Live commerce set to transform shopping

by Tshego Tshukutswane. Live commerce is the newest and fastest-growing shopping revolution and is set to revolutionise the retail industry and consumer shopping habits along with it.

by Tshego Tshukutswane. Live commerce is the newest and fastest-growing shopping revolution. Described as a fusion of ecommerce and live streaming, live commerce is set to revolutionise the retail industry and consumer shopping habits along with it.

While ecommerce has grown more than 100% over the past few years, live commerce has quickly entrenched itself as an attractive and effective shopping experience that has grown at around 300%, acquiring up to 50% of brands’ regular sales within the ecommerce platform over the past 12 – 14 months. This has been further stimulated by the impact of Covid lockdown restrictions, which has driven more consumers to shop online. The estimated growth in merchandise value is expected to be up to four times more, year-on-year, in China.

Think of well-known celebrities and flash sales. The once-tired infomercial is transformed through social buying in real-time. Live commerce is the main channel of ecommerce as up to 65% of people in China claim to watch it sometimes, with 30% of that group watching daily. Some of the key benefits of this service are the ability to condense the shopper journey from several weeks down to just between one and five minutes with great impact. Brands can now also build social trust with consumers, who now decide to buy products based on this rather than relying solely on the product.

Dominated by a few specific platforms, live commerce is blurring the lines between entertainment, ecommerce, social and video platforms. It can be described as the socialisation of ecommerce and the commercialisation of social and video platforms. There are three different types of live commerce, including:

  1. The eCommerce Platform, which is sales-driven and the most mature platform amongst these with regards to audience penetration and supply chain infrastructure. Think live streaming embedded into the Takealot shopping experience in South Africa.
  2. The Social Platform, which is best used for brand awareness. The platform allows brands to share product information quickly and easily and tap into a fast, interactive audience. Although it can reach a huge fan base, the social platform’s supply chain is not as well built/established as ecommerce. Think live streaming built into WhatsApp commerce experiences.
  3. The Video Platform is ideal for entertainment. It boasts fast traffic and significant exposure in a short space of time. Tik-Tok content marketing is a good example here.

Experience shows that social and video platforms tend to work better for activating lower involvement and more impulse purchase driven categories, while high-involvement and higher-priced categories are still primarily entrenched in ecommerce.

We also see technological advancements fuelling fast-paced experimentation with new format innovation in live commerce. Brands can customise their activity and even offer 24hrs of non-stop broadcasting. They do this currently in China by using robots with artificial intelligence to personalise live stream content. An example is a consumer watching an influencer sample a lipstick brand. The shopper could, through VR, test the lipstick shade for themselves and immediately click directly onto a link that allows them to purchase it. What’s more, shoppers can zoom in and pan around an online streaming store to focus on the products that interest them most.

An exciting consumer experience for sure. But what does this mean for brands who are exploring the potential of live commerce in South Africa? These are the important aspects to consider, including:

  • Customer experience matters most – make sure that your ecommerce supply chain is responsive to real-time changes in demand with fast turnaround times and adequate stock holding.
  • Strategic planning remains critical – from choosing the right influencers to choosing the right platform and balancing short-term targets (boost sales and raise product awareness) and long term brand building objectives – a strategic approach is required.
  • Think holistic ROI – think about how to optimise your digital marketing and influencer spend to achieve greater return on marketing investment as opposed to approaching live commerce as a separate marketing channel.

The experience is not only entertaining and highly immersive for shoppers but approached well, live commerce could enable brands to connect better with their consumers by creating culturally relevant and truly transformative experiences for them.


Main image credit: Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash.


Tshego Tshukutswane is Wunderman Thompson South Africa’s Chief Strategy Officer. Part creative agency, part consultancy and part technology company, Wunderman Thompson SA provide end-to-end capabilities at a global scale to deliver inspiration across the entire brand and customer experience.   


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