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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.

Go deeper

U.S. retail sales beat expectations for second month in a row

Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

The strength of retail sales data has shocked prognosticators for the second month in a row.

What’s new: Although September spending was lower than the peaks reached in the post-vax, pre-Delta variant honeymoon economy of the spring, consumers still spent more defiantly than economists had expected.

Birx: Trump White House could have reduced COVID deaths by 30 to 40%

Deborah Birx, then-coronavirus response coordinator, speaks during a news conference in the White House last November. Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Deborah Birx, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator under former President Trump, told a House subcommittee this month that the Trump administration could have prevented tens of thousands of deaths during the early stages of the pandemic.

Driving the news: "I believe if we had fully implemented the mask mandates, the reduction in indoor dining ... and we had increased testing, that we probably could have decreased fatalities into the 30% less to 40% less range," Birx said in closed-door testimony to the Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, according to excerpts provided by the panel.

Study: Fear of debt keeps Latinos out of college

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Fear of never being able to pay off school loans is keeping many young Latinos in the U.S. from going to college or completing a degree, according to a report published in September.

State of play: Latinos tend to have more difficulty repaying school debt than white student borrowers, according to Federal Reserve data, at the same time that they need more loans in order to afford tuition.