Millennials arguably popularised online shopping and more recently, social selling. Now, online retailers need to watch the changing face of digital commerce and tune in on shopping trends emerging with the “TikTok Generation”, digital-first consumers who were born with their fingers on the digital pulse. In 2021, live shopping is the trend to watch among those to have grown up with real-time interactions from Instagram and TikTok.
The live shopping trend emerged during the pandemic in response to the retail industry-wide challenge of engaging with customers during national lockdowns. Since, Amazon Live, Instagram, Facebook and Google have all incorporated live shopping features which allow shoppers to compare and purchase the goods they see on-screen online in real-time.
So how can retailers integrate live shopping into their e-commerce strategy to take advantage of digital trends to engage younger consumers?
Live shopping is the first of many more digital trends which will require limitless agility, the ability to adapt to changing trends and shopper demands with no technology barriers slowing them down. To achieve it, brands must look towards their commerce infrastructure before all else. To make live shopping work, digital commerce systems need to set up to easily interact with social media channels. They also need to be prepared to handle the high-volume traffic that often comes with influencer audiences when they showcase a new product.
For retailers using an outdated monolithic online commerce infrastructure, a lot of work is needed to modernise the jittery digital shopping experiences of the past, and incomplete information if done incorrectly. ‘Headless’ commerce technology offers a much more reliable solution.
That means front-ends are ‘decoupled’ from the back-end, so brands can deploy a limitless number of customer-facing channels and touchpoints, including websites, apps, live shopping capabilities and mixed-reality options such as click and collect. Furthermore, since the back-end acts as the hub for data, information flows through onto each front-end to realise a consistent experience for shoppers.
Retailers can adapt the online shopping experience using ‘API-first’ platforms, also known as API-based commerce platforms. Designed with freedom and flexibility in mind, API-first platforms adapt an application for use on any platform. As new methods of social selling emerge, commerce infrastructure needs to be evermore adaptable.
This is especially the case with live shopping, which is already supported by multiple platforms and relies on fast and safe information exchanges between multiple hosting platforms, channels and touchpoints for a successful user experience. API-first commerce platforms also mean it is quicker and easier for developers to make changes to improve the experience of each front-end, at the same time, and there is less risk of ‘breaking’ digital systems due to how the technology is set-up.
Support for query language GraphQL, which has been developed for APIs, can benefit data-rich sources like live-shopping platforms. GraphQL makes it easy to manage and update data within commerce systems which often interact with plain APIs and a lot of unneeded peripheral data.
Influencer platforms vary in complexity and ability. As such, when interacting with a live-shopping host, a brand’s commerce systems will only access the data it needs to communicate. Surplus data can make performance sluggish and add work for developers, none of which is necessary with GraphQL at hand. With a smaller data payload, users can enjoy faster speeds and experience optimised live-shopping as intended.
Cloud-native meets digital-native
Young audiences have adapted to the vast selection of products available to them online, and they seek recommendations from trusted sources on social media. Influencers now play a pivotal role in the brand selection process, so those hoping to benefit will have to accommodate the large number of followers that track influencer activity.
To do so, digital systems need to handle and host visitors from multiple sources, simultaneously and in the large traffic spikes associated with viral social media trends. This requires the scalability available with software based in the cloud, rather than that which is just hosted in the cloud.
In a traditional e-commerce suite, developers will need to rapidly organise additional resources to avoid overloaded commerce channels. Instead, cloud-native technology copes automatically during peak online traffic and prevents jarring crashes in action.
Furthermore, cloud-native commerce technology acts as a guarantee for a smooth shopping experience. More important than ever to impress a generation which has never experienced dial-up broadband connection, brands need to ensure data-heavy applications that include real-time video, audio and chat functions are fast to load and effortless to use.
Capitalising on live shopping
Integrated correctly, live shopping offers more to brands than direct selling alone. These sales events also offer opportunities for product placement, live demos and brand recognition via word of mouth. So, it makes sense that a function designed to enhance a brand’s reputation will have to be done right to make the desired impact.
Digital savvy shoppers who have grown up with social media expect flawless performance and easy instant access to the online spaces they use the most. Capitalising on an audience’s willingness to try new things and engage with products in innovative ways, brand need to armour systems with interoperable design and instant scalability.
Ultimately, attracting new customers with live-shopping capabilities needs to be backed up with modern, cloud-native headless infrastructure to capture spend as well as captivate audiences.
Joshua Emblin is territory director for Asia Pacific at commercetools