Video commerce and live streaming are making waves in retail
Andre Hordagoda, co-CEO and co-founder of retail technology company Go Instore, says he hasn’t had time to stop and think about his business growing rapidly in the over the past 15 months.
The technology, which connects online shoppers to retail store staff or product experts via video chat or live broadcasts, was recently adopted by Currys PC World, Marks & Spencer (M&S), the portfolio worldwide retailing of the jeweler Signet and several others.
“We were handling 500 calls per minute on the last Black Friday – a year before we made 500 total that day,” says Hordagoda.
For some brands, video has been the only way to conduct face-to-face conversations with customers for most of the past year, as Covid-19 has forced stores to close. This means that many retailers have discovered what the pioneers of video commerce already knew: It is a platform that can drive sales and engagement.
It also means that the time to shine has truly come for Go Instore, which had operated for almost seven years with a number of forward-thinking retailers, but now finds itself recruiting more sellers to support its growth following such an increase. demand.
“We’ve been so busy activating people – we’re everywhere including Hong Kong, the Philippines and Australia,” says Hordagoda, who adds that the team has grown from a dozen to 80 people in record time. .
“We were dreaming of the day when people would come to us and say ‘I used this great service the other day …’ [meaning his company’s service] – and now they do, ”he said.
Besides buying now, paying later from vendors like Klarna, it’s hard to think of many niche retail tech companies that have seen such rapid growth of new customers within a span of time. as short as Go Instore, in modern times. The firm also added Pandora, Galeries Lafayette, The Perfume Shop, ScS, among others during the pandemic.
Currys PC World launched what it called ShopLive on the Go Instore technology – and it made the service a central part of its nationwide marketing. He also plans to launch RepairLive, so buyers can get help fixing faulty technology via video.
Alex Baldock, group CEO of Currys parent company, Dixons Carphone, said the live video shopping service “points to a future of retail where every online customer can get face-to-face advice. an expert colleague of the store ”.
The adoption and commitment to its deployment by established names such as Currys and M&S suggests that video commerce technology has longevity, even with stores reopening. And other retailers have been using it for much longer anyway.
Building an omnichannel business
Some retailers have arguably added video functionality to the pandemic as a defensive reaction to forced store closings or as a public relations exercise. However, Ribble Cycles already saw it as a strategic pillar of the company before the Covid crisis.
As a specialist and retailer of bespoke bicycles, Ribble knows its customers make smart purchases. They want to understand all of their options, see the coins and chat before parting with their money. This can be done at company showrooms in the UK, but increasingly it’s done online via Go InStore video.
Ribble has hired a dedicated service team, choosing to keep the store staff focused on walk-in customers while creating a network of product experts of video consultants who are on hand to greet digital visitors.
“We see it only as the best way to leverage the showroom and assets to build an omnichannel business,” says Matt Dawson, chief digital officer at Ribble, who adds that Ribble receives over 100 video calls per day. .
“The website has millions of customers, but they didn’t have access to the full brand experience until we introduced Go Instore,” he says.
“Because it was a company-wide decision, the retail team and everyone in the company knew it was coming and what it was all about. It was their project, not a digital innovation project – I think that helps move it forward.
When video calls are answered, customers are greeted by a Ribble Valley backdrop before descending into the new flagship showroom – making the trip they would make if they walked. Appointment scheduling software will soon be integrated to allow pre-booked consultations, and Dawson wants to offer a multicamera proposition allowing Ribble agents to switch from camera to camera around the product and sit in front of it. the camera.
Dawson says the retailer tunneled Wi-Fi in stores so the video platform has its own dedicated line.
“You have to think about how long you want a customer to wait for a web page to load, and then consider a similar experience for connecting the call,” he adds.
“We need the SLA to be world class when they go online. We don’t want to compromise on the customer experience for the web or the showroom.
Further supporting Go Instore’s credentials as an omnichannel enabler, Hordagoda says some M&S stores have placed a QR code next to their checkouts so consumers can virtually connect to product experts if no one is. available to help them in person.
“We just allow people to connect with the best product assortment expert wherever they are – whether they’re at home, in the store or in the tub,” he says.
Live streaming is closely related to the video connections between stores and online shoppers.
According to Coresight Research, in China, live streaming would have generated around $ 125 billion in sales in 2020, up from $ 63 billion in 2019, in part thanks to digital giants Alibaba and JD.com providing brands with a platform. to sell directly to consumers directly. video stream.
The nascent U.S. e-commerce live streaming market is expected to exceed $ 25 billion in sales by 2023, according to Coresight, as it becomes increasingly popular in Western retail.
In the UK, online fashion actor I Saw It First, founded in 2017 but already established industry rivals like Asos, Boohoo and Missguided, sees live streaming as a differentiator of his business.
This month, I Saw It First kicked off events with the live streaming platform OOOOO, apparently so named because it’s the noise people make when they buy something they like. Starting with three broadcasts per week, the retailer expects the live stream to achieve ‘always-on’ status, backed by influencers, internal staff, and anyone who thinks they can earn a commission by selling I items. Saw It First online.
According to CTO (CTO) Andrew Stevenson-Thorpe, this is not about QVC style home shopping. He says he’s diverse, engages young buyers, and because of his ability to share on social media, can generate referrals and advocacy.
“In the past you would ask influencers to do the content, but the video revolution means anyone with a little energy who wants to do it can do it,” Stevenson-Thorpe explains, adding that volunteers at the head office were used in the test show.
“The thing you need to do is have enough products available ready to go,” he says. “In an hour of broadcast, we showcase up to 30-40 products, so a key part is involving your merchandisers and setting up a schedule and catalog.”
The CTO adds: “Video streaming platforms are an incredibly powerful marketing channel – the data from the broadcasts is fascinating.
“We’re seeing people engage with the products and provide feedback, and this channel could be very important for the product development lifecycle. The engine of commerce is moving further up the supply chain, which becomes very interesting. “
Go Instore also offers live streaming, which M&S uses to showcase its beauty product lines.
Hordagoda likens live streaming to walking past a store window, while one-on-one video views are the equivalent of when a customer decides to walk into the store. His company is looking to continue to develop its technology to make this customer journey – from window shopping to personal consultation – more viable for online shoppers.
Besides Go Instore, other tech companies are helping to shape the video commerce market. For example, Ted Baker plans to use the platform of Swedish company Bambuser to host live broadcast events that showcase product lines and brand news.
Jennifer Stephens, chief customer officer at Ted Baker, told the Fashion Connect 2021 conference of the IMRG e-commerce trade association that this is part of a process of technological experimentation.
“We live with Hero [another platform that connects online shoppers to store staff], virtual dating and live trading, ”she said. “We are experimenting and researching how we can take advantage of some of these new digital channels that could be the growth channels of the future. “
Last week, Bambuser announced the acquisition of global marketing technology company Relatable for approximately $ 24 million as part of its efforts to leverage its proprietary technology for live video shopping and marketing campaigns. influencer marketing.
Innovation continues at GoInstore as well, with Hordagoda claiming that it is possible to integrate augmented reality and virtual trial functionality into the platform, although the immediate goal is to help retailers take advantage. data accompanying the service.
“What if, in real time, we could advise salespeople to smile more to help their cause? Hordagoda says, adding that video commerce data offers an opportunity to sell more, optimize the customer experience, and help encourage and motivate staff.
“Ten years ago, omnichannel technology was basically putting an iPad in a store and saying ‘come into the store and shop online,’” he adds.
“We thought the challenge was the other way around. Taking low store traffic and giving access to more products online didn’t make sense – taking high web traffic and applying something that has a high conversation rate is definitely the best way to do it.
With more and more retailers flocking to this technology, the industry tends to agree.