Social Commerce Brought Retail Right to Shoppers in 2020

Through interactive videos, shoppable livestreams, and embedded product links, huge retailers are finding new ways to reach their biggest fans.

Social media proved to be a vital connector this year, as many of us looked for tech-enabled ways to connect to our friends and family. It also proved vital to businesses, which leveraged the power of social commerce—comprising of livestream shopping, shoppable interactive videos, and other mediums—to engage, and sell to, shoppers, directly in their homes.

Social commerce has long been popular in Asian markets but has struggled to find a foothold in North America. The pandemic’s reduction in brick-and-mortar shopping, as well as the steady rise in influencer marketing, created an ideal climate for social commerce to finally break through—and take off.

Estée Lauder Boosts Digital Sales 60% Via Livestreaming, Virtual Try-Ons

  • Estee Lauder’s online sales grew 60% in Q4 to improved online services while conversion rates improved by nearly 10 times.
  • The iconic beauty brand’s net sales totaled $3.56 billion for the quarter and digital sales comprised 35% of all first-quarter retail sales in the Americas.
  • Brands under the Estee Lauder umbrella launched virtual try-on sessions, shoppable livestreams, and digital consultations to better connect with customers online.

Estee Lauder launched virtual try-on sessions for a number of its brands, which rely on augmented reality technology to allow customers to see how a makeup product would look on their skin, hosting more than one million sessions globally. Iconic brands like Clinique and Bobbi Brown, part of the Estee Lauder family, launched shoppable live streams to better connect with customers. Bobbi Brown also used pre-booked virtual consultations, live chat, and masterclass programs to generate online sales. 

Fabrizio Freda, president and CEO of The Estée Lauder Companies, said that, throughout 2020, the company “continued to strategically invest in our brand sites globally, bringing our classic high-touch services to consumers online. The response has been phenomenal.”

Levi’s, Hilfiger Experiment with Livestream Shopping Model

  • Both brands are using livestreamed product demos featuring models, influencers. and celebrities to sell goods online.
  • Hilfiger attracted over 14 million shoppers to a livestream event held in China earlier this year and sold out of 1,300 hoodies in less than two minutes.
  • Streamed shopping events, which are popular in China, are predicted to generate $25 billion in sales in the U.S. by 2023.

Levi Strauss and Tommy Hilfiger launched QVC-style livestreamed product demos in order to engage a customer demographic that was—and likely will remain—more comfortable than ever shopping from home. The online live streams feature influencers, celebrities, and models wearing and discussing apparel. Customers can ask questions of hosts and guests during the livestream and can purchase the items they see being modeled. Levi Strauss & Co. has been hosting live events on Amazon since 2018; a Hilfiger live stream in October month attracted more than 12,000 viewers.

Research indicates that live stream shopping is on the uptick: according to Coresight Research, online sales events such as live streams will generate $25 billion annually by 2023. Indeed, Hilfiger has already seen huge results: in August, the brand attracted 14 million viewers to a live stream in China.

Swarovski Taps Livestream Tech to Host Virtual Shopping Events

  • Swarovski has begun leaning into virtual shopping by hosting its own online shopping events.
  • Using Go Instore, a video streaming platform that offers virtual shopping services, customers can join a livestream to ask questions or see products close up.
  • Livestream shopping may be the next big thing for retail’s new normal: along with Swarovski, other major brands like Samsung and L’Oreal are tapping into the useful new tech.

Using Go Instore’s, Swarovski can now connect customers with sales consultants directly from their desktop or mobile devices. Go Instore, a video streaming platform, allows retail brands to connect with customers but hosting virtual shopping experiences. The service allows companies to access customers in a new way, allows retail staff to work from home (or anywhere else, really), and provides customers access to staff “in-person” to ask questions about products or services. Customers can also look at different products, and direct a camera wherever they want to go in-store.

According to the brand’s Linkedin post sharing the news, Swarovski’s aim is to “build a connection online and ensure a personalized experience through a live video chat.” 

L’Oreal Doubles Down on Social Commerce Investment

  • The beauty and cosmetics giant has acquired a minority stake in Replika Software.
  • Replika, which provides turnkey social-selling solutions for brands, lists Sephora, Dior, and Vichy among its existing beauty-brand partners.
  • L’Oreal has been a pioneer in implementing social commerce strategies such as livestream shopping.

On December 10, L’Oreal announced it had made a significant investment in Replika, through its corporate venture fund, BOLD Business Opportunities for L’Oréal Development. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. L’Oreal experimented throughout 2020 with social selling, using the platform Livescale to host interactive, shoppable events starting in June. The Replika Software investment gives the beauty brand a significant leg up in the social-selling arena, as Replika is a leader in the field. The company’s turnkey platform allows brands, brand ambassadors, and social sellers to instantly curate digital stores and engage with customers online and can be seamlessly integrated into any social media network.

Lubomira Rochet, chief digital officer of L’Oréal, called social commerce “a great opportunity for our brands to reinvent the consumer beauty experience worldwide” in a statement announcing the Replika investment.

Walmart Debuts Interactive Shoppable Cooking Videos

  • Walmart Cookshop features interactive videos starring celebrity chefs and other famous faces.
  • The videos, which are hosted by actress Sofia Vergara, will star Jamie Oliver, food blogger The Pioneer Woman, and singer Patti LaBelle.
  • Users control ingredients that are added to each video recipe, and can purchase products and ingredients from Walmart, directly from the video.

Walmart Cookshop, which launched on November 23, features recipes from celebrity chefs and other stars and allows viewers to tailor the recipes they’re watching to their specific tastes and dietary specifications. Actress Sofia Vergara is featured in a tutorial that teaches viewers how to navigate the Cookshop videos; celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, food blogger Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman, and singer Patti LaBelle. The videos are a partnership between Walmart and eko, an interactive-video technology provider.

Crucially, the videos are shoppable: At the end of each recipe video, viewers are given the opportunity to purchase ingredients to make the dish at home, directly from Walmart. Walmart previously partnered with eko on a series of interactive videos around Halloween. In an interview discussing the ongoing eko partnership, Walmart EVP Janey Whiteside said the initiative is part of Walmart’s “journey to try to change the relationship that retailers can have with their customers, so it goes from transactional to being much more emotional and fun.”

Walmart Tests Livestream Shopping With TikTok

  • The live, shoppable experience from Walmart acted as a pilot test for the retailer’s further integration with video-sharing platform TikTok.
  • During the live stream, TikTok users were able to purchase Walmart fashion items they see without navigating away from TikTok.
  • The stream was hosted by TikTok star Michael Le and featured other TikTok celebrities.
  • Items were still shoppable via Walmart’s TikTok page after the live stream ended.

The pilot test, a “Holiday Shop-Along Spectacular,” streamed on December 18, and featured TikTok celebrities and creators showing off their favorite Walmart fashion items. It will be hosted by Michael Le, a TikTok star with more than 43 million followers. During the stream, TikTok users could purchase Walmart items without leaving the app, by tapping on pins that will pop up throughout the stream, allowing users to add items to their cart. Viewers could also review all of the items featured in the Shop-Along after the stream was over, and purchase them at that time.

The Walmart-TikTok livestream partnership was an extension of a deal inked earlier this year that saw Walmart acquire a 7.5% ownership stake in the social media platform’s U.S. operations, demonstrating the retail giant’s substantial commitment to e-commerce and digital innovation.