Special Report: Brand Livestream
Kevin Best, Contributing Editor, BrandStorytelling.tv
Highlighting Impactful Live Streaming
Walmart’s live Holiday Shop-Along Spectacular on TikTok
Celebrity/Influencer: Michael Le
Date: December 18
Walmart recently partnered with TikTok in a high-profile experiment to court younger customers with livestream shopping. While the two companies might seem like an odd pairing at first, Walmart has been an active brand on TikTok for over a year, with 536.5k followers. Walmart even had expressed interest in potentially investing in TikTok back in September, when the social platform was being threatened with being banned in the US unless it was bought by a US company.
The event, titled the Holiday Shop-Along Spectacular, aimed to have TikTok influencers livestream clothing items from Walmart, which customers were able to then purchase by tapping a “buy now” button without having to leave the TikTok app. For those who wanted to wait and see everything that was available before clicking buy, there was also the option to look back on all of the items featured after the event concluded. The hour-long show featured rising TikTok stars as well as established dancer Michael Le, who boasts 43.5 million followers on the app. Influencers showed off Walmart clothing items in their own closets, and performed fashion shows in their living rooms.
Walmart has clearly seen a valuable opportunity to connect with younger customers through the app. Even though there is a physical Walmart location within 10 miles for 90% of Americans, the retail giant is still obviously willing to try new things to compete digitally with Amazon. And there is quite a mountain to climb on that front: Amazon.com had more visits in March of this year than Walmart, Ebay, and Apple’s websites combined.
This was also somewhat of a test for TikTok, which has been slowly expanding into a live shopping app. Last year TikTok ran the Hashtag Challenge Plus, which allowed customers to click on hashtags to purchase products without leaving the platform. They have recently partnered with Levis, and also the livestream shopping site Shopify. TikTok has been smart to realize that not only does their audience want to watch influencer content, they also want to shop.
Livestream shopping has been a billion dollar industry in China for a while now, but it will be interesting to see if TikTok can make it more popular with both US brands and their consumers. While ads on Facebook and Instagram have seemingly become less and less effective, branded content on social apps like TikTok seems to be gaining traction more and more.
Recent Live Streams from Top Brands
Event: Celebrities using Talkshoplive to sell memoirs and music
Several celebrities that you wouldn’t normally expect to see on a “shopping network” have recently been selling products through Talkshoplive. The “always live” retail shop was launched in 2018, and has been gaining steam with celebs looking to connect with their fans as they launch new memoirs and music albums. The site has clickable tabs to the right of the live video that allow customers to purchase the products being offered, along with a live-scrolling chat section that the hosts can read and respond to. Matthew McConaughey sat down to promote his new memoir Greenlights for over an hour, while also offering merchandise like hats and shirts. Garth Brooks also recently performed some songs live to promote his latest album, and Alicia Keys, Julie Andrews and Paul McCartney have also enjoyed the flexibility of the live streaming shopping platform. Talkshoplive earns a commission on every sale that is made through their site, and unsurprisingly business has been good this year… their book sales have reportedly grown over 800 percent since quarantine began in March.
Event: T-Mobile Presents New Year's Eve Live with Justin Bieber
Time: December 31
T-Mobile is partnering with Justin Bieber to help fans ring in the new year with Bieber’s first full concert performance since his 2017 tour. Tickets are $25, but the show will be free to watch for T-Mobile customers through the T-Mobile Tuesdays app and website. The concert starts at 10:15 EST, and will be performed at an “iconic location” that seemingly won’t be revealed until the show begins. For those in other time zones around the world, there will be two re-airings the next day on January 1st. T-mobile also partnered with Bieber a month ago for his performance at the American Music Awards. Bieber has had three recent singles topping the charts, and is still the #1 musician on YouTube with his channel having just under 60 million subscribers.
Event: Zoox livestreams its unveiling of a self-driving robotaxi
Reach: 171k views
Time: December 14
Zoox revealed its long-awaited autonomous taxi with a livestream event on December 14th. Founded in 2014, Zoox was acquired by Amazon earlier this year to directly compete against Tesla’s plans for a self-driving taxi fleet. The 18-minute video gave viewers an up close look at the design and features, from the factory floor all the way to actual video of the vehicle self-driving bi-directionally (it can go forwards and backwards without having to do a U-turn) around San Francisco. Members of the design team stressed how important it was to completely rethink how a “car” should look for optimal driverless performance… the electric vehicle is designed much like the passenger car of a train, allowing passengers to sit on either side facing each other. Even though Zoox’s taxi isn’t for consumers to purchase themselves, the company has still continued the recent trend of car companies promoting their newest vehicle with a livestream unveiling.
ON THE RADAR
Opportunities for Brands
New Live Streaming Startup Boxcast Raises $20 million in Series A
With the demand only increasing for businesses of any size to be able to pivot to livestream capabilities, it's no surprise that the startup Boxcast has raised an impressive amount in their first round of venture capital financing. The company, which was founded in 2013, offers end-to-end streaming capabilities without having to rely on third party software.
Boxcast sells two different versions of video-encoding devices that support 1080p and even 4K broadcasting. This hardware helps turn any operation into something resembling a professional streaming event. Plans start at $99 a month for the basic package offering HD streaming, but go all the way up to $999 a month, which allows for unlimited concurrent live broadcasts. There is also the one time fee of $399 for the “Boxcaster” encoder itself. They are also now offering the Boxcaster Pro for $3499, which broadcasts 60 frames per second in 4k, has audio and video output connections, and a touchscreen display.
Boxcast has tried to address the confusing technical side of things on their website. There are an overwhelming amount of articles and tabs to answer any potential questions customers may have about Upload Speeds or figuring out which product is right for what is being broadcast. They even have specific FAQ pages for varying potential streaming customers, such as houses of worship, sports, local government, and business. Each tab has an informational video and checklist detailing what Boxcast can offer for your specific business, whether you are trying to stream live Church services, or want to sell tickets for alumni to watch their high school football team from anywhere in the world.
While business was obviously going to increase this year due to the pandemic, Boxcast has reportedly increased their customer base over tenfold. The Cleveland based company, and it’s main investors Updata Partners and the audio equipment company Shure, all seem confident that business will still be booming even after in-person events return. Boxcast’s services will still be giving any business a chance to reach a much larger audience.
About Kevin Best
Kevin Best is a writer and film critic who lives in Los Angeles, California. He is the host of the podcast Sequel Rewrite, and is working on his first novel.