Community Blog Live Streaming: Is Your Business Ready or Will You Miss the Hottest Trend in E-commerce?

Live Streaming: Is Your Business Ready or Will You Miss the Hottest Trend in E-commerce?

How your business can join the livestreaming for e-commerce revolution.

Is your business ready to liven up its e-commerce offering with live streaming, or is it going to miss out on this red-hot trend?

For many businesses, the pandemic meant adding or upgrading existing e-commerce and omnichannel experiences to support exploding demand from consumers unable to visit physical stores during lockdowns. However, innovative businesses – both traditional and new entrants – made delivering experiences that improved customer engagement a priority of strategies to position themselves for e-commerce success in the long term. Already well established in China, live streaming integrated with e-commerce is now a global phenomenon and management consulting firm McKinsey estimates live commerce-initiated sales could account for up to 20% of all e-commerce by 2026. 

McKinsey's insights add to a body of research that reinforces how live streaming and video-enabled e-commerce is making deep inroads across Asia and worldwide. According to a report published by Facebook IQ, The Future of Shopping Has Come Early: Perspectives From the Industry, a recent online survey spanning several countries found 49% of shoppers agreed with the statement 'I would buy products directly from live videos where brands, celebrities or influencers I follow are launching new products.'   

Live streaming for e-commerce expanding globally

Live streaming for e-commerce exploded initially in China when Alibaba combined the text and static images of e-commerce with the live streaming popular in gaming and established livestream shopping channel Taobao Live. This channel has continued to grow, and in calendar year 2020 experienced 100 % year on year growth of daily active users, while as at 31 December 2020, the number of users that watched livestream sessions six times per day and placed an average 10+ orders per month increased 150% compared to the start of 2020.

The success of Taobao Live was one of the catalysts for businesses globally with e-commerce operations – whether part of an omnichannel strategy or e-commerce exclusively – to explore marketing brands, products and services to consumers over streaming with viewers able to learn about products and trends, obtain answers to questions in real time and purchase while on the stream. 

The benefits of live streaming for e-commerce range from conversion to branding, and McKinsey says live commerce is accelerating conversion by keeping viewers watching and 'telescoping' customer decision-making from journeys from awareness to purchase; and improving brand appeal and differentiation to customers and prospects. 

McKinsey adds that companies with live commerce services are reporting conversion rates up to 10 times higher than for conventional e-commerce, and growth in younger audiences of up to 20%. 

Key live streaming for e-commerce questions for businesses

However, despite these considerable potential benefits, your business may initially view building and running live streaming e-commerce as a potentially expensive, time-consuming prospect. Some of the key questions you may have to address include:

  • How to provide a high-quality live streaming e-commerce experience through the insertion of product advertising, logos and customized picture layouts that can enhance product promotions. Without these features, your business may miss opportunities to enhance customer engagement and brand value, as well as increase conversion rates.   
  • How to ensure presentations are clear and easily understood by audiences, including cohorts from different regions, countries or continents that may speak and read different languages ​​than the host or guests. Conducting presentations in a single language without subtitles or translations may limit the potential audience for your livestream. 
  • How to enable consumers to interact with presenters during streams, through live comments and thumbs-up interactions. Failing to provide this functionality limits engagement and interaction – meaning you may miss out on opportunities to forge closer relationships with consumers and, by failing to allow consumers to ask questions about a product or service, risk losing sales.
  • How to ensure consumers can play back streams when they are unable to attend the live event. Without this functionality, you may limit viewing of a streaming event to consumers who have the time and inclination to watch at the scheduled time. This may be particularly limiting in the case of events aimed at international audiences spread across different time zones.     
  • How to deliver consistent, reliable connections to viewers, regardless of where they are located or the device they are using. High latency can disrupt consumers' ability to interact with hosts during live streams, compromising the experience and potentially brand reputation.    
  • How to provide high image quality and control the cost of bandwidth and other elements. Poor image quality can detract from the e-commerce live streaming experience, while high costs may make it difficult to justify investing in the required capability.  

How your business can realize the full potential of live streaming for e-commerce

Many businesses have invested in platforms that support live streaming e-commerce, but these often lack the features and functionality to deliver a genuinely compelling experience for consumers. Furthermore, latency and device playback can strain existing platforms and systems, while the pace of development and innovation in the sector can leave many businesses battling to keep up. However, help is at hand – Alibaba Cloud has made available technologies and products proven through use with Taobao and Tmall that can help businesses like yours implement a powerful live streaming for e-commerce capability, and incorporated them into a Livestreaming for E-Commerce solution. 

For example, streaming and video playing SDKs provided through ApsaraVideo Live provide tools and programs to implement features such as product advertisement insertion, real-time audio and subtitle translation, human interaction and picture-in-picture product promotion– enabling your business to maximize customer engagement and conversions, and improve brand value. For viewers in different time zones or who simply cannot join the live stream at the scheduled time, businesses can record a livestream for playback through ApsaraVideo VOD.

Overall, Apsara Live incorporates the full livestreaming workflow in a single product, from streaming, processing and delivery of content to the edge, played over Alibaba Cloud’s global CDN with 2,800+ nodes with bandwidth of 150Tbps. This global network, combined with Alibaba Cloud's WebRTC-based RTS protocol, can reduce latency to two seconds worldwide, enabling viewers to respond quickly to dynamic events such as flash sales. 

Furthermore, Alibaba Cloud’s Narrowband HD Transcoding technology lowers bitrate by up to 30% and guarantees high definition live streaming, enabling Alibaba Cloud to deliver clear images of hosts, products and environments. 

Alibaba Cloud’s live streaming for e-commerce products and technologies deliver at scale for businesses across Asia-Pacific. For example, Indonesia's largest e-commerce platform, Tokopedia, which empowers millions of merchants and consumers to participate in the future of commerce, is one business to have turned to Alibaba Cloud to power a low-latency live streaming solution that reduced costs and ensured fast, stable user access in Indonesia, Southeast Asia and beyond.
Alibaba Cloud Livestreaming for E-Commerce enables businesses like yours to provide a high-quality live streaming e-commerce experience without having to invest heavily in infrastructure and operations, while gaining easy access to cloud storage and networking, video streaming and decoding SDK, real-time transcoding and content delivery capabilities. The solution represents a powerful opportunity for your business to elevate its e-commerce strategy and offerings, and deliver deeper consumer engagement that pays dividends in the form of increased conversions and brand value.d

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Iain Ferguson

30 posts | 2 followers

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