See it, click it, wear it! Forget QVC. The new way to buy clothes is via ‘livestreaming’

‘As we’re all wearing face masks right now, what better way to start your make-up than with a bold eye?’

I’m 30 seconds into Lancome’s latest livestream video, and I’m intrigued. Make-up artist Antonia Basile is explaining how to use her favourite Lancome beauty products to create the perfect Covid look, as viewers like myself tune in on our smartphones.

It is a little like watching a beauty tutorial on YouTube, but this is hosted by Lancome and, throughout the video, all the products Basile uses appear on the side of the screen.

‘If you love anything you see me using, click on it, and it’ll go right into your shopping bag!’ she says.

A Lancome live stream. Make-up artist Antonia Basile explains how to use her favourite Lancome beauty products

By the time she’s extolled the virtues of a copper eyeshadow and explained that the Teint Idole foundation is her go-to because it doesn’t transfer on to a mask, I’m sold. With just a tap of my finger, I can add these products to my cart while continuing to watch her, and I can ask questions before purchasing, just as I would to a shop assistant in real life.

Welcome to livestream shopping — a new craze that could be the future of how we browse and buy. It’s essentially social media meets QVC, streamed straight to your smartphone.

Livestreams typically consist of a video filmed in portrait mode (you can also watch it on a computer, if you prefer) showing people trying on products and chatting, with clickable images of the products appearing on a panel alongside the video as soon as they’re mentioned. A quick tap adds them to your basket, with a simple option to select sizes and quantities.

You might never have heard of livestream shopping, but worldwide the industry is already worth $60 billion (£46 billion), and that figure is expected to more than double this year.

And it's not only clothes they are flogging, here Monki shows off home accessories during a live stream

And it’s not only clothes they are flogging, here Monki shows off home accessories during a live stream

Hugely popular in China, now it’s capturing the imagination of shoppers here.

The L’Oreal Group recently launched, while the H&M Group’s Scandinavian-inspired brand Monki was one of the first to start livestream shopping in the UK last year.

The ‘streams’ are designed to be watched live, but the most recent episodes are left on the website for viewers to tune into when they can.

‘Livestreaming gives shoppers the chance to see a product being used, to ask experts questions and have real-time interactions from the comfort of their own home,’ says Lex Bradshaw-Zanger, chief marketing officer of L’Oreal UK. ‘Lockdown has seen our livestreaming trials really take off.’

Luxury brands such as Harvey Nichols and parenting shop Mamas & Papas are also offering one-to-one livestreams from the shop floor for customers who want a personalised virtual shopping experience.

Here they show a phone case to the camera

Here Monki stylists are seen showing off a fur jacket

Here Monki stylists are seen showing off a fur jacket (right) and a phone case, available to buy, during a live stream

Harvey Nichols began personalised livestreams back in 2018, and they can be accessed by customers anywhere in the world between store opening hours. It allows customers to connect directly with stylists.

Adam Levene, founder of Hero, a technology company that facilitates these livestreams for brands including Harvey Nichols, Oscar De La Renta and Deciem, says: ‘Consumers today want access, authenticity and connection more than ever before, and both livestreaming and virtual shopping fit that bill.’

The platform has seen a 739 per cent increase in use since this time last year, and has found customers are 21 times more likely to buy when they virtually ‘shop’ with a store associate than if they were left to browse online.

Smaller brands also love the idea. Onimos, a vintage retailer with stores in London and Germany, began livestreaming on Instagram several months ago. Unlike a web-hosted livestream, viewers watch on Instagram TV but have to leave the page to make purchases.

The store’s founder Birgit Niederhauser says: ‘It’s very popular with our regulars. It’s like a hangout with everyone who loves Onimos Vintage.’

The Monki team wear co-ordinated outfits as they style their products for the viewers

The Monki team wear co-ordinated outfits as they style their products for the viewers

They even have plans to host themed events, such as ‘Noughties celebrity outfits’. It’s a lot of work, requiring planning sessions and hiring influencers, but it’s financially worth it.

‘Whenever we host a livestream, we see online sales go up,’ says Birgit.

‘We get messages regularly asking when we’ll host the next livestream shopping.

‘Thinking about how fast [social media video platform] TikTok has been growing, I feel like livestream shopping will grow as a trend as well.’

The ‘TikTok generation’ (teenagers and those in their early 20s) are admittedly the biggest demographic currently using mass livestreams, but many experts feel that’s going to change.

Sophie Freres, co-founder of LiSA, a web-based app that helps brands such as Lancome and SkinCeuticals host livestreaming events on their websites, agrees.

‘Livestream shopping will become as commonplace as classic online shopping or posting on social media — just as it has in China,’ she says.

To Sophie, it’s another way for brands to reach customers — and she feels it can be popular with all age groups, depending on how it’s used.

And with different companies all putting their own takes on livestreaming, it might not be long before online shopping means we’re all watching videos from shop floors.