Sep 23, 2021 - Economy

Live video shopping format is on fire

Illustration of a person carrying shopping bags printed with play and pause buttons.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The everything old is new again trend is alive and well in retail with shoppable livestreaming — which is basically interactive commercials. Thanks to social technologies popularized by Gen Z, live video shopping a la QVC is on fire.

Why it matters: Consumer media and shopping habits moving online have primed retail and digital video to combine more seamlessly.

  • Dedicated startups like Ntwrk — a livestream shopping platform for limited-edition products like streetwear and NFTs — are in a race with the likes of Amazon, YouTube and Facebook to capture this growing sector of retail.

Driving the news: Ntwrk announced $50 million in new funding today to add products, grow staff and invest more in marketing.

  • Supermarkets are activating on the trend too. Albertsons, which also owns Acme and Safeway, is set to become the first U.S. grocer to use Firework's shoppable video platforms, the companies announced Wednesday.

Catch up quick: The format has been wildly successful in China and is spreading globally.

How it works: Not unlike television predecessors QVC and HSN, where viewers called in to buy, a typical shoppable livestream involves a host who presents and describes products while viewers can ask questions and add items to their carts using embedded links or even through comments.

By the numbers: One top livestream seller in China brings in as many as 37 million live viewers and hawks everything from instant noodles, homes and cars to a $5.6 million rocket launch, according to Bloomberg.

What they’re saying: “It’s about forming a connection with the seller,” says Connie Chan of Andreessen Horowitz.

The big picture: Video can engage potential customers longer than other digital formats, translating into higher sales. 

  • A live shopping feature can also increase the likelihood of customers completing a purchase fourfold, according to Firework.

The bottom line: “Just as YouTube redefined TV production, shopatainment will spawn a new wave of video-first sellers, fine-tuned to online audiences,” says Chan.

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