Dispelling the Myths of Live Commerce
Some people call it live shopping. Others refer to it as remote selling. At Parla, we prefer the term live commerce - it’s immediate and all-encompassing.
Keep reading
In essence, they all have the same meaning: selling your product to customers without sharing the same physical space, via their choice of communication - be it video, SMS, WhatsApp or audio. The sales associate might be in the store, while the customer is browsing their phone at a café. Perhaps they’re both at home on a desktop. Whatever the location or medium, the ambition is the same: to interact and transact.
But with the proliferation of terms used to describe a fast-evolving sector like live commerce, comes a host of misconceptions about a brand’s ability to partake in it. The good news is that every brand can - and should - in order to maximise sales opportunities and customer engagement. It’s just a question of dispelling the myths…
Myth 1: “I’m already doing live commerce”
Maybe. But sending a screenshot or static product image by email or WhatsApp, followed by a phone call or web link to take payment, is not live commerce. That initial action lacks a commerce channel; it’s a step towards a potential sale, but the more steps we introduce to a customer’s journey, the more likely they are to not purchase at all. At Parla, we can help transform a disjointed, piecemeal approach into an efficient and automated process that is operated from a single platform but allows a sales associate to communicate using whatever medium - WhatsApp, email, video - the customer prefers.
Let’s say the product in question is a red sweater - does the static image include the price? What happens when the customer asks if it comes in different colours? Will you have to take screenshots of each? How long will it take you to find - and respond to - questions about fabric and fit? This could play out over several chats, over several emails, during which time the customer may lose interest before they’ve even been given the option to pay.
Parla’s system brings automation to a fragmented sales process, equips sales associates with every piece of information in one place and the ability to sell with just one click.
Myth 2: “I need to be in a store or have a website to participate in live commerce”
Not true. In a world where remote and hybrid working has become the norm, live commerce gives brands the flexibility to allow their sales staff to work from any location - a store, their home, a co-working space - without compromising on service and conversion.
According to a recent article by The Business of Fashion, it is live commerce technology that will allow associates to do their jobs remotely. In addition to flexibility, Parla’s single platform pulls together all the tools needed to do that. Imagine a customer - Alex - wants to buy a sofa and schedules an appointment with you via your website. Most live commerce platforms require you to have your inventory already set up on an existing ecommerce site. At Parla, if you don’t, we can give you the infrastructure for live commerce via a [yourbrand].parla site. Alex then receives a video link for the allotted time, which can be accessed on any device - there’s no need to download an app. As the call starts, Alex isn’t sure if he can pull off a patterned sofa so you introduce an image and video from your social accounts for context and to bring the inventory to life. By the way, the image you showed Alex has the sofa merchandised with a side table and lamp, which Alex loves – you’ve just increased your average order value.
In addition, you can access Alex’s shopping history and behaviour (Alex bought an armchair two months ago) because it lives in your CRM - not WhatsApp - so that vital information is recorded, analysed and used efficiently. And the more data you gather across your customer base, the greater your ability to identify trends: customers who buy the herringbone weave sofa often buy the brushed cotton cushions.
Crucially, everything being shown can be clicked on and purchased immediately - there is no need to send a follow-up link or make a follow-up call. If the sales associate is in the store and using a tablet to give the customer a virtual tour, every physical item’s barcode or QR code can be scanned making it available for immediate purchase.
Myth 3: Live commerce is just video
False. Since Covid-19, video has boomed to become the leading medium of live commerce, with live streaming particularly influential via social media platforms. But to give video such a high status is to ignore the importance of a multichannel and omnichannel approach. If your customer wants to talk to you on SMS or WhatsApp or video - and they also want to flip between these platforms - you have to give them the option.
For example, if the customer discovers a new moisturiser over a video call, asks follow up questions about its ingredients on SMS and then comes into the store to try it on their skin, these interactions need to be connected because, for the customer, there is no start and stop as they move from one location to another - they want a seamless journey. With Parla, this connected conversation can be accessed by every sales associate in the business so that the customer in question always receives personalised service. Limiting customer engagement to one medium ignores the existing - and growing - omnichannel behaviour of most customers today.
We hear from so many brands of their customers’ appreciation for the uninterrupted attention live commerce offers, outside a physical, face-to-face environment. This is because the technology can take personalization from niche to mainstream, making every customer feel special. The biggest strength of live commerce is no myth: customers love it.
Parla is a live selling platform enabling brands to connect with and sell to customers via video, audio, SMS/WhatsApp and chat. Take a look at our demo to see how it works. Or, get in touch with the team to find out more.
Personal shopping in the post-Covid era
How to improve digital experiences to match the personal service offered in-store
Keep reading
The Coronavirus pandemic has transformed sales associates into digital stylists — communicating with and selling to housebound shoppers via WeChat and Instagram. Neiman Marcus introduced an app connecting its 4,500 store associates with personal shopping clients. Gucci launched Gucci Live, a video-consultation service operated out of a studio designed to mimic a shop.
Firms which implemented clienteling 2.0 saw sales rise by 10% to 15% (BCG)
Though lockdowns have eased in many countries, and shops have reopened, the pandemic heralded in an unprecedented change in consumers’ shopping habits and accelerated the shift to online buying. In-store foot traffic is still 60% below 2019 levels in the UK, according to the BBC. McKinsey estimates the online share of fashion and apparel sales will grow by 20% to 40% over the next year. To capitalise on these changes, brands must find ways to improve the digital shopping experience. One key way to do that is to focus on personal shopping.
Personal shopping allows brands to interact directly with consumers, enabling them to build and strengthen relationships and influence purchases. BCG reports that firms which had implemented “clienteling 2.0” saw their sales rise by 10% to 15%. Personal shoppers allow brands to receive feedback from customers on their likes and dislikes, creating a treasure-trove of actionable data. Much is lost amid back-and-forth texting, but properly harnessed, these exchanges can offer valuable insights into consumer preferences and purchasing habits.
Redeploying existing sales associates makes the barriers to participating low. For retailers with established personal shopping departments, customers are used to texting their stylists, ensuring an easy transition to digital-only. Whether brands decide to implement personal shopping at scale or reserve it for big spenders, digital solutions allow them to make effective use of data and take clienteling to the next level. The best experiences will blend human connections with inspirational storytelling, giving clients a taste of being back in-store.
3 tips to implement an effective strategy:
Put the data to work: Don’t let data languish in the back office. Give sales associates real-time access to insights enabling them to better serve customers and hit sales targets.
Align the customer journey: Personal shopping customers often interact only with their stylist. Integrate personal shopping into your brand’s omnichannel journey to give clients multiple opportunities to engage with your brand.
Start conversations at scale: Ensure sales associates can send out targeted, measurable marketing campaigns, as well as communicate with clients one-to-one. This will help build relationships at scale.
Why you need live commerce now
At Shoptalk’s retail shows in Las Vegas and London, the breadth of the agenda was extensive, covering everything from new shopping habits and technologies, to augmented reality and the metaverse. But there was a common thread weaving many of these discussions together, both on stage and in conversations among delegates on the trade show floor: brands need to integrate live commerce into their sales strategy. And they need to do it now…
Keep reading
In China, live commerce is expected to be worth $600 billion in 2023 and 19.4% of retail e-commerce sales, up from 3.5% in 2020.
In the US, it is estimated to reach $26 billion in 2023, up from $11 billion in 2021.
Live commerce has been mostly associated with shoppable video events, where the brand’s host or presenter broadcasts to a wide audience (one-to-many). Viewers can then purchase items during the event (imagine watching the home shopping channel through a website). But, it can also be used in a one-to-one sales environment.
The 24/7 store – Live commerce for one-to-one
Many luxury and lifestyle brands with loyal, digitally-native audiences are now looking at ways to expand how they interact with these customers on a more individual and personal level. They want to bring customers into new, human-led shopping environments that feel like physical stores. Or - as many of us were calling it in Vegas - 24/7 stores.
This plays out in two ways. Firstly, it’s surprising how many online direct-to-consumer brands rely on the telephone as the only way for a customer to speak to a sales associate in person, in real time. Repurposing the role of those associates by offering customers the option of video chat (rather than phone) makes for more enriching, engaging and profitable interactions for both customer and brand. With a video call, sales associates can show inventory to customers and make product suggestions, helping to drive higher average order values.
Secondly, by editing a recorded live streaming video (of one-to-many) into a series of shorter videos to place on your website, you can engage your customers 24 hours a day (on a one-to-one level). For example, at Shoptalk, we spoke to a brand that sells baby products - they get their biggest traffic during the night when parents with young babies are awake. Repurposing a recorded 30-minute live streaming video that encompassed everything from strollers to feeding to baby clothes into bitesize videos and placing them on the relevant product pages, allows the brand to engage with their customers whatever time of day. Having the original live streaming host introduce each segment makes it feel like a real-time conversation - which is particularly helpful for brands that operate in one time zone and don’t have global resources. That human connection helps to increase retention, page views and time on the site.
The benefits: high conversion, low return rates
A key benefit of live commerce is higher conversion rates, and it’s largely driven by human connection. Companies that use live commerce see conversion rates of up to 30% - 10 times higher than the average in ecommerce, according to McKinsey. By having a real person engage with your customers via video, they become much more informed about your product. Compare that experience with a regular website: flat images, information limited to product descriptions, no two-way, real-time, face-to-face conversation. With higher conversion comes higher spending - and more frequently. According to consumer market research group Coresight Research, returns are 50% lower when items are bought in a livestream.
So how can you add or expand live commerce into your sales strategy?
Step 1: make your sales associates your influencers
Many brands think that to do live streaming to groups of people - for example, on Instagram Live - they need an influencer in order to draw on that person's audience and experience of being in front of the camera. But many influencers don’t live and breathe your brand like your teams do. In fact, we find that a brand’s sales associates perform better at converting live streaming into sales. It’s not difficult to see why: they know your brand, product, customers - they know how to sell. This knowledge and talent is particularly useful for one-to-one live selling, so create a structure within your business that includes dedicated individuals to be your live commerce ambassadors. It’s important to define the roles and responsibilities so that not every sales associate is expected to take on every sales channel. By giving individuals the responsibility of live selling, they become experts - and far bigger assets than influencers.
Step 2: if at first you don’t succeed, try try again
But brands need to embrace trial and error. You may not be proficient at live commerce straight away: be prepared to do it over and over again, to tweak, to work towards getting it right. The way to do that is to learn to read the cues. At Parla, we collect data and give feedback in real time for both one-to-one and one-to-many selling. How many people are on the live call? What are they looking at? What are they commenting on? How can you respond? Many brands tell us that they tried live streaming and failed - and then don’t try it again. But, as with anything in life, practice makes perfect.
Step 3: use your own channels
A big takeaway from Shoptalk was the misconception that social media is the best channel for live selling. The message was clear: don’t disperse your customers across social channels. Use your website to host and broadcast live streaming events, and use recorded content (as discussed under 24/7 stores) to engage with your customers on a one-to-one basis. Perhaps Instagram is a great place to alert customers and drive traffic to a live event - but not necessarily to make a sale (at present, Instagram’s checkout process isn’t seamless; customers can’t move back and forth between a live event and their shopping cart). Better to control your strategy - and maximise sales - by making your website your world.