Livestream shopping has taken China by storm and its growth shows no signs of slowing. Now, US brands seem to be copying the phenomenon in a bid to woo consumers who are still too afraid to visit real-world stores.

The Wall Street Journal reports that two early adopter brands in the US, Levi’s and Tommy Hilfiger, have launched a version aimed at appealing to consumers who regard QVC – the US shopping channel network – and the Home Shopping Network, with a snooty disdain.

Brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Levi Strauss, the Journal says, are luring consumers with thirty-minute to one-hour sessions during which a number of products are shown and tips and advice are given regarding them. Those tuning in are able to interact with the presenters by asking questions, and, of course, they can buy the items.

In China, livestreaming e-commerce has reached massive proportions. Introduced in 2016, it came into its own this year during the peak of the lockdown and the fallout that still makes many consumers reluctant to go into stores. During China’s latest annual shopping festival, livestream e-commerce generated $449.5 million in sales on 1 July alone.

A Tommy Hilfiger livestream show in China during the summer attracted 14 million viewers and sold out of 1,300 hoodies in two minutes, according to the brand’s CMO, Michael Scheiner.

Repeating that kind of success in the States is perhaps still some way off. Even so, Coresight Research forecasts that e-commerce livestreaming will generate $25bn in sales in the US by 2023.

Amazon, Facebook and Instagram have already launched live sales tests and Levi’s says it is planning a livestreamed show during Prime Day later this month as a way to differentiate the brand from so many others on such a busy shopping day.

Small retailers, in particular, who have been so badly mauled by the pandemic are finding that streaming e-commerce offers a new route to market and also creates a sense of community.

The Journal highlights Sheri and Mic Hensley, owners of a clothes boutique in Mississippi, who have been hosting two livestream events a day on Facebook since the start of the pandemic. Sales have more than doubled.

“A lot of people think of this as reality TV,” Hensley said. “They love interacting with us.” The streaming events seem to connect people socially at a time of isolation. “There are about 25 women who have become friends through this,” she added. “They want us to have a party after COVID so they can all meet each other in person.”

Sourced from Wall Street Journal, O'Ratings; additional content by WARC staff