stranger Things fans). Good thing there a lot of them — Whatnot is already valued at $1.5 billion.
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Did somebody say auction? Granted, Sotheby’s already relies on a live experience by virtue of the fact that it’s an auction house. However, that didn’t stop it from realizing the potential for live streaming to expand participation and boost brand awareness. Now anyone with the Sotheby’s app can log into a live auction if only just to watch.
8. Ulta Beauty (and Supergreat)
Ulta Beauty is more than just a live stream shopping app for cosmetics. They have fully embraced the educational potential of live stream shopping with their Beauty School Live virtual masterclasses and personalized chats with gift advisors. Of course, they dabble in more straightforward live stream shopping as well thanks to their partnership with Supergreat, a cosmetic centered social media app. Add to all of that their augmented reality and artificial intelligence driven features, such as the ability to see how you would look in certain makeup styles, and it’s no wonder people are saying that Ulta Beauty is driving innovation in cosmetic e-commerce.
Albertsons, owner of Safeway and Jewel-Osco, partnered with Firework to become the first U.S. grocery store to engage in live video shopping. This may seem like an unusual move for a store that sells perishable goods, but they’ve certainly found a way to make it work with live cooking videos that allow viewers to purchase recipe items on the fly. That’s good news with the holidays right around the corner.
Upscale department stores were certainly not going to miss out on all the fun (or the revenue). Nordstrom went all in on live stream shopping with a custom app that boasts a variety of virtual events, master classes, Q&As, and more. Nordstrom also understands that convenience is at the heart of the live stream shopping experience and provides access to recordings of missed events.
Benefits of Live Stream Shopping
This practice has been rapidly expanding since its inception in China, where it has come to revolutionize their ecommerce industry. According to Sensor Tower, the top 10 live streaming shopping apps totaled 2.3 million installs at the start of 2022, a 77% increase. What’s more, Coresight Research projects that the U.S. live stream market will reach $25 billion by 2023 and they suggest that stores will play a big part in that boost.
But let’s leave aside the fact that the e-commerce wind is clearly blowing in this direction and consider the practical benefits of live stream shopping apps.
You can’t polish a live stream, but you can lean into your foibles and endear yourself to customers by coming across as “real” and honest. Authenticity breeds trust and can even lead to new ideas and solutions. I believe Bob Ross called these “happy accidents.”
If I offered you a fancy wooden mug, you might want to think it over and would possibly decide you don’t need another mug. If I told you that you had to decide in the next couple of seconds and then you’ll never again have the chance to purchase such a fine mug, then you’d be more likely to make a firm decision. It’s easy to put things off when we have all the time in the world. Fear or missing out (FOMO) in many live stream shopping events can turn a maybe into a yes.
Interactivity is about more than just engaging customers — it’s about demonstrating value to those customers through personal, informative, and fun activities. Let your customer ask you questions, let them test things out , solicit their feedback, and even connect them through a branded community. This type of content can also be used on the back end as customer and product research.
There are only so many ways you can serve a customer through a traditional e-commerce setting. Bringing live video and interactivity into the mix opens avenues for new types of customer experiences.
Tips for Implementing Live Stream Shopping
If you are looking to start live selling your products, there are a few things you’ll first want to consider. These will help you define your strategy and choose the best platform.
- Define your audience – Who are you trying to reach and where are you likely to find them? What types of content might they be most interested in?
- Determine your needs – How much control do you need over the platform features? Will one of the pre-existing platforms do or will you require a custom solution?
- Tell a good story – Remember that live stream shopping is about content as well as product. Make your viewers want to watch you outside of their shopping needs. After all, they could still just go to a store.
- Create a sense of urgency – Use special offers and giveaways to entice people in the moment. They will be more engaged if they feel they are being exposed to exclusive content and/or deals.
In the Background
- Listen to your customers – Every live stream is also a focus group. Use this opportunity to learn more about how your customers respond to your brand, what they like, and what they want more of. Find out more about the demographics that flock to you most frequently.
Finally, consider a customizable video solution when building your live stream shopping environment. These give you more control over your app and its features, including inventory and customer accounts. A flexible video platform can also help you customize the metrics you want to track as you explore your customer base within this brave new arena. Streaming solutions like Wowza can help you build a white-labeled solution that fits your needs and your brand.
And with that, if there are any home improvement stores out there looking for a breath of fresh business, I know at least one live stream consumer in the market for a lot of guidance, a little convenience, and a door. Get started with Wowza.
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About Sydney Roy (Whalen)
Sydney works for Wowza as a content writer and Marketing Communications Specialist, leveraging roughly a decade of experience in copywriting, technical writing, and content development. When observed in the wild, she can be found gaming, reading, hiking, parenting, overspending at the Renaissance Festival, and leaving coffee cups around the house.