In the News: Is Live Shopping the Next Big disruptor in Canadian Retail?

March 23, 2023 | Hamilton, ON
Contributed by John Lorinc, The Globe and Mail

The concept of live shopping online through a mobile phone screen

The young influencer’s pose is both iconic and ubiquitous: Modelling a fashionable sundress, she turns one way and then the other, with only the presence of the smartphone held steadily at collar-bone level to indicate the snippet is a selfie shot in front of a mirror.

What differentiates this clip from countless others on Instagram, TikTok or other social media platforms, however, is the presence of a “Buy Now” button on the screen that enables the viewer to instantly purchase the dress. The clip is part of a series, each with the same young woman modelling different items, which originated in a livestream broadcast—the weird re-emergence of appointment TV’s immensely popular shopping channel offerings, but projected out into the boundlessness of e-commerce.

On burgeoning platforms like WhatNot, a so-called “live shopping” marketplace, consumers can tune in to hundreds of such promotions, each featuring influencers pitching a wide range of products—everything from cosmetics to action figures—in real time. Geoffroy Robin, chief operating officer of Montreal-based Livescale Technologies, a six-year-old company that offers live shopping services to global brands like L’Oreal, says a rapidly growing number of vendors are embedding “live” into their own websites, many featuring pros with experience selling on live TV who can host “events.” In Asia, he adds, some will do 12 to 14 events per day.

This hybrid channel, he explains, surfaced before 2020 but was turbocharged by the enforced isolation of the pandemic and seems to have become a staple of consumerism in Asia. “This is a solution that is merging and unifying retail and e-commerce,” Robin says. “What we’ve seen before the pandemic is that among our clients, these teams were working in separate silos. Live shopping is really putting the glue in between these two teams.”

The global retail sector has operated in a state of permanent discombobulation ever since a meteor named Jeff Bezos fell to Earth and killed off those dinosaurs we once knew as department stores. This particular fad, which may be the next megatrend, seems to be the latest chapter in the long-running narrative about how we shop.

Canadian brands and retailers should take note.

“Livestreaming shopping is an emerging business,” says Ruhai Wu, an associate professor of marketing at McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business. “The growth speed is fascinating.” Indeed, live shopping sales in China exceeded $US500 billion in 2022 (up from US$18 billion annually in 2018 or 2019) and accounts for as much as one-fifth of Chinese e-commerce, according to some estimates. Live shopping revenue in the U.S. currently stands at about US$50 billion and is predicted to grow, albeit more slowly, says Wu.

Read the full article in The Globe and Mail.

Ruhai Wu

Ruhai Wu

Associate Professor, Marketing

Dr. Wu’s expertise is in Industrial and Retail Marketing strategies with specific research interest in Strategic Pricing, Channel Relationship, Platform Business, and other E-Commerce related topics. His recent research uses game theoretical models and empirical models to study the pricing and management strategies of two-side platform and sharing economy, information asymmetry issue in channel relationship, WOMs manipulation in social commerce, Search Engine Marketing and mobile marketing. His research has been published in top journals in Marketing, Information System and Operation Management.

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