Written by Sally Zhang

Live shopping is one of today’s most exciting ecommerce technologies. But although it’s a hit elsewhere in the world—especially in Asia—it’s still emerging in the U.S. At least for now.

In the first of this two-part series, I’ll help you prepare for the live shopping future by providing an overview of the technology, outlining best practices learned from overseas brands and reviewing barriers to adoption. In part two, I’ll share exclusive interviews with Chinese and American shoppers in an effort to better understand two different, but evolving, consumer perspectives.

What Is Live Shopping?

Also known as livestream shopping, today’s version of live shopping is a hybrid digital entertainment-ecommerce experience where viewers interact with hosts and shop in real time. Sometimes it’s just one host introducing products and answering viewer questions. It can also be a much bigger production, like a fashion show or a celebrity interview.

There are two ways for brands to offer live shopping: with tools built into existing accounts, or by using third-party apps and platforms.

Live Shopping on Instagram (and Everywhere Else)

Even if you can’t offer a direct purchase option on your platform of choice, you can still use a livestream to demo products, promote sales and direct viewers to your ecommerce site. Tip: If you do this, provide a unique discount code customers can enter at checkout so you can track the stream’s impact on sales.

Currently, Instagram is ahead of other American platforms when it comes to the state of its native live shopping tools.

Here’s where things stand as of July 2021:

For a custom live shopping experience on their own websites, retailers can choose from a variety of standalone tools, including BambuserLiveScale and Channelize.

Finally, apps like NTWRKPopshopTalkShopLive and LIT are standalone streaming platforms hoping to attract buyers and sellers with exclusive shows.

China: Live Shopping Statistics for 2021

According to iResearch, live commerce was just 0.35% of China’s total ecommerce sales in 2017. Today it’s 20%. The Chinese live shopping market is expected to exceed $300 billion by the end of 2021, and thanks to increased ecommerce activity during the pandemic, almost 30% of Chinese internet users shop via livestream.