The average person will spend over more than 5 years of their lives on social media. Although this may seem excessive, it reveals the power of these platforms and their ability to not only entertain but keep users hooked for extended periods of time. It is truly a remarkable feat considering one study from Microsoft stating that the average attention span of an adult is less than that of a goldfish, which is a meager nine seconds.
Why this matters for ecommerce retailers
If you’re wondering how this is relevant to ecommerce, consider this: Online retail is booming but Amazon is dominating the space and accounts for 49% of the U.S. ecommerce market. As the online giant spreads its reach and influence into every retail sector imaginable, Amazon will only become more competitive through economies of scale, making it increasingly difficult for independent retailers to compete on price and convenience alone.
However, there is a silver bullet: engagement. To escape the shadow of the giant, online retailers need to become better attuned to their customers’ needs and desires, actively engaging with them to build stronger, deeper relationships that go well beyond the transaction. While the social media industry has a very different business model than ecommerce, the latter can learn a lot from the social media’s ability to not only retain users but also hold their attention.
A promising new tool for engagement
Social media platforms are masters of human psychology and engagement. They understand that it’s human nature to want validation, and that desire is becoming increasingly pinned to immediacy in this on-demand world. Not only do we want to be heard, we want to be acknowledged now. Social media platforms are constantly testing new features that offer new ways to fulfill our innate desire to interact with one another—the latest is live streaming video.
In today’s distraction-filled world, it’s all about driving real-time engagement to captivate audience and there’s no better medium than a live stream. Ever since Facebook released Facebook Live three years ago, countless platforms have followed suit. Moreover, recent studies revealed that viewers spend eight times longer on live videos than on-demand videos.
But perhaps a more interesting finding for retailers is that live video is more appealing to brand audiences. According to Filmora, 80% of consumers would rather watch a live video from a brand than read a post. This reveals a wealth of new opportunities for retailers to offer unique experiences that Amazon has yet to offer.
Going far beyond the usual QVC experience
Many retailers, however, have yet to utilize live streaming video to its full potential. In retail, the live streaming format has become synonymous with TV and online shopping shows like QVC and Home Shopping Network, which merged last year. However, this isn’t the only way for a retailer to engage with their customer through live video.
Here’s one innovative example: Gravy, a new app-based live shopping game show powered by live streaming provider Agora.io, leverages live streaming video to put a unique spin on mobile commerce. Gravy’s not a traditional retailer per se but it borrows the live streaming format from social media and brings it onto its own platform. By combining the fast-paced live action of popular live trivia game HQ with a QVC-like experience, the app gives brands new channels for product promotions and marketing while giving players an addictive shopping game they can look forward to every day.
Building buzz and supporting transactions
But live streaming in retail doesn’t always have to be gamified. Live streaming can enhance the shopper’s journey from initial discovery all the way through the final transaction. For example, a consumer electronics retailer can live stream product launch events and demonstrations while taking questions from the audience; a fashion brand can host a live fashion show on its site and enable real-time voting to see which outfits perform best; and for large ticket items, a retailer could offer live streaming customer walkthroughs to give the shopper more confidence in the purchase. Whatever the use case, all of these examples converge on one goal: driving dynamic, in-the-moment engagement between retailer and consumer.
It’s important to remember that building engagement is more than increasing sales. It’s about building long term relationships. As retailers look to compete with Amazon and other retail behemoths, they should look to social media not just as a marketing tool but as a template for building new—and better—customer relationships.
Bart Mroz is the co-founder and CEO of SUMO Heavy