|Illustration by Trịnh Lập|
By An Phương
It’s not the latest kid on the e-commerce block, but the upsurge enjoyed by livestream shopping of late has certainly altered the online buying landscape.
More and more brands are seeing it as a channel for stable revenues and, perhaps, earning and retaining customer loyalty.
Those who have done live shopping tend to enumerate its attractiveness with some clarity. It is an interactive experience that not only introduces a wide range of products and sellers, but also allows customers to have real-time conversations from the comfort of their own homes.
My friends and I can vouch for this. As heavy social media users, we tend to buy what we need through affiliate links on Facebook; and this has made us more familiar with live shopping, particularly after the introduction of TikTok Shop.
“Livestream shopping on TikTok hits differently!” gushed 25-year-old Ngọc Anh, eager to tell all in a conversation with Việt Nam News.
“Compared to casual livestreams on Facebook where customers have to click on affiliate links or contact sellers directly to have products shipped, TikTok livestreams allow users to conveniently add favourite products to their trolley and immediately proceed to payment,” she said.
This saves time, Anh added, explaining that she doesn’t have to go to the trouble of finding ways to make a purchase or talking to other parties.
“Livestream shopping is the next step in the evolution of shopping,” she declared with the confidence of a seasoned marketing analyst.
In my conversations about “the next step”, I could discern a general awe over how TikTok livestreams are conducted. TikTok hosts have come up with several unique ways to close a sale, ranging from via how fast they speak to how they hype up companions in the livestream’s background or how they deal with brands to offer further on the spot discounts, keeping a potential customer interested (on the hook).
“I first joined livestream shopping events for entertainment. Since I’d never seen anything quite like it, I found myself easily spending hours on a session and after such experiences, I picked up a new habit – scrolling through livestreams every night… Of course, it did not take long before I started to make actual purchases on TikTok Shop,” said Thanh Hải.
The 26-year-old convert’s first order was bánh tráng (a rice paper snack) and this was followed by several tubes of sunscreen and face scrub. Each purchase had a minimum spend of VNĐ150,000, which is close to the average value of each order made by general TikTok users, according to a November 2022 report from Metric.vn.
Simpler, more social
I can relate to Hải. I’ve had a similar experience.
Livestream shopping simplifies the shopping experience and makes it much more social because it is highly interactive. It also creates ideal shopping opportunities right on the digital platforms that millennials and Gen Z use the most.
Another one of our peers, 26-year-old Thu Thuỷ, introduced a competitive edge into the conversation: “I prefer shopping on social sites like TikTok to other popular e-commerce sites including Lazada, Shopee and Tiki because I can join the shopping event by choice and engage in real-time conversations with hosts about products before making up my mind. When the setting is live, there is less chance of manipulation of products’ reviews and displays.”
In other words, the “next step” does offer more than an ordinary online buying option. Livestream e-Commerce provides customers with a “cutting-edge” combination of in-person and online shopping. The “live” factor also creates a time sensitivity, prompting customers to act quickly.
Is this a win-win situation for both buyer and seller? Certainly looks like it, for now.
Recently, TikToker P.T. wowed the Internet with a 24-hour livestream session where he was able to generate several billion Vietnamese đồng in revenue after selling over 75,000 items.
As a witness to this event, Quỳnh Như, 25, said she was amazed at how energetic and alluring it was. She ended up with three fashion items in her trolley.
“It was a seamless experience; but I know what goes behind the scenes must be very stressful and hectic. This is a serious business and I appreciate livestreamers who up their game to introduce the best deals in the most creative way,” Như said, admiringly.
TikToker P.T’s feat has showcased the significant potential that the live shopping channel has in Việt Nam.
According to the Metric.vn report, total revenue on TikTok Shop reached VNĐ1,686 billion last November from the purchase of 13 million products from 32,000 sellers. This revenue was equivalent to 80 per cent of Lazada's revenue in the same period and four times that of Tiki, an e-commerce platform that has been operating in Việt Nam for decades.
While many people have opined that live shopping is a fallout of the pandemic, proving the “necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention” adage, I think it’s reasonably safe to say this is a permanent shift to how consumers will buy things in the future.
That said, we cannot ignore the potential pitfalls that the open nature of TikTok Shop comes with. Since every user can sign up to be a seller, it creates opportunities for the sale of counterfeit goods.
Popular beauty TikToker T.N.D was recently called out by cosmetics brands Estee Lauder and M.A.C Cosmetics Việt Nam for selling thousands of products of unknown origin at a fraction of the original price.
“This has stirred up many Internet discussions and I am quite disappointed to see how the TikToker has been handling the issue,” Hải said.
It is crucial that buyers stay alert to avoid scams, he said, adding: “More brands, both local and global, have been officially listed on e-commerce sites and customers should consider buying from them rather than hand-carried goods.”
With such a large number of orders generated on TikTok Shop every day, product control becomes more difficult compared to “traditional” e-commerce platforms like Shopee, Lazada and Tiki.
While we could not come up with specific measures to minimize and eliminate fraud, my friends and I were in general agreement that all stakeholders in live shopping had to do their part.
Customers should exercise due diligence, sellers need to do more to establish trust and win consumer confidence and authorities should strengthen management of livestream accounts to prevent tax evasion as well as fake content and fake products.
Another point of unanimity in our conversation was this conclusion: In an increasingly digitising world, live shopping is here to stay. VNS