Shopstreaming: When live streaming meets shopping

How live commerce could revolutionize the retail industry

Digitalization Future Aug 3, 2020
Shopstreaming allows a customer to digitally walk around a store and watch the business owners as they explain their products


We have certainly gone through many upheavals in the last couple of months. In the midst of all this, online shopping, as one of the few constants in our lives, has offered a degree of comfort and reassurance. Even as most shops reopened and life returned to the streets right now, consumer behavior has changed, and a new trend emerged: Shopstreaming.

The big question that came up during the COVID-19 lockdown was: How do we best reach a public that cannot physically be in our same space, but still bring them the products they want, give them the full shopping experience they desire, and keep our businesses afloat? Enter shopstreaming: this novel e-commerce experience mixes entertainment, interactivity, and community to create the closest thing to a real-life shopping experience that the digital world can currently provide.

What is shopstreaming?

Shopstreaming is what the consumer trend website TrendWatching calls “the merger of e-commerce and livestreaming.” It allows a customer to digitally “walk” around a store, watch the business owners as they explain their products, and even interact with other people in the store as if they were actually there, but all online. From online wine-tastings to livestreamed shopping parties, there’s no doubt the coronavirus has necessitated and accelerated the shopstreaming trend. But while it may be new to businesses in the West, the trend first emerged in 2017 in Asia.

It started as a way for small businesses to present their products: a restaurateur would livestream how they picked out fruits or prepared a certain food; or a store owner could broadcast the arrival of certain products — clothes, makeup, or jewelry – that had just arrived, sometimes employing influencers to hawk the new items; one electronics store in Singapore held an auction via livestream.

Covid 19 has changed consumer behavior, and more and more people are shopping online.

Even as most shops reopened and life returned to the streets, consumer behavior has changed, and more and more people are shopping online. 

First shopstreaming experiments in Germany

In Germany, some businesses began experimenting with the trend during the COVID-19 lockdown. One of these is youtiful, the world’s first consumer-participation brand in the beauty segment. Annette Albrecht and Gerald Heydenreich, co-founders of youtiful, told us that the pandemic necessitated focusing on “social selling.”

“We already had the experience of livestreaming events with a previous company we founded,” Heydenreich said. “It was clear once the pandemic hit that we couldn’t do offline interactions anymore, so we shifted to being completely online. We moved all our events to Facebook livestreaming, and we’ve been quite successful with it.” Youtiful said they hosted three shopstreaming events on Facebook, which attracted around 1,000 customers at their peak, even without much advertising or outreach.
“We will most definitely continue doing this”, Heydenreich said. “We had been developing the technology and had already tried out livestreaming from the stores, and then COVID just pushed this forward.”

Why shopstreaming is a trend that’s here to stay

The most popular streams, according to Forbes, are for fashion, jewelry, and beauty and skincare brands: having an influencer model a new eyeshadow or show how a face cream had improved their skin has proven an extremely effective marketing strategy. According to Forbes, livestreaming like this creates more trust with customers, who see the hosts of the stream as experts. It allows them to gather more information about the products, as well as discover new items they may not have previously considered.

Anindya Ghose, a professor of business at New York University’s Stern School of Business, told the magazine AdWeek in an interview that the data shows that “the number of consumers who shop online will remain inflated even after the crisis, as more people are exposed to the ease and fun of online shopping.”

TrendWatching noted that the recent crisis has seen the Chinese livestreaming market grow “even bigger and faster than it had over the past few years,” and Alibaba Group noted that even as China was reopening its economy in February, livestreaming and shopstreaming sessions had increased 110 percent compared to the previous year. Clear signs that the trend is here to stay.