Shoppertainment has had a great reception among China's shoppers.

Shoppertainment has had a great reception among China’s shoppers. Source: Shutterstock

Shoppertainment – Why China’s retail survival tactic will stick

  • Retailers with physical outlets were hard hit by the pandemic, and things won’t recover quickly
  • Brands in China leveraged the power of Shoppertainment to keep customers engaged and purchasing
  • Uptake and confidence by big e-commerce players suggests this new channel isn’t going anywhere 

The pandemic has been hard on businesses of all types and sizes – we don’t need to be reminded of that.

But amid the hardship we’ve seen the survivors – the entrepreneurial innovators – adapt to new ways of working in order to ride across this rift and into whatever their market looks like on the other side. 

A great example of this is the rise of Shoppertainment in China. While the country is now out of lockdown, like everywhere else, at the outbreak’s peak in the country normal, physical retail was turned on its head. 

Skincare products brand Forest Cabin had to close more than half of its 300 stores as shoppers were told to stay home. It had to focus on its online strategy or risk its business drying up. Instead of upping ad budgets or online offers, the firm took a different tack. As reported by ABC News, the company rode on the spike in usage of social media, training its offline salespeople to begin hosting live video streams, keeping its usual customers more engaged with the brand with skincare tips and product recommendations. 

As a result of that quick-thinking shift to Shoppertainment, the company reported a 20% increase in year-on-year sales, despite the widespread store closures. 

Elsewhere in China, and as recently reported by Tech Wire Asia, partnered with Taihe Music Group and various international liquor brands to bring the feel of a night club to patrons online. The campaign aims to simulate the physical clubbing experience which was out-of-bounds amid the pandemic, complete with music and, of course, liquor sales. 

The activity attracted major brands like Budweiser, Rémy Martin, Carlsberg and Pernod Ricard, all of which had enjoyed a boost in sales – one session could increase sales of imported liquor by up to 70 percent, and up to 40 percent for beers.

British luxury brand Burberry took full advantage of the Shoppertainment movement too. The brand recently had influencer Yvonne Ching live-stream her Burberry experience on Tmall, which garnered over 1.4 million views, and most of the featured products were sold out.

Shanghai-based homegrown brand Icicle meanwhile livestreamed content across various platforms, including TikTok, with each session raking in an average of US $71,000.

Shoppertainment the ‘new normal’?

The success of this innovative approach is such that retailers aren’t ready to leave Shoppertainment in the past – it may represent a ‘new normal’ in the retail marketer’s playbook for 2020 and beyond. 

The promise of Shoppertainment’s ongoing success is such that the country’s biggest e-commerce firms are betting big on live streaming. Alibaba’s Taobao Live platform has seen a sevenfold increase in first-time customers. Interactive e-commerce firm Pinduoduo saw a five-times hike in live streaming sessions from February to March. 

For many retailers, this could represent a new marketing channel with more control and brand continuity than that of influencer marketing alone, which often carries an inordinate price-tag, as well as risks in terms of fraud, reputational damage and poor returns. 

Brands can leverage Shoppertainment to keep customers engaged when not in-store or actively browsing or purchasing online, fostering loyalty and providing a human face to a brand in an increasingly digitized world. 

It can also open new doors for smaller retailers with tighter budgets, but the charisma to keep and grow an audience via regular live streams. 

Across the world, many retailers are concerned that, given a new found reliance on e-commerce among customers and concerns over the safety of returning to stores, things won’t return to normal soon, if at all.

With that in mind, Shoppertainment and similarly innovative strategies must be explored by brands in order to cut through and remain in the focus of their core customers. 

As 5G approaches and technologies like VR and AR continue to become more accessible to brands, these experiences will surely become more advanced and interactive – offering new ways for brands to ‘wow’ their customers long after the crisis.