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Is livestream shopping the future of UK retail?

As brick-and-mortar retail stores continue to close at a significant rate across the UK high street, a unique online alternative is already proving its economy-boosting potential in American and Chinese markets. 

E-commerce live streams are unedited, watched in real-time and most importantly, interactive. Typically hosted by an internet influencer, they will answer questions from the audience whilst reviewing and demoing a product.

In the age of social media, the personable element in these streams is just as important as the sale. As highlighted by The New York Times, hosts will joke and chat with viewers almost like a friend, calling fans by their names to nurture a rapport. Instilling confidence in potential buyers, they keep viewers entertained whilst promoting exclusive offers.

This standout approach has generated billions in revenue for retailers – but could it also demonstrate a new way for the UK retail sector to evolve? We’ll explore the world of livestream shopping, with our predictions on what it could mean for retail employers and corporate retail employees in the future.

Significant revenue from livestream shopping

Though livestream shopping (or live commerce) now takes place on various platforms including Amazon and Meta, it is credited to have been started on the Chinese platform, Mogujie, in 2016. 

In the next four years, the Chinese live commerce market went on to see growth of over 280% and was estimated to be worth $171 billion.

In 2020, the e-commerce platform, Alibaba, held a livestream for Singles’ Day (a yearly shopping holiday). Within the first 30 minutes, the stream generated around £5.8 billion in transactions.

Due to this immense revenue-generating potential, American retailers and influencers were quick to take note. In 2019, Kim Kardashian appeared on a livestream to market her new perfume alongside best-selling Chinese influencer, Viya Huang. The pair gained an audience of 13 million viewers, selling 15,000 bottles in minutes. 

As of 2023, almost half of China’s one billion internet users had tried livestream shopping.

How American culture boosts UK retail revenue

When predicting the future of the UK retail sector, American trends can also be a great indicator of what to expect next. Black Friday, now a regularly anticipated event in the UK, is one such example. 

In 2010, the American tradition of Black Friday was introduced to UK retail culture by American e-commerce giant, Amazon. 

In 2023, Black Friday generated a 34% web traffic increase to UK retailers’ ecommerce sites week-on-week and doubled revenue by +100.78%. As reported by Nationwide, their banking customers made 9.92million purchases during Black Friday alone, which equated to over 114 transactions each second.

With online shopping often facing hesitancy from buyers due to concerns around risk, the potential that live shopping brings cannot be overstated. For many UK retailers, this added element of human interaction and community could be the missing link that turns potential buyers into dedicated brand advocates. 

Our hiring predictions for the UK retail sector

The revenue generated by livestream shopping may prove to be just as lucrative for the UK retail sector – but what could this mean for employers and workers alike?

Livestream shopping: what jobs and skills will become increasingly important? 

In the event that livestream shopping becomes the next big demand in UK retail, we predict that the following jobs and skills will be highly sought-after:

Data and finance professionals

  • Data analysis:

Data and finance professionals can apply their skills to optimise live streaming strategies. By analysing audience numbers, sales volumes and elements that influence sales peaks, they can report on which products, promotions and other methods are the most enticing for customers. This in turn can create increased and more consistent sales, leading to a more robust and stable business. 

  • Returns: 

Hand-in-hand with frequent orders comes the likelihood of frequent returns. When discussing the 9.92million purchases made by their customers during 2023’s Black Friday event, Nationwide stated; 

“While most will be happy with their purchases, others are likely to regret their impulse buys and it’s likely we will see a few refunds into customers’ accounts over the next few days and weeks.”

Spurred by exclusive discounts and a limited amount of time to buy, livestream shopping promotes impulsive purchases from viewers in a very similar way to Black Friday. The processing capabilities of retailers must therefore be able to meet large volumes of returns in short windows of time – or develop strategies to minimise retail returns.

Social media experts / influencers

The personality of the host is key to many successful livestreams. Though what makes a good influencer is not an exact science. Marketing skills such as advertising, social media, communication, community building, customer service and sales are all strong elements associated with this new type of advertising.  

Supply chain, buying and invoicing specialists

Fast delivery is something expected by modern consumers, due to the precedent set around rapid turnaround from retailers like Amazon. The huge volume of orders placed through livestreams may require supply chain departments to increase their headcount in order to meet rapid surges in purchasing and production. Accurate invoicing to track sales and refunds is also key to a good customer experience and the likelihood of repeat business.

Technical support

Though livestreams can be created by one individual, a larger retailer may benefit from ensuring a consistent production quality by hiring candidates with technical support skills. They can set up and monitor live streams, audio equipment, the connection strength and moderate chat comments including troubleshooting.

Work with Distinct

As a leading East Midlands and London recruitment agency, we strive to remain up to date with the latest employment and work trends. If you’re searching for your next job, looking to hire, or would like to discuss recent trends in the UK job market, contact us today.

During busy sales periods, many of our recruitment clients employ a temporary worker to increase capacity, reduce workload pressure and support with specific tasks. For further advice, we’ve created a short guide: The top 5 benefits of hiring a temporary worker.


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