With hundreds of millions of consumers confined to their homes during the coronavirus outbreak, China’s experience of livestreaming points to a way for brands to both entertain and continue to sell products while physical outlets are closed, a new WARC study says.

The Trend Snapshot: COVID-19 special – livestream commerce report notes pre-lockdown forecasts that as many as 525 million would watch a livestream in 2020; post-lockdown that figure is likely to be significantly larger.

Livestreaming is also evolving from its role as an online sales and engagement channel – one that has become essential for brands during the COVID-19 crisis and which is likely to continue when the country returns to normality – into an entertainment one.

New entertainment formats, dubbed ‘cloud reality shows’, have sprung up, with celebrities and artists livestreaming from their homes. Tens of millions of users even watched a livestream of the construction of new emergency hospitals in Hubei Province.

The West has been slower to embrace livestreaming, partly for tech reasons, but widespread coronavirus lockdowns and the cancellation of live events mean that is changing quickly.

Artists are livestreaming concerts to entertain confined consumers, who can also livestream a visit to the zoo. A livestreamed DJ set by D-Nice on Instagram Live attracted more that 100,000 viewers, including celebrities like Janet Jackson, Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. TikTok’s usage was up nearly 10% during Italy’s lockdown, according to Kantar figures.

The question now is whether consumers will be willing to make purchases via livestreaming, or if it will remain an entertainment-only format in the short- to medium-term.

The greatest opportunities exist within categories such as fashion and beauty, which already dominate the landscape in China. These products have a short decision cycle and can be purchased and shipped quickly and easily.

Brands able to offer a utility – such as sportswear firms helping consumers to keep fit indoors – are also presented with potent content possibilities.

Brands are only “in the beginnings of what’s possible” from a commerce perspective, according to Sophie Harding, Futures Director at Mindshare UK, and advertisers should “get ready for a rapid escalation” in the months and years ahead.

“Modern marketing was built off the back of television, expanded into digital and, post-crisis, things like [livestream commerce] may be its future,” she says.

Sourced from WARC