Small and mid-sized ecommerce businesses can use live streaming to sell like QVC and HSN, introducing and demonstrating products as well as providing helpful content. And deploying live streaming now can take advantage of consumers’ new, pandemic-driven buying habits.
First, a little background.
QVC and HSN (formerly Home Shopping Network) are multichannel merchants with a history of broadcasting product pitches. HSN and QVC started sharing products on American television in, respectively, 1982 and 1986. Both now sell via several channels, such as social media, the companies’ websites (via live streaming), and television.
Ecommerce retailers, no matter how small, can adopt similar tactics, offering a blend of QVC-or-HSN-like salesmanship and useful content marketing.
The technology behind live streaming is not new. But now, because Covid-19 has changed retail, merchants could garner more benefit from live streaming than was previously possible.
“Covid has escalated everything,” said Daniel Mayer, CEO of Be.Live, a company that facilitates live streaming. “In my view, it escalated things in years. We jumped three years ahead, five years ahead…and we are watching huge trends that were here. We need to mention that it’s not like a trend that the world is not familiar with. If we consider China, we would see that this trend [using live streaming for ecommerce] has been there for like 10 years — and if we are watching Asia, they are selling everything in live shopping.”
“When it comes to the U.S.,” Mayer continued,” it is just the beginning of the trend.”
The idea is that eventually, many retailers in the United States would have figured out that they could leverage their followings on Facebook, as an example, to share products via live streaming.
New Shopping Habits
Mayer’s point is that this year’s coronavirus pandemic sped up the trend as many online and brick-and-mortar sellers sought to find new ways to connect with customers.
This makes sense because shopping, in many ways, is a habit. It’s one of the points that author Charles Duhigg makes in his book, “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.”
Duhigg notes that life events impact our shopping behavior. Pregnancy, “changing residence, getting married or divorced, losing or changing jobs…are life changes that make consumers more ‘vulnerable to intervention by marketers.’”
The current pandemic is just such a life-changing event. So it makes sense that shoppers are creating new buying habits and that marketers should work to help establish those habits in a way that is favorable for their stores.
“Live shopping is providing a new experience, and people feel that it is somehow like the offline experience,” Mayer said. “It is providing them the confidence [to make purchases]. It is providing them with lots of trust. [It gives shoppers] the ability to ask questions, the ability to speak with the seller, the ability to watch the community providing their reviews of the specific product on the live show.”
In the coronavirus context, live shopping may help fill a void and could be habit-forming.
What’s more, the technology to produce an ecommerce live stream is not expensive or complicated.
Connecting with Consumers
“Live streaming is about authentic connections and can be a powerful way for ecommerce businesses to get their message out to consumers and potential consumers,” said Katie Fawkes, a digital marketing manager with Ecamm.
“Depending on the business’s branding, it can leverage live streaming for selling products — a live stream flash sale, for example — sharing behind-the-scenes content, [such as] how a product is made, what the vibe is in the office, or among different team members, or even thought leadership. A shoe ecommerce business, for example, could do a weekly live show sharing about their ethical sourcing methods and how that’s having an impact in the world.
“Consumers buy from businesses they know, like, and trust,” Fawkes continued. “An ecommerce business should look to their target audience and see what kind of content would matter most to that group…this could be a variety of things from live-streamed sales, to interviews with industry experts, to behind-the-scenes, and more. Remember, although every live stream broadcast is in itself impactful, it can also be repurposed and used in all aspects of larger marketing efforts.
“The most important part is for ecommerce businesses to be thinking past their products and focusing on the ‘why’ and the story that matters to their consumers.”
Use Purchasing Trends to Merchandise Products
You are not alone if confused about the products people are apt to buy today. Even consumers aren’t always sure. Most consumers have opted to stay closer to home during a time when family vacations and festivals would have been the norm.
How we present information on the home page, landing pages, and across social media impacts sales. If you’re struggling to find what works for your target audience, consider using overall purchasing trends as a guide.
Covid-19 Commerce Insight (“CCInsights”) is a collaboration of Emarsys, the omnichannel engagement platform, and GoodData, a business-intelligence firm. Its purpose is to provide trends and analysis, based on 1 billion consumers and 2,500 brands, of the economic impact of Covid-19. According to CCInsights, U.S. consumers in the mid-2020 are focused on goods that fall into four main categories:
- Physical self-improvement. Personal exercise equipment and nutrition.
- Simplified household management. Appliances, gadgets, and tools that make running the household smoother.
- Comfortable living. Home decor and related products that make the house feel more like an oasis.
- Outdoor fun. Items for the backyard and local outings.
Even when they don’t directly apply to your business model, understanding trends helps identify ways to present products online.
CCInsights reports that the simple jump rope gained momentum mid-March and has retained popularity ever since. It’s ranked in the top 10 trending products many times over, peaking at a year-over-year uplift of more than 62,000 percent in May and 2,841 percent for the year ended July 30.
Product trends tell us what consumers are more likely to purchase.
Consider, for example, personal fitness items. Top trending goods (beyond jump ropes) include handheld weights, boxing gloves, and basketball hoops. Ranked lower are treadmills and ellipticals. This tells us consumers don’t have the room or budget for full-sized equipment. Perhaps many are waiting for gyms reopen in their area.
Motorcycle helmets and golf clubs are on the rise. Here we can deduce plenty of people want to get outdoors, but they’re more apt to do so either by themselves or in small groups.
The acceleration of residential power tools tells us that folks are tackling home-based do-it-yourself projects. That means they’re more focused on living comfortably.
The trend of programmable washing machines and dishwashers explains a desire to work smarter, not harder.
From all this, we can decipher that most consumers want to find ways to appreciate life at home by making things as functional, comfortable, and attractive as they can. Merchants can use these insights to select the best products to feature throughout their online store and third-party channels.
By understanding trends in your target audience, you can focus on what’s most apt to appeal.
For example, Dick’s Sporting Goods combines trending activities with context-of-use images to promote bikes, golf equipment, backyard games, and portable fitness products.
BSN Sports’ home page gives primary attention to at-home training, directly linking to relatively small and affordable products.
Lowe’s shifts its long term focus from home improvement, tools, and appliances to converting small spaces into workplaces. The home page links to do-it-yourself worksheets and unique products, such as headphones, office chairs, and wi-fi range extenders.
The Container Store groups items in multiple categories to create a robust section called “Home Learning Solutions.”
Not all brands can take advantage of trends. Still, even merchants that sell luxury or high-cost merchandise have options.
Take Cub Cadet, for example. It manufactures residential and commercial yard equipment — not minor accessories. Before displaying a single product, its home page promotes free delivery or local pick-up as well as financing options — capitalizing on trends of comfortable and affordable home maintenance.
If you sell higher-priced items — essential or not — financing options, free delivery, and extended warranties are an excellent way to convey value.
Consumer response to the pandemic isn’t changing anytime soon. With the end of summer near and continued restrictions, most people plan to stay close to home for at least the rest of the year. This translates to continued ecommerce growth across most sectors.
However, with growth comes competition. To keep and attract customers, consider using nationwide trends as part of your product spotlight strategy.
5 Content Marketing Ideas for September 2020
Content marketing is the act of creating, publishing, and promoting articles, podcasts, and videos with the intent of attracting, engaging, and retaining customers. Producing such content in September 2020 is difficult, however, without recognizing the worldwide pandemic.
Fortunately, there are still many opportunities to generate productive content around back-to-school, dating, hobbies, shopping, and reading.
Here are five content marketing ideas your business can try in September 2020.
1. Back-to-school Tips
Although many schools will start in August, there is plenty of time to offer back-to-school content in September due to the on-going coronavirus pandemic.
This year, many schools will likely hold some combination of online and in-person classes. What’s more, the balance of homeschooling and physical classes will probably be fluctuating throughout the month and beyond. Your business could help with this uncertainty.
For September, consider publishing how-to and informational articles, podcasts, or videos that will help parents deal with these challenges.
Here are a few possible examples.
- Woodworking supply store. Publish articles showing how to build a folding desk for homeschooling or how to transform a table into a stand-up workspace.
- Office supply retailer. Create a “how-to-find-a-tutor guide” for professionals who might be working from home and homeschooling, too. Include a list of homeschooling supplies.
- Children’s apparel shop. Produce a series on how to save money on clothing during the school year, since so many classes may be online.
- Kitchen supply merchant. Produce nutritious recipes that kids can make at home.
2. Stay-at-home Date Nights
The global pandemic has altered the habits of consumers. This includes how couples date. For your business’s September 2020 content marketing, consider creating content around enjoying a fun stay-at-home date night.
Try to integrate your company’s products into the stay-at-home ideas. For example, date-night tips from an art supply retailer might include:
- Complete a paint-by-numbers project,
- Watch a Bob Ross training episode on YouTube,
- Trace old photos, transforming them into sketches.
Similarly, an online shop that sells teas and coffees could compose articles around tea tastings, coffee cake making, and the like.
3. New Hobbies
The pandemic is prompting consumers to pick up new hobbies, as described in these example articles:
If this trend continues in September, you could create a series of new hobby suggestions that are related to the products your business sells.
- Craft shop. Suggest, as examples, crocheting, knitting, sewing, cross-stitch, painting, and scrapbooking.
- Kitchen supply store. Recommend cooking, baking, coffee-making, or similar.
- An outfitter. Discuss fly tying, photography, and map collecting.
As a bonus, try to suggest three kinds of hobbies:
- Hobbies that make money,
- Hobbies that keep participants physically fit,
- Hobbies that are creative.
4. Pandemic Holiday Shopping
Starting a new hobby is not the only Covid-induced behavioral change. Shopping habits have changed, too. Holiday shopping in 2020 will be unlike any other year.
Thus, how online stores promote holiday sales may need to change, as well. For example, some consumers may be nervous about product availability and could start shopping much sooner this year.
Consider publishing holiday gift guides in the form of articles, podcasts, and videos as soon as possible.
As inspiration, here are several gift-giving guides (Christmas and otherwise) with a dad-theme.
5. Read a Book Day: September 6
September 6, 2020, is “National Read a Book Day” in the United States. It’s an opportunity to pull out your company’s list of favorite novels and nonfiction works. Book recommendations may not seem exciting, but they can be useful evergreen content.
As with all content marketing ideas, look for ways to connect your read-a-book listicles to the products your company sells.
For example, an omnichannel farm and ranch supply retailer might choose to recommend novels from Laura Ingalls Wilder, Zane Grey, and Louis L’Amour.
An online retailer selling hiking and camping gear could recommend books such as “Into the Wild, Between a Rock and a Hard Place” by Aron Ralston, who amputated his arm while mountain climbing. Or, “Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man’s Miraculous Survival” by Joe Simpson, who fell from a vertical mountain face in the Andes.
‘Buy On Google’ Opens to All Merchants
Google Shopping has made its second significant change in the last few months. The first change was implementing free Google Shopping listings. The second is opening the “Buy on Google” program to all merchants, commission-free.
“Buy on Google” allows consumers to purchase products from merchants without leaving Google. The program will roll out to all merchants by early 2021, according to Google.
Consider the example below of the “Buy on Google” process. After searching “hard drives,” a consumer can access the “Shopping” tab and click the “Buy on Google” option.
Clicking the first listing (“Samsung Portable SSD T7” external drive) will produce a product page. Consumers can then click “Quick checkout” or “Add to cart,” log in to Google (if they haven’t already), and fill out delivery details and payment info.
Aside from being commission-free, changes to the program include:
- Linking to your payment provider in Merchant Center. Formerly, Buy on Google advertisers could use only PayPal to process payments from consumers. Shopify Payments is now an option, with more payment processors to come. Merchants will need to link their payment processor with Merchant Center.
- Handling customer support directly. Google previously provided exclusive support to Buy on Google consumers. Those support queries, such as order or shipping problems, will now initially go to merchants, who must provide an appropriate customer-support email address in Merchant Center.
- Product returns. Google can process returns from consumers, or merchants can do it themselves. If Google does it, merchants will link to their shipping carrier in Merchant Center. The carrier will then bill merchants directly.
- Amazon product feeds. Another change is the ability to upload the same product feed for Amazon into Merchant Center. Google will automatically map the fields. This is a huge value-add in my experience, as technical product-feed glitches can be challenging.
Consumers who purchase through Google receive a guarantee against incorrect or late shipments and not receiving a refund after returning items. Google encourages consumers to contact the merchant first. If no response after two days, Google provides Shopping support.
Audience data is not available to merchants who use “Buy with Google.” If they tag their site with Google Ads or Analytics pixels, merchants can create audiences and set up remarketing campaigns. Merchants can also create lookalike audiences to expand their reach. But now, consumers will purchase directly on Google. Merchants cannot remarket to them.
Consider, also, brand implications. The entire experience is now on Google. Consumers’ product research and subsequent purchase transactions occur through Google — not the merchant’s site. Likely this will diminish merchants’ branding.
Additionally, participating merchants who submit incorrect product information and perform poor customer service risk suspension by Google.
The Big Picture
Google’s marketplace quest continues. Though it has been live for a while, “Buy on Google” is now available to all merchants. By not paying commissions, merchants can potentially increase advertising budgets. Google Shopping is already a top revenue source for many companies. “Buy on Google” is a logical next step.
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