Facebook is reportedly shutting down its QVC-style live shopping features on October 1st, with the aim of shifting more interest and focus into Reels both on Facebook and Instagram, a move that comes on the heels of similar reports last month of TikTok abandoning its own livestreaming plans in both the U.S. and abroad.
While startling at first glance, neither of these moves should come as a surprise to anyone. The main issue at hand is one of language.
Livestreaming is not the same thing as shoppable video, and yet, for some reason, the two have been conflated together for the past few years.
As a phrase, livestreaming has been its own worst enemy. Whenever someone says, “livestream shopping,” people immediately create a mental picture in their heads of a digital-based commerce experience that works and acts much in the same way as QVC
has worked across television screens for decades.
The problem with that analogy though is that the U.S. market, primarily by way of one’s mobile phone, doesn’t work that way. Social media apps, unlike those in China, were designed for social interaction, not commerce.
As Firework CEO Vincent Yang recently remarked in a recent podcast, the overwhelming majority of commerce in the U.S., well over 90%, still happens by way of retailers’ or brands’ own websites and not through social media apps like Facebook or TikTok. (Firework, a live stream video platform for retailersany, is currently a client of my media company, Omni Talk.)
Which brings the discussion back around to shoppable video.
Shoppable video is, in a sense, broader than livestream shopping. By its definition, shoppable video is any form of video, whether live or recorded, from which commerce can be conducted. It could be a video within a product detail page on a website, a recorded video within someone’s social media feed, or even an actual live video streamed within Instagram Reels.
The key element is that all are videos, caught and captured in unique ways, and that whoever ultimately owns them and generates them are the key elements when talking about the U.S. market.
With so much traffic going to retailers’ and brands’ own websites, it makes intuitive sense that the originating spot for any videos, whether livestreamed or recorded, be the retailers’ or brands’ own websites themselves. It is an approach that provides one far more flexibility to attack the market.
Take, for instance, this example of a shoppable video (a screenshot is also below) that appears right on the homepage of the Fresh Market. This video does a great job of illustrating the above point.
The video, while shot as a livestream initially, now lives on in perpetuity as a replayable video that greets every visitor to the Fresh Market’s home page, which no doubt gets far more traffic on an average day than say the Fresh Market’s own Facebook or Twitter pages.
Then, to top it all off, the very same video can be shared by customers to social media or by the Fresh Market itself (as was just demonstrated above). And, all the while, the products highlighted within the video are easily shoppable from the right hand side of the screen, too.
What this example illustrates is that the Fresh Market is getting the best of all worlds by thinking “shoppable video” before “livestreaming.”
Instead of tying its livestream activity to a social media platform like TikTok or Instagram, the Fresh Market is producing its shoppable video content itself and then distributing it out across whatever platforms generate the most ROI for it over time.
It is an approach that is right in line with how U.S. consumers think about and consume media, which brings up one final important question – what does all this mean for Facebook and TikTok financially?
The implication here is that shoppable video will be what drives U.S. consumption, not livestreaming in and of itself. So it is therefore reasonable to conclude that Facebook and TikTok have both made the right choice and are appropriately skating to where the puck is headed.
And that puck appears to be headed in a very similar direction to how commerce in general is conducted via social media apps within the U.S. already – i.e. by way of a cut or a percentage of the sale of products that people see in their feeds on social media.
Is that pie as big as what Facebook or TikTok initially dreamed when starting their livestreaming initiatives?
But even a small percentage of the take from retailers and brands placing their own videos on social media still adds up to a hell of a lot of incremental money in the long-run.
Important Disclaimer — Firework is a current client of the author’s media company, Omni Talk.