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The rise of livestream shopping: From Kim Kardashian to hypebeasts

In the build up to this year’s Singles’ Day event in China (Nov 11), Kim Kardashian West took to TMall to co-host a live streaming shopping session with one of the country’s top-selling influencers, Viya Huang. The event drew in 13 million viewers and helped Kim K sell her entire stock of 15,000 bottles of KKW perfume in just a few minutes.

Broadcasting shopping events have long been a success in Asia, a region that often leapfrogs the West when it comes to responding to its audience’s want-it-now behaviors with digital tools. In 2018, the genre generated $4.4bn in sales in China alone. 

To further put in perspective the success of the feature on TMall, Huang, who joined Kardashian West on-screen during the broadcast, previously broke a record on the platform in October when she sold almost $50m in one day. 

In this case, the benefits of the partnership were twofold: while for Kardashian West it meant tapping into a mature audience and expanding her already huge visibility in Asia, for TMall, this served as a testing ground for its Global Influencer Ecosystem, a program that aims to train and support 2,000 influencers around the world.

Kim Kardashian’s TMall livestream

Live streaming has its origins beyond retail, and is part of a much wider voyeuristic nature the internet helped incubate – from watching people play video games on sites like Twitch, to the huge popularity of unboxing videos on YouTube. 

Brands following suit feels only natural as a result. Sprinkle in some influencer dust, and you’ve got a recipe for success. 

But this fairly new behavior is also an offshoot of a much wider trend for immediacy, or blink-and-you’ll-miss-it tactics that retailers have long deployed with flash sales and limited edition products.

You only need to look at the long-standing popularity of shopping channels like QVC and HSN, which combined brought in $3.1bn in sales during Q1 2019, to find the winning strategy: a charismatic host who sells a single product with a masterful sense of urgency, either focusing on its price or exclusivity, urging viewers to call in. But how do you refresh that model to suit the younger generation whose mobile-first behaviors mean they don’t watch live television, or even pick up the phone?

Enter platforms like NTWRK, a self-described QVC for Gen Z and Millennials, whose second round of funding included the likes of Foot Locker, Live Nation and rapper Drake. The app broadcasts live sessions where hosts, who are often celebrities or musicians, will sell limited edition goods – from sneakers to concert tickets – only available for the duration of the show. This, according to the platform, is “shopping at the speed of culture.” 

NTWRK could also represent the next step in hypebeast – or urban streetwear – culture, adding an extra level of exclusivity now that queueing outside stores has become a secondary market in itself.

Meanwhile H&M’s young brand Monki recently hosted an experience on its own e-commerce site where its fashion editor and a buyer discussed fashion trends and their favorite products of the season, while viewers could shop the products and even replay the video once it had ended.

Monki’s livestream

The popularity of these platforms and one-off events show that appetite is definitely there, much like in Asia. But in order to create a seamless shopping experience and keep customers coming back, brands and tech platforms still have a few kinks to resolve. 

Firstly, there is the issue of internet connection, which will undoubtedly improve once 5G has hit the masses. Then, there is creating a user experience that enables viewers to shop while never having to leave the stream to add their payment information or check out. Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, it will be up to brands and retailers creating these streams to enlist hosts and create experiences that will grab and keep the attention of a notoriously fickle demographic.

It will be interesting to watch this space mature. A trend that is so clearly influenced by a tried-and-tested retail format – TV shopping networks – highlights how innovation is often about evolution, and not reinvention. Finding what works, and updating it to the digitally-led generation.

How are you thinking about new Innovation? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Each of the rules referenced above is matched by one of our products and services. Interested in how? Get in touch to learn more.

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mobile social media

Vogue started a Whatsapp group for fashion news, aka a broadcast list for its stories

whatsapp_vogue

In what seemed like a really smart move, British Vogue announced during February it was introducing a Whatsapp group.

Sound like an opportunity to be front and centre with what’s going on in the fashion industry at the drop of a hat in a group with other fashion people? As Vogue put it: “Joining our group means we’ll message you as soon as the creative director of Dior is announced, or the Chanel catwalk pictures go live, or the Oscars dresses land on the site: no more scouring Twitter or relying on tabloids for your latest fashion fix.”

Slightly punchy comments there (note both channels will definitely still be used) but, it does make an enormous amount of sense as a media entity to push the instant message route. I’ve been tracking how such closed networks can be a wonderful means for communicating directly with fans and customers on the brand and retail side – the power of Whatsapp, WeChat and Facebook Messenger means there’s growing expectation for personalised communications, the issue really is just being able to get in front of customers in the first place.

To do it on Vogue’s Whatsapp doesn’t actually mean in a “group” per se as there’s no conversation going on. Which is actually a real shame. Control worries aside (this is Vogue), being able to strike up a dialogue on the feed about whatever news is coming in seems like a far more appealing and native use of the platform.

Instead, this is about Vogue creating a broadcast list. To turn to the Whatsapp explanation: “A Broadcast List allows you to create, save and message a list of contacts instantaneously. Recipients receive your broadcast message like a regular message – directly in the individual chat. Recipients also do not know who else received the message and do not know that it was sent as part of a Broadcast List. When they respond, they only respond to you individually. In this sense, it works like the bcc (blind carbon copy) function in an email. In order for specific contacts to receive your broadcast message, they must have your phone number saved in their address books. This allows our users to control from whom they wish to receive broadcast messages. We work hard to curb spam in WhatsApp so that everyone has a positive messaging experience.”

Of course, the publicity around Vogue’s plans means it’s phone number was pushed out so creating a weighty broadcast list must have been fairly straightforward.

I finally joined it yesterday morning, and over the course of the day got three messages:

  1. “JUST IN: See every look from this morning’s Chloé AW16 show here: LINK”
  2. “JUST IN: See the Balmain #AW16 show – complete with corsets and model hair colour swaps LINK”
  3. “Introducing British Vogue’s April 2016 cover girl – Rihanna: LINK”

Note every comment comes with a link meaning it does indeed feel very much like broadcast and not so much the personable messaging tone you’d expect on Whatsapp. Considering it’s landing in my app – otherwise a very personal space – it feels out of place, cold and not very different to what you’d see on Twitter. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting move, and one that could easily be adapted over time to better suit the audience it’s targeting. If Vogue’s sensible, it has those links set up as trackable so it can at least see just how much traffic the platform is driving.

As an aside – whoever is running this channel is always online. Always. Got to imagine it’s pretty likely they’re also running their own personal Whatsapp convos on the same handset (work phone or not) as a result, which could make the endless requests to join the group pretty tedious. If you’re keen, the number is: +44 7481 340261.