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Why live-streaming is the new frontier for revenue growth this Singles’ Day

Singles’ Day has gradually solidified itself as one of the major shopping festivals in the region alongside Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Last year, the creator of Singles’ Day, Alibaba Group, posted US$30.8 billion of gross merchandise volume (GMV) during the shopping festival, marking a 27% increase compared to 2017. This year, it plugged US American singer Taylor Swift to front its annual 11.11 Countdown Gala.

Meanwhile, in March this year, Alibaba owned Lazada also worked with British popstar Dua Lipa to front its Super Party music concert in Indonesia. While browsing through the app, shoppers could also watch live streams and be entertained.  Through this concert experience across Southeast Asia, Lazada aimed to blend shopping and entertainment, ushering what it called, an era of ‘shoppertainment’.

Noting on the festivities, Forrester’s senior analyst Wang Xiaofeng said that the momentum for Singles’ Day will only continue to increase and the main driver of revenue growth during Singles’ Day will be live-streaming commerce. According to her blog post titled “What To Expect On Singles’ Day 2019”, she explained that streaming commerce is quickly gaining momentum in China and expanding into Southeast Asia, with brands such as Lazada, Shopee, and Rakuten all launching live-streaming features.

Brands that have succeeded in leveraging on live-streaming commerce include Chinese automobile brand JMC and South Korean beauty brand Whoo, which sold 55 cars in one second and achieved RMB100 million in GMV, according to Wang.

Another brand that has adopted live-streaming and will be implementing it for Singles’ Day is Chinese eCommerce platform JD.com. Guowei Zhang, head of JD live-streaming, told Marketing that on the first day of its Singles’ Day campaign on 1 November, live-streaming audience count increased 36 times compared to 2018, and total sales jumped by nearly five times. Meanwhile, Huawei’s cross-night live-streaming on 31 October on JD’s platform also received over RMB13 million sales, which Zhang said was a new record.

“Live-streaming essentially creates a real-life shopping experience scenario that draws consumers even closer to a product. Through real-time interaction with key opinion leaders, consumers will be able to try, feel and inevitably trust the products,” Zhang said. He added that brands in turn are able to accumulate traffic and acquire loyal customers, which helps increase the desire to shop, and increases further consumption.

On Singles’ Day, JD offers live-streaming entrances across the homepage, recommendations, product pages and many other channels and also creates activities to encourage  users’ length of stay to help brands get more traffic and form a closed-loop from live-streaming to shopping. Zhang explained:

Live-streaming, just like every other content marketing tool, is a catalyst to help consumers make shopping decisions.

As such, JD has a comprehensive system to attribute the sales. For example, orders made directly from live steaming, orders made 24 hours after the user watches live-streaming will be calculated. In addition to that, JD will also take into consideration if a large amount of consumers add products to their shopping cart during the live-streaming.

Allowing brands to expand presence beyond offline stores

Known for its shoppertainment strategy, Lazada Group aims to make its platform a “lifestyle destination” where consumers don’t just click and buy, but visit its app more frequently as well as watch, play, stay, and enjoy. Mary Zhou, Lazada Group CMO said live-streaming empowers brands and sellers with new formats to directly connect with their audiences and offers brands and businesses an opportunity to expand their presence beyond offline stores and reach areas or communities where there is no offline presence. Zhou added:

It is particularly potent for emerging brands and new sellers who do not have the ability to generate buzz, to connect with consumers by getting an instant response or reply from the live-stream.

She explained that sellers can leverage live-streaming to create a multitude of content to promote their products and brands, ranging from the unboxing of the latest gadget, product demonstrations, “How To” tutorials, and behind-the-scenes stories.

According to Zhou, the group piloted live-streaming with a few sellers last Singles’ Day and this year, sellers across the region are using live-streaming to boost sales during the shopping festival. In Thailand alone, Zhou said more than 1,100 seller live-stream sessions are expected to take place on LazLive.

Also, on 10 November, brand partners will co-present with Lazada’s Super Show in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. The variety show will be live-streamed and, in most countries, broadcast on national TV. Zhou said the variety show will debut an interactive Voucher Rain segment where viewers can use their Lazada app to collect exclusive 11.11 vouchers in real time.

Meanwhile, the company is also creating its own professional live-streaming content and enhancing commercial integration with its own content via its live-streamed game show GUESS IT! The 11.11 special show held on 4 November marked its third season and achieved over 1.1 million views in a single in-app live-streamed show. Zhou also said that it saw “a large number of viewers adding featured products to cart”.

“Entertaining and innovative new content formats with offline-online integration helps us draw more eyeballs, repeat visits and deepen engagement. At the same time, better commercial integration and collaboration with merchants ensure that we also see business outcomes during 11.11,” Zhou explained.

To keep up with the live-streaming trend, Shopee also entered the scene in June this year with its in-app live-streaming feature Shopee Live. Shopee Singapore’s head of marketing Tiger Wang told Marketing that the new feature “has been extremely well received” by users and since its launch during the Great Shopee Sale, the total views per live-stream session increased by seven times on average, and engagement per live-stream session in Singapore grew by three times.

Also, during the Great Shopee Sale, Wang said that over 100 sellers conducted live streams, with reports of sellers seeing a sales increase of up to 75%. “Since its launch, we have recorded over 200 million views across the region and many brands have successfully leveraged on this feature as part of their ongoing efforts to directly engage their customers,” he said. Shopee was unable to share exact figures when asked by Marketing.

“We anticipate 11.11 to be no exception. 11.11 will be an excellent opportunity for Shopee to further engage its audience the way they want to be engaged – through a mobile-first, highly localised and social approach,” Wang added.

What else to expect from Singles’ Day

Meanwhile, Alibaba is predicted to continue pushing the limits of what consumers will buy online, said a Forrester report. In 2018, Alibaba expanded its 11.11 product range into industries such as hotel and automobile. With the upcoming Singles’ Day, the company expanded into new industries including entertainment, real estate and offline services.

“This 11.11, consumers in China can buy tickets to Disney Parks, car care services, home decoration, and renovation services online. What’s more, Alibaba plans to sell 10,000 apartments on its auction platform,” Forrester’s Wang said.

She added that bigger discounts will also be accompanied by more complex promotion schemes. According to her, flash sales, cash back, free shipping, preorder exclusive offerings, and paying by installments have been commonly used tactics during shopping festivals. This year, Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao rolled out sophisticated promotion schemes which include playing in-app games to earn virtual coins to win red packets, as well as inviting friends to participate to increase the chances of winning.

However, Wang said such a tactic might pose a dilemma for consumers as the deals are “too good to resist” and the numerous schemes are “too complex to follow”.

Lastly, with all the talk about sustainability, Wang said brands will leverage on social responsibility to differentiate themselves from the pack.

For example, Alibaba announced its plan of “a greener 11.11”, and its committed to create 40,000 recycling stations across China through its Cainiao Smart Logistics Network, together with an extra 35,000 by its express-courier partners. The company is also rewarding consumers with “green energy points” on Alipay’s Ant Forest to urge them to participate. Meanwhile, Carousell also recently rolled out a “reboxing” campaign with a similar idea of reducing waste.

“We expect to see more retailers and brands participate and initiate social responsibility campaigns such as this,” Wang added.

(Photo courtesy: 123RF)

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