Insights

Branding in Asia recently caught up with Samuel Vanel, Vice President, Product & Services for APAC at GroupM’s influencer marketing solution, Inca.

Over the course of our conversation, we talk about the increasingly popular use of livestreaming by marketers, especially in China where it has seen enormous popularity, how this new trend will affect brick-and-mortar retail now that the pandemic is receding, the need for brands to give greater due to the potential of gaming for reaching consumers, and more.


What’s been keeping you busy lately?

Livestream development is quite recent, with most of our clients beginning to invest late last year. While we were ready to support our clients with livestream commerce, we were not expecting such rapid adoption from the market. We had to therefore develop our capacity to support the volume of livestreaming and also strengthen our offer using new technologies and testing new ways of collaborating with marketplaces.

Marketing via livestream has become increasingly popular in recent years – particularly in China. It seems a bit counterintuitive after researchers over the years talking about shrinking attention spans. Can you talk more about its appeal?

Livestream commerce is not a new concept; it has been used for years on TV shopping. Markets were ready to translate this format to digital as the pandemic accelerated e-commerce adoption. Digital audiences have already been spending a significant amount of time on social media, and influencers have proven to be effective at driving inspiration and purchase intent.

Marketplaces and TikTok are now attempting to figure out the best formula to convert this power of influence into sales. The livestreaming commerce format follows the same formula as shopping TV: a good host, media that can attract an audience, and, most importantly, a limited-time promotion that piques the consumer’s desire to buy now.

In a highly-diverse APAC region, can we expect live commerce to rise in other markets as quickly as it did in China or are there more factors at play?

I believe that there were two factors that were stifling the growth of live commerce in the APAC region. The first one is the lack of e-commerce adoption, and the other one is the difference in ecosystems versus China.

However, the landscape has shifted dramatically due to the pandemic. E-commerce adoption has since accelerated, and consumers are now at ease purchasing almost any type of product online. Marketplaces, on the other hand, have also invested heavily in their social commerce capabilities (shopping video, livestream, affiliates), with TikTok now offering seamless integration of social media with ecommerce (TikTok Shop).

 

“The livestreaming commerce format follows the same formula as shopping TV: a good host, media that can attract an audience, and, most importantly, a limited-time promotion that piques the consumer’s desire to buy now.”

With these developments in place, I believe that we will see a rapid rise of social commerce in all SEA markets.

We saw an interesting stat from Indonesia that celebrity livestreams perform five times better than non-celebrity streams in terms of both viewership and conversion. What advice do you have for smaller brands looking to compete with a “can’t quite afford a celebrity” budget?

It has been proven that celebrity streams outperform non-celebrity streams. But it is not because they are better hosts. It is because celebrity streams usually come with media support, allowing them to reach larger audiences. For brands who cannot afford celebrity streams, daily streams with KOS (Key Online Seller) could work perfectly as well.

“Since these digitally native generations are growing up immersed in online experiences, there is a real opportunity for brands to reach the younger audience through this environment. “

Frequency is actually a key factor to gather shop followers and increase live stream performance. For brands with bigger budgets, we usually recommend performing three types of streaming activities: daily streams with KOS and larger events such as pay days, mega days and product launches with celebrities.

Unable to visit their local brick-and-mortar favorites due to Covid, consumers flocked online. Once we get back to “normal” will some sort of balance return or is this online trend with us for the long haul?

Of course, brick-and-mortar stores will gain traction as consumers seek a more physical experience, but live streaming commerce (LSC) is here to stay. LSC is a highly effective method of acquiring new customers or first-time buyers. And, as offline productivity per door has fallen, LSC is an efficient way to do sales as it is one representative to many, whereas brick and mortar is often one to one.

It’s been said that if the Metaverse delivers on its promise it could open up a whole world of interaction and communication for influencers while offering brands more opportunities to flex their creative muscles. Can you talk more about that?

While the term “metaverse” has become popular since Facebook rebranded, it is still in its infancy. I believe that significant advancements in both VR hardware and software are still required before we see widespread adoption of these products and services. However, gaming is already providing metaverse-like experiences through virtual worlds, and brands have also started experimenting with the possibility of integrating these as part of their marketing strategy.

“While gaming is a major digital category, we have yet to realize its full marketing potential. Since these digitally native generations are growing up immersed in online experiences, there is a real opportunity for brands to reach the younger audience through this environment.”

We’ve seen a few interesting examples, mostly in the fashion industry, where brands like Nike or Gucci began to advertise and sell a variety of digital items to avatars on Roblox or Fortnite. This creates a real opportunity for virtual influencers in influencer marketing, where brands or companies can create their own avatars within games to interact with users.

From the viewpoint of both a marketer and a consumer, what about the Metaverse are you personally most excited about and hopeful for as it starts on what looks to be a long road ahead?

As previously stated, I am particularly excited about opportunities in the gaming industry. While gaming is a major digital category, we have yet to realize its full marketing potential. Since these digitally native generations are growing up immersed in online experiences, there is a real opportunity for brands to reach the younger audience through this environment. These opportunities will become more important as Gen Z and Gen Alpha consumers come of age.

This opportunity is already a reality for fashion brands (Nike, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Balenciaga, etc), but it will become increasingly important for furniture, gadgets, and home appliances.

I believe that we will see more metaverse activations such as gaming in the form of events, digital items, or virtual spaces in the coming months.

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