When you picture someone sitting through 30 minutes of zippy chatter before purchasing a bronze door-stopper in the shape of a corgi, you probably see your grandma slouched in front of QVC or some other TV shopping channel.
But shopping-as-entertainment is now reborn for a much younger audience – the smartphone generation.
It’s already happening in China, where it’s fuelling a huge new industry in live streaming apps.
It’s also happening, albeit more slowly, in other countries. On the world’s biggest social network, a growing number of small businesses are using Facebook Live to show off and sell their wares, taking bids from punters in the comments. Gadgets, which often need quite a bit of explaining, are particularly in evidence.
Amazon, meanwhile, recently came out with an interactive daily show, Style Code Live, for fashion and beauty products.
Startups, not to be left out, are now leaping into live shopping with their own apps. This week in Japan saw the official launch of an app called Live Shop. Rather than making it a Facebook Live-style free-for-all, the team is cherry-picking social media “influencers” to create their own live shows in which they sell clothing and other fashion trinkets.
“The quality of the show is low, you grow tired of it,” says Makoto Sugihara from Candee, the #startup behind Live Shop, by way of explaining what the startup wants to avoid. So that means no “selfie style” live streams – its broadcasters have to put in a lot more effort than just sitting on their bedroom floor amidst heaps of towels and jeans.
The Live Shop team will generate revenue from the affiliate links that shoppers click on as they watch.
During the shows, viewers can comment, shop, and take part in polls and lotteries run by the broadcaster. Auctions might be added in later. Sugihara and the crew want to keep up the entertainment, interactivity, and community levels – which makes sense as most purchases during a live show will be impulse buys. Even if live shopping is indeed a big new trend, people who know exactly or pretty much what they want will still go to conventional shopping apps and search for the item.
Expansion beyond Japan is a possibility. One of Sugihara’s colleagues is now in neighboring South Korea, weighing up opportunities there.
The startup behind Live Shop has several other projects underway, explains Sugihara, speaking to Tech in Asia on the sidelines of the Infinity Ventures Summit, with the goal of building a new media empire built around video. The crew is open to the idea of further apps that could branch into sports streaming, news, variety shows – anything with scope for that magical mix of entertainment, interactivity, and community.
The outfit has raised about US$16 million from investors including Yahoo Japan’s VC wing, and now has 120 staffers.
Along with other startup apps like Livby, the Tokyo-based team is hoping that shopping is the logical next evolution of this year’s live streaming boom.
With contributions from Peter Rothenberg in Tokyo.