Shopper-tainment: dancing in the virtual aisles

Ecommerce is increasingly competitive after the pile in of brands and retailers over the past 18 months. It’s a battle for customer attention and cut-through and ‘Shoppertainment’ is a possible solution to getting traffic and engagement. 

But this collision of live streaming, entertainment and ecommerce is still a relatively new concept in Europe The idea is spreading – Westfield has held a global live stream team up with Lady Gaga watched at fan zones at 21 shopping malls worldwide or on Live.Westfield.Com. IKEA has held a 24-hour online festival with virtual home tours and discussions and live music performances. 

Propeller Group’s panel at Ecommerce Expo/Technology for Marketing, titled ‘Shoppertainment – a flash in the pan or the way forward for exciting the customer?’ explored the experiences of retailers and lessons learnt. 

The panel was chaired by Propeller’s Director of Content Branwell Johnson and included Graham Wilson, Head of Business Development at Sofology, Chloe Taylor, entrepreneur, founder and CEO of online vegan marketplace and a social media influencer on TikTok and Instagram and Vita Chang, Head of Content Operations Ecosystem at global retail online marketplace AliExpress – part of the Alibaba Group. 

The first step was to define Shoppertainment in more detail and explain what sets it apart from the QVC-style shopping channels that already exist. Vita explained: “It’s a new form of ecommerce – it provides consumers with a more personal interactive and engaging shopper experience.”

She said initially there have been four types of Shoppertainment format – livestreaming on ecommerce platforms, livestreaming on social media, product content posted by influencers on social media and interactive gaming features.

Why get involved?

Sofology holds one-to-one video viewings for its customers with its expert ‘sofologists’ who can’t make the journey to one of its stores or want to reduce the number of visits. It has also held a live Q&A with singer and actress – and now sofa pattern designer – Paloma Faith in partnership with Grazia.

Graham said: “It’s about removing friction from the journey – we don’t have stores on every high street and we use video to plug that gap. From a brand point of view, it has allowed us to reach new customers. As video becomes more normalised across ecommerce, people will be more willing to engage with video channels.”

Vita added that live campaigns can drive conversion and said that it’s a great way to tap into a younger generation who like to spend their time online. The content can be tailored to customers and highly personalised to increase customers interest and interactions. “It helps shape the image of brand … and helps brands look innovative.”

Chloe said that a lot of brands lack a face – there is no face of Amazon or ASOS but by using a platform like TikTok a brand can really drive sales and create a loyal community. “We are going online and building trust with our audience and being as transparent as they want us to be. We went live with our own Eartheia brand and it gave us a record month in sales. The audience can see the actual person behind this brand.”

She added that being an influencer gives her a perspective on consumer behaviours and says: “I can see people don’t want the hard sell anymore. This form of Shoppertainment is entertaining and educating people at the same time.”

Who are the hosts with the most?

What kind of hosts will receive a good reception beyond the superstar wattage of someone like Lady Gaga?

“What people want now is authenticity, diversity and people they can relate to – it’s a key part of the relationship building,” said Chloe. She added that it is also important to find influencers who have credibility in the niche your brand is operating in – she has worked with Love Island reality star and vegan advocate India Reynolds.

She added that she prefers to talk naturally and openly about topics rather than using a polished script to come across as “less robotic and more human.”

Graham finds suitable talent among the teams operating at the dozen Sofology stores running a live video call system. The business does test runs with different people trying out different tones of voice and styles. 

Shoppertainment strategy tips

  • Test and learn. Make a small investment in a trial and don’t be afraid of making a mistake in a live environment
  • You don’t need top of the range equipment – Sofology has livestreamed to customers using a smartphone. But you do need good Wi-Fi and lighting.
  • Find presenters that combine expertise with an easy informality – they can be discovered among your own teams
  • Consider why you are developing Shoppertainment from your own brand’s point of view to identify the incentive for audiences. Your audience might not be there for giveaways and prizes but for education
  • Do prepare for negative comments and tricky questions about your goods and services in live chat and feedback functions. Plan answers for these scenarios
  • Work with brand partners that can offer discounts or prizes
  • Find a way to utilise the content further – more people are likely to watch on catch up than the live broadcast

AliExpress carried out a survey of Europeans in partnership with Forrester that showed 70% of those polled were interested in Shoppertainment. While it might not be for every retailer and brand (yet) it could increasingly be a differentiator in the battle for customer attention.

You can watch the full session here.