by Kate Lindsay
My family was not a QVC family. We never bought things by “CALLING NOW” during a commercial break. In fact, the closest picture I have to what “live shopping” is comes straight from Bridget Jones’s Diary (“Mind the overspray”).
But last week, The Information reported that live-shopping startup Whatnot is raising new capital at a valuation of $1.5 billion. $1.5 billion! Quickly, it seems, the concept has gone from antiquated 90s fad to...the future of being an influencer?
Shopping and social media have always gone hand-in-hand. The early days of fashion and beauty YouTube were all about making haul videos, and fashion marketplace app Depop is basically Gen Z’s mall. The same goes for influencers, who make their livings via brand deals and affiliate links for products.
However, things definitely accelerated this past year, when the pandemic forced shopping to become entirely virtual. Many platforms introduced features to encourage users to shop inside the apps: Instagram’s new shopping tab allows retailers to construct virtual Instagram storefronts, and TikTok recently announced its partnership with Shopify. Live shopping, too, came back from the dead.
In the U.S., at least. Live shopping has already dominated in China, where 60 million people participated in or viewed shopping live streams in last March alone. Shortly after, Amazon launched Amazon Live, where influencers can recommend their favorite products via a livestream and earn commission on any purchases. And this summer, Facebook introduced “Live Shopping Fridays.”
Then there’s Whatnot, which began as a place for buying and selling collectible toys, and has since expanded into a whole live shopping platform that allows anyone to sell, bid, and pay right on the app. If influencers come out with their own line of products, for example, they could sell them live, directly to their audiences. Or, as live shopping continues to establish itself, they could conduct livestreams as the face of brands and receive a commission.
On Amazon Live, at least, this means creators with as few as 1000 followers can make up to a 10% commission on sales, depending on the types of products. Creators like Musings Of A Curvy Lady, Kristal Heredia, and Beauty By Carla go live on the platform to recommend everything from fashion to homeware to makeup.
You don’t invest over a billion dollars if you’re not pretty confident in the product, which likely means live shopping isn’t just a blip. As unfamiliar as it may be to me, that’s good news for creators. Not only does it provide another income stream, but also opens the door for new types of influencers whose talents lie in front of the camera—or, more realistically, iPhone.
And, thankfully this way, there’s no overspray.