Live stream shopping may have become an increasingly popular business in other parts of the world. However, how has it caught on in the UK? We surveyed over 1,000 online consumers who regularly use social media platforms to gather tips on how small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) can best utilise this technology.

How UK consumers feel about live shopping

Live shopping is an eCommerce strategy which has seen rapid growth in China across a wide range of sectors and products. This year alone, the Chinese live stream sector is expected to reach US$720 billion. A format that has been bolstered by the pandemic even in the UK, live shopping is expected to account for 20% of all eCommerce sales in the country by 2025

This indicates that the success of this format may not have been lost in Western countries. There is no shortage of social media platforms, and many provide live shopping features similar to those available in Asia. This may encourage SMEs to develop social media marketing strategies that incorporate campaigns involving live commerce. However, are younger generations more open to using these live shopping features to purchase products? Could the format be as successful for SMEs in the UK?

Having analysed consumer perceptions towards influencers —who often host live commerce events— in the first part of our survey, we wanted to discover if there is an opportunity for small businesses to benefit from deploying live commerce in the UK. To do so, we surveyed over 1,000 online shoppers who regularly use social media. In particular, we wanted to find out if they had already live-shopped and delve further into their interests and habits when it comes to familiarity with this eCommerce tool. The full methodology is available at the end of this article.

Over half of respondents are aware of the concept of live commerce

In order to decide whether live commerce is a valuable strategy for SMEs to invest in, it is important to understand if consumers know what live commerce is and if it is a shopping format they want to take part in.

What is live shopping?

Live shopping —also known as live stream shopping or live commerce— is an eCommerce format that lets businesses conduct transactions for goods and services online and where brands and influencers can market and sell products and services through live internet transmissions —known as live streams— on digital platforms. These platforms can include video streaming platforms or social media apps/sites like Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok, often merging online shopping and entertainment. 

The objective of live shopping could be to provide consumers with an interactive experience where they can engage in real-time with the brand via hosts, ask questions, and exchange opinions with fellow shoppers. These live stream shopping events are often hosted by influencers, but they can also be hosted by celebrities, experts, or company representatives.

Typically, purchases can be completed either directly on the platform where the live stream is taking place, or shoppers can be redirected to a provider’s website where they can complete the checkout process.

In terms of the awareness of this concept, according to Capterra’s survey results, a combined total of 59% of respondents were aware of the concept of live commerce before reading the definition in the survey questionnaire, with 21% knowing exactly what live shopping was, and 38% knowing the concept but not the name.

This differed throughout generations, with Millennials (those born between 1978 – 1995) —at a combined total of 69% and Gen Z (those born in 1996 or later) at a combined total of 64%— having a better understanding of the concept.

One in four respondents have already live shopped

Even if more than half of respondents were aware of the concept of live commerce, when it came to participating in these events, the results were somewhat lower. Only a combined total of 25% of survey-takers said they had participated in a live-streaming commerce event.

How many UK respondents have used live commerce shopping?

Moreover, since over half (51%) of respondents said that they haven’t participated in a live commerce event, but are interested in it, this can be an encouraging indicator for SMEs who want to experiment with this format. 

Still, it is necessary to have an understanding of your audience when opting to choose this format. Our survey also shows that younger generations use social media more often than older ones. A significant proportion (46%) of Gen Z respondents used social media more than ten times a day. Only 28% of Millenials, 18% of Generation X (those born between 1965 – 1977) and 16% of Boomers (those born between 1946 – 1964) use social media that often.

When it comes to using social media as a platform to buy products, as occurs with live commerce, another Capterra survey also showed that GenZ was the most likely to purchase goods on social media.

However, while the use of social media is higher among Gen Z respondents in comparison to older generations, when it comes to live shopping, the usage differs, with Millennials being more active. Of those survey takers who stated that they had either used live commerce once or several times, there was a clear generational difference between Boomers at 6% and Generation X at 11%, while Millennials and GenZ stood at 39%, and 29%, respectively. 

Ideally, SMEs that seek to use live commerce as a strategy should evaluate generational buying behaviour and research their markets to know who their target demographics are.

How can SMEs research their markets?

There are several steps and tools SMEs can leverage to gather insights into their target markets. Here are four key suggestions, among possible others:

  1. Define a target market and include details such as their projected age, gender, location, income, and education level. In addition, businesses should determine why their services/products are the best solution for that specific audience.
  2. Gather qualitative and quantitative data using market research tools and survey software to determine if there is an addressable market for the product.
  3.  Assess the performance of different channels (social media platforms as well as the brand’s app, website, etc.) to see which medium gets the most traffic and from which demographic groups.
  4. Conduct competitor analysis and compare pricing and marketing tactics to see how businesses differentiate themselves.

Live shopping used to buy products, discover brands, and find discounts

There can be numerous benefits to live shopping. Retailers can leverage the format to provide detailed product information and interact with customers. This can also be a useful format for brands looking for creative and engaging ways to reach out to consumers. Meanwhile, consumers can gain better perceptions of the physical attributes of a product and can ask any questions directly during the demonstration.

When asked to explain the reasons why they use live shopping, live commerce users —the subset of respondents who have already live shopped— highlighted different motives, the most popular of which were purchasing products, discovering new brands, and finding offers or discounts.

Reasons why UK consumers participate in live stream shopping events

This further emphasises the many reasons why consumers may turn to live stream commerce. Here are some tactics brands can use to boost engagement via such events:

How can brands attract more consumers to their live stream shopping events?

There are several ways brands can attract consumers to their live commerce experiences. Some such strategies include:

  1. Exclusive discounts and offers: with 30% of users saying that they use live shopping to seek new discounts, brands should consider offering exclusive discount codes, customer loyalty programs, and other offers during their live stream event. This can help to create a buzz among consumers and encourage participation and engagement. 
  2. Interactive and personalised offers: by offering a valuable resource or incentive in exchange for a prospect's contact information and leveraging data and customer preferences, brands can provide personalised promotions and discounts to consumers. Gamification —a format through which customers can gain rewards by participating in online games or quizzes— can help increase interaction with brands and improve customer engagement. 
  3. Promote launches of new products live: since nearly three in ten live commerce users utilise live streaming to discover new brands and products, brands can leverage these platforms to launch limited edition or exclusive products to attract viewers. They can also run promotional campaigns leading up to the live commerce event on their social media channels to boost brand awareness, create curiosity and interest, and motivate consumers to visit their website.

Fashion and apparel were the most popular products to watch in live shopping events

While 37% of live commerce users like to watch live commerce events about fashion items, there were also other popular products they watched during these live-streaming commerce events, such as:

  • Electronics (36%)
  • Food and beverages (36%)
  • Beauty and wellness (33%)
  • Home decor (30%)

For SMEs that offer a range of different products, it might be worth conducting live shopping events for products such as apparel, electronics, and food and beverages, among others.

Majority of users are satisfied with their overall live shopping experience

With a view to understanding whether live commerce can be as popular in the UK as in other countries, we asked our users —the subset of respondents who have used live commerce— to rank their overall experience with such events. 

A combined total of 76% of users were satisfied with their overall shopping experience. This is further backed by the fact that from the combined total of 93% of respondents who had participated in live shopping events and bought something, 65% had made more than one purchase. 

There are several reasons why these respondents are satisfied with their experience. These include:

  • They liked the product that was presented (54%)
  • They liked the detailed description of the product’s features (42%)
  • They liked the technical aspects of the streaming, such as video quality, Q&As, etc. (40%)

Keeping these pointers in mind, businesses should ensure that there is clarity when presenting products via live streams, ensure there are no technical glitches during the event, and that they add detailed descriptions and thoroughly explain the product details and features.

There are a variety of platforms that consumers can use to attend live shopping events. However, social media tools are the most popular platforms for live commerce. This is evident from the fact that 73% of surveyed consumers who have participated in a live commerce event previously preferred to use such platforms, such as Instagram and Tik Tok. 

When managing campaigns over different social media platforms, SMEs can use social media marketing platforms to create and share content through various social media channels. These platforms can help facilitate the management of a brand's social media presence by streamlining the process of posting and engaging with the audience. This can be done by leveraging some of the features of social media marketing tools provide, including social listening tools, automated content scheduling, and campaign planning, tracking, and optimisation capabilities. 

Another 58% of users said that they had used video streaming platforms to live shop. Using a company application to broadcast their live commerce event may seem less viable for businesses, with only 17% of respondents who have purchased goods and products from live commerce using it.

The platforms UK respondents use for live commerce

SMEs can also learn from non-users when evaluating their live commerce strategies

Nearly a quarter of survey respondents (24%) stated that they had not participated in a live commerce shopping event and were not interested in trying it. When asked to elaborate on why they were reluctant to participate in these events, the most cited reason was that they were ‘already satisfied with more traditional ways of shopping’ (68%). Along with this, 39% of this group of respondents said that they did not want to be more influenced by brands. 

Interestingly, even though 44% of the same subset of respondents were adamant that no factor would motivate them to try live commerce in the future, 31% of the same set of respondents admitted that they would consider trying live commerce in the future if exclusive offers and discounts were offered. SMEs should take heed of this and ensure that they include discounts and offers as part of their live stream event to attract audiences.

Why are some UK consumers not interested in using live commerce

Half of all respondents don’t use live commerce but are interested in the format

With 51% of respondents saying that they had not participated in live shopping but were interested in it, we wanted to know why they would want to try live commerce.

Similar to respondents who have already used live commerce, survey respondents who were yet to use live stream shopping but were interested in it would be keen to buy products online (54%) and discover new brands and products (48%). Given that a significant number of people are looking to discover new products, brands thinking about launching new products and services should consider incorporating live stream events in their promotional campaigns.

Brands will need to identify their target audience when deploying live commerce

Live stream commerce can be useful in many brands’ marketing tech stack and content marketing strategies. While some consumers may still prefer traditional shopping methods, many can appreciate the benefits live commerce can deliver when buying products, and discovering new trends or discounts.

However, businesses that want to use this shopping format will need to identify their target market's demographic factors. These factors could include things like defining their target audience and the generation they pertain to, and adapting their campaigns to these consumer groups’ shopping and user habits. The messaging and channels used may also depend on their target audience’s preferences. 

In addition, SMEs should focus on providing personalised and exclusive offers and discounts to attract audiences and spark curiosity in their events. When showcasing products, brands should be clear and articulate when explaining product details, while also being prepared to interact with customers and address any questions they may have.

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Data for Capterra’s 2023 Live Commerce and Influencers Survey was collected in April 2023. Results comprise responses from 1,013 participants from the United Kingdom. The criteria to be selected for this study are as follows:

  • UK resident
  • Between 18 and 65 years of age
  • Shops online at least every couple of months
  • Uses social media platforms at least a few times per month