Our news media is really funny. Headlines proclaiming the death of TikTok live shopping have spread like wildfire. Following the headlines are the LinkedIn influencers and Twitter thought-leaders, all offering commentary on the still warm livestream commerce carcass.
But it’s not dead.
Only one day after the Financial Times headline, a TikTok spokesperson. clarified their plans. The clarification though isn’t sexy or salacious or portending the downfall of the reigning social media app. So it mostly lives buried underneath more exciting news on the internet, too lowly of a story to capture the fickle algorithm’s attention.
The truth, I believe, is that live shopping and social commerce are going to hit the US and Europe like a meteor. Like a Michael Bay, Bruce Willis, 1998 Armageddon-level-event meteor.
Today, I’m Co-Founder and CEO of social commerce marketplace Orca. I also serve as an Advisor to a number of creator businesses, including Doing Things Media, one of the largest meme networks online with an audience of almost 70 million followers.
Everyday, I’m collecting deep insights into live & social commerce in the US;
- Through user activity on Orca
- Consumer behavior across our live shopping shows
- My interactions with the large social platforms
- Hands-on experience with the currently available tools, products and features
A number of these insights are surprisingly counter-intuitive to how we think about the creator economy, ecommerce and social media in the US I’m sharing these insights to help folks understand more about social commerce and why it’s such an exciting opportunity.
We worked so hard to get rid of the word influencer. It felt exploitative and dismissive of these incredible artists, photographers, musicians, filmmakers and personalities. We landed on the perfect descriptor; Creator. They create content daily and their audience is engaged with them because of those creations.
For those in the creator/influencer marketing business, you know that finding a brand fit is multiple times more important than aggregate audience size. We also know that the Creator must authentically care about the partnership and the content they’re producing or their audience will dismiss it as disposable sponsored spam, which harms the Creator and defeats the purpose of the engagement in the first place.
More so, Creators increasingly have alternative paths to monetization. They can place their content behind a paywall, ask for tips, sell personalized videos on Cameo, produce their own merch on-demand, etc.
Is a Creator, as described above, the same thing as a social commerce Seller? Sometimes, sure. At Orca we allow anyone to curate their favorite products and earn a 20% commission on every sale. For Creators, we’re a wonderful path to monetization (one that doesn’t involve having to hawk a product inauthentically).
That’s just the beginning, though. What about folks that take the time to write valuable product reviews? They should get a commission for that effort if it moves product, right? How about Facebook groups where an admin brings together like-minded people. They can be Sellers too, curating the best products for their group. Or what about local professionals that use their social media to promote their analog businesses; interior design, home repair, yoga, fitness instructors, etc. They all have local networks that are invested in their expertise. They’re Sellers too.
Our instinct, as professionals in the creator economy and in advertising, is to place the live & social commerce opportunity into the Creator bucket. But it’s actually something much larger. Yes, the best Sellers may become (or already are) well-known Creators. But Sellers are also anyone and everyone that values their recommendations and takes the steps to secure a commission for that recommendation.
Moreover, many Sellers may not become ‘famous’ or garner dedicated followings at all. They might build a business through informative livestreams, product videos and reviews while staying entirely ‘unknown’; relying on upvoting or algorithm ranking of their product review or stream rather than their own dedicated following. In that case, a Seller wouldn’t be a Creator (as we understand it) at all, but something else entirely, which I find incredibly exciting.
Let’s start with a fact. We have an Orca seller that sells on his primary social pages via social posts as well as via livestream (with native shopping tools enabled). When he goes live he sells 10x the volume of product as compared to a social post and it happens right then and there, not over a period of time.
When you see it happen, it stops you in your tracks. You feel like you can see the future.
So why isn’t this happening across the board? Why hasn’t live shopping exploded in the US like elsewhere?
Well, you actually can’t really do live shopping in the US right now. Not within a network of any size or scale or with a product selection of any size or scale. It’s only now that YouTube, Instagram and TikTok are even opening these tools up to small groups of approved users. Literally right now. For everyone else, it’s functionally not available. at scale.
Alternatively, you have the option of using a livestream commerce tool on your own website or you can sign up for one of many standalone live commerce apps. There’s limited in-flow of new customers at these locations today. So those efforts become marketing efforts, best activated with all the bells and whistles; paid media, PR, glossy production, etc. Executed properly these can be successful activations on a number of fronts, including awareness, messaging, brand-building and sell-through. I would argue that they become something else at that point. Yes it’s live commerce but it’s also a marketing activation. By the way, at Orca we love these activations and we think they’re incredibly important for brands that want to stay at the forefront of retail and ecommerce. Without investing today, brands will be behind tomorrow.
Today however, live shopping isn’t poppin’ off in the US because the live shopping ecosystem isn’t active in the US yet.
It’s really that simple. Once it reaches scale, through the large social platforms, a startup we may or may not have heard of yet, and more ubiquitously across DTC sites, then its true potential will be unlocked.
On this point, I’ve seen some thoughtful write-ups. The definition of social commerce may change over time, but to me it means any sale of a consumer product via social, online interaction; whether a social post, product video, livestream, one-to-one SMS/message or even a written review.
It’s well-known in ecommerce that UGC reviews drive a significant increase in conversion. As social media enters a new era, where it’s essentially a universal part of everyday life, we’ll look to these social interactions, much like written reviews, to help us and inspire us to make a purchase. This is the essence of social commerce, of which real-time, livestreams will be a meaningful component.
Let’s wrap up by considering all three of these insights at once. Sellers will be a different animal than Creators as we know them today. Livestream commerce works (it’s just not really available yet in the States). Social commerce is larger than just livestream commerce.
To me, it paints a picture of an ecosystem where shopping online is interactive, real-time, and engaging. Our Sellers aren’t always individuals that we’re fans of but they address our questions and concerns around a potential product purchase. Depending on whether we’re at home, at work or on the go; whether we’re bored and swiping through livestreams or intentional about a specific purchase, we’ll have optionality on how we engage. Everyone will have the opportunity to curate and recommend their favorite products, if they choose. The best products, brands and deals will surface to the best customers and signal will rise above noise.
If you enjoyed this post, please check us out at orcashop.co. It takes less than 90 seconds to set up your own store, curate your favorite products and start earning commissions. And follow us on TikTok and LinkedIn for more Orca.
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