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The Expansion of Live Shopping image

The Expansion of Live Shopping

By: Mark Seavy

The broader live shopping market is focusing on a narrow set of consumers in a bid to take hold in North America.

Live shopping, or social media retail, has long been popular across Asian markets. These fan-based “communities” blend traditional social media engagement with shopping, serving as much as a social hub as they do a retail business.

To see the same success across North America, live shopping efforts need to build a sense of trust and authenticity around services that, in the past, have largely been seen as nothing more than product pitches. In order to do that, many platforms are concentrating on very specific consumer groups.

Fanatics Live, which launched last year, initially focused on trading cards and the category’s devoted collector base as it built on its acquisition of Topps.

The goal is to have the service’s chat feature on equal footing with sales, Chris Lamontagne, SVP of Platforms at Fanatics Live, said this week at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York. So far, 42% of those accessing Fanatics Live use the chat feature and users remain on the platform for an average of 56 minutes.

“Technology is finally in a place where you can truly plug and play to build a service,” said Lamontagne said of Fanatics Live. “We have kept the platform small and controlled and are very selective about who the content creators are. The communities created have been stronger and very specific to fandoms, which we didn’t expect at the start. The smaller platform allows the communities to develop.”

Trading cards served as a starting point, and Fanatics has since added agreements with World Wrestling Entertainment and YouTube sensation Dude Perfect. The Texas-based sports and comedy group consists of former Texas A&M University roommates and has 60 million subscribers. Fanatics launched on Apple’s iOS platform and added Google’s Android late last year.

Additionally, Qurate Retail Group expanded its Home Shopping (HSN) and QVC TV networks into live-streaming services. In forming a Video Conference Group in 2022, Qurate built its live shopping business around long-time hosts with devoted fan bases. This includes culinary product expert Bobbi Ray Carter, who has been with HSN for 40 years. The HSN+ app has had 10 million downloads since launching in December 2022, said Rob Robillard, Chief Merchandising Officer at HSN.

With its live shopping efforts, HSN is seeking to leverage the 95% of its existing consumers that are repeat customers, Robillard said. About 65% of HSN’s transactions are online or through a mobile device.

“This sense of community and an avid group is all that matters when it comes to live shopping,” Robillard said. “We want hosts to make this authentic connection so that viewers don’t see them as anything other than friends and want spend time with them.”

This strategy has proven so successful across social media platforms that it is also being integrated into streaming content, which many young viewers consume on their mobile devices. For its part, Roku launched its OneView ad-buying service with Walmart’s platform in 2022 and is developing it for Shopify.

Roku’s platform places ads around programming like This Old House, Martha Stewart, chef Emeril Lagasse, and others that contain buttons to make product purchases. As part of its agreement with Shopify, Roku is working with Shopify merchants True Classic (men’s apparel), Ergatta (game-based connected rowing machine), and Olly (wellness products).

“The direct response experience has been nascent outside of call-to-action ads on TV and those services that have built communities,” said Peter Hamilton, Senior Director of Ad Implementation at Roku. “We are encouraging retailers and brands to bring what works on social media to television. The trick is being able to combine a lean forward action [accessing an integrated ad] with the laid-back TV viewing experience.”

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