Fashion and beauty companies are increasingly reliant on digital innovations from Asia. Super-apps like WeChat became indispensable in the region before proving their worth in the running of a global business; more recently, short video app TikTok took the world by storm, inspiring many copycats in the process. But few of these online exports have intrigued — and puzzled — brands quite like livestreaming.
Defined for the purpose of this case study as the marketing and sales of products to online viewers through real-time video streams, livestreaming took off five years ago in China. Today, most social media platforms in the country have fully integrated livestreaming functionality and, according to Forrester, China’s livestreaming industry will be worth $239 billion this year, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 27 percent through to 2025. However, the medium’s commercial opportunities are no longer limited to China, as nascent livestreaming ecosystems have emerged in other markets, making it accessible to global consumers.
At its best, livestreaming is an entertaining and interactive antidote to the sometimes static, crowded marketplaces of traditional e-commerce: it can create a dialogue between brands and buyers looking to discover new items, aid with decision-making and amplify convenience through seamless check-out integration, all while providing brands with valuable real-time feedback and data. But critics contend that best-case scenarios represent only a small proportion of brands’ current livestreaming activities, suggesting that it is either an overhyped, short-lived trend or a high-risk strategy yielding a questionable return on investment.
The verdict is still out on its global staying power, with most other markets yet to see livestreaming mesh with commerce to offer brands a significant revenue generating tool to the extent it has in China. The US livestreaming industry is expected to reach $11 billion this year according to Coresight Research — a remarkable figure considering how new the medium is there, but one that is a fraction the value of the industry in China.
Indeed, it has taken years for livestreaming to ripple westward, albeit with different characteristics and more limited use cases. Slower adoption in the West can be attributed to a combination of factors, including differences in retail psychology, consumer behaviour and platform use. Though many apps and retailers have adopted the medium in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which sent online sales surging and underscored the importance of digital engagement, players have different views on the potential for livestreaming to become a mainstream business tool for fashion and beauty in the US and Europe in the long term.
Nonetheless, a diverse range of international companies — from luxury houses and beauty brands to those selling sports cars and toys — have already tapped livestreaming with varying degrees of success. Few have developed a fully-fledged playbook, but many of their ad hoc activations offer valuable learnings for brands trying to determine when and how to invest in the channel.
This case study will examine the many factors that fashion and beauty brands should consider before creating, refining or revamping a livestream strategy, beginning with fundamental tactics such as choosing the right platform, timing broadcasts and building an in-house team. It will then explain how players can choose the best products for their broadcasts, as well as what to consider when enlisting a host and designing formats that keep audiences coming back to interact and shop.
In a landscape full of content creators vying for screen time, it can be challenging for brands to add enough value or create the right kind of pull factor to coax viewers to a stream and compel them to engage in a meaningful way. Doing so while avoiding the many pitfalls that livestreaming inherently presents can be even harder. This case study aims to provide a guide to this relatively new and rapidly evolving medium, highlighting both best practices and cautionary tales from brands, platforms and agencies, allowing businesses to craft detailed livestreaming roadmaps in line with their goals.
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