Interactive shoppable videos were already an emerging trend. COVID-19 further accelerated the adoption of it as people looked for a way to minimize their contact with others.
Often compared to TV shopping channels like QVC, video-based online shopping has the extra benefit of direct interactivity. A typical livestream shopping experience involves live broadcasts of pitches by salespeople or entrepreneurs, and occasionally a celebrity host. Additional features such as direct in-video purchasing options and live chats simplify the process for consumers to discuss and purchase products.
1. Widespread Adoption of Shoppable Videos
Already well established in China, livestream shopping generated $65 billion in 2019 alone. The pandemic year of 2020 propelled that amount to an estimated $150 billion which, according to another estimate, represented 9% of total ecommerce that year. In the rest of the world, however, the adoption of shoppable videos for ecommerce has gone much slower, registering sales of $1 billion in the United States during 2019 and far less in most other countries.
Like many other things, the ongoing pandemic has changed our behavior. As in-person shopping declined, brand advertisers and retail outlets happily implemented live-stream shopping options. For example, long-established players in the U.S. are mounting cloud-based livestream shopping platforms, including Facebook Shops, Amazon Live, Google Shoploop, and Instagram Shopping Live. At the same time, innovative startups like Very Very Shopping Network, TalkShopLive, Packagd, and Popshop Live offered newer approaches.
While the pandemic was a major driver to adopting live stream shopping, there are signs that it will endure into the future. Sellers and buyers are acclimating to using shoppable video as an alternative to traditional ecommerce. This change is noticeable by thought leaders such as Maira Genovese, founder of the global marketing agency MG Empower, who wrote in a recent blog, “Livestream shopping is changing the relationship between consumers and brands. . . . The future of eCommerce is live.”
2. Real-Time Interactive Video Experiences Can Be a Big Differentiator
Despite the growing acceptance of livestream shopping, many current implementations are in need of improvements in order to better recreate an in-store shopping experience. Most importantly, shoppers need to feel a synchronized, real-time experience. This means the live video needs to support an end-to-end latency in the 200 to 400 millisecond range. Such low latency avoids the multisecond latencies created by conventional unidirectional streaming between presenters and audiences.
Additionally, real-time latency enables the synchronization of incoming streams. In the case of incoming streams that are also multidirectional streams, that unlocks interactive features such as multiway conversations between a group of people. Synchronization means that anything displayed on-screen will correspond with what is heard. Real-time latency creates a natural conversation flow with minimal delay between when something is said and when the other people hear it. Multidirectional streaming eases the transmission of data between the connection points of all the people involved in the conversation.
Combining multidirectional streaming with synchronization opens the door to new and exciting features. For example, if someone is watching a presentation of a product they can be brought into that presentation to ask their question on video, as opposed to just posting in a chat. This is similar to how shoppers would call into a QVC presentation, but with the added benefit of being able to see the person asking the question just like an in-store experience. This is a much more engaging experience for those participating and for those that are just watching the stream.
Importantly, this extra level of engagement means selling more product.
3. Real-Time Video Interactivity Is a Commercially Proven Opportunity
These advanced capabilities are already in place thanks to the experience delivery network (XDN) technology developed by Red5 Pro. Red5 Pro–based XDNs are in operation worldwide supporting a wide variety of applications, including auctions, gambling, sports, esports and multiplayer game playing, enterprise collaboration, social media experiences, surveillance, and shoppable videos.
The live-streamed commerce space Whatnot is a good example of one such operation. As a live auction platform, it provides a way to buy and sell collectibles. However, Whatnot also offers additional functionality.
Describing itself as “community marketplace,” Whatnot enables its community to connect and interact in real time during live streams and auctions. This is more than just the standard transactional relationships offered by a typical auction platform. The startup aims to bring people together, both on an individual basis as well as within already existing communities with shared interests and hobbies. Whatnot also has an easy method of verifying collectibles, meaning that you can buy that $8,800 Pokemon card and know you are getting your money's worth — at least objectively. This combination of features creates extra levels of interactivity, all made possible with XDN technology.
“Making these experiences enjoyable is a key element of the value proposition,” says Whatnot cofounder and CTO Logan Head. “Fandom had always had a place online, but truly thrived at in-person events and local retailers that catered to collectors and enthusiasts' interests in one-of-a-kind and holy grail items,” Head says. “We built Whatnot not just to enable transactions but to capture the fun of the in-person experience, so our communities can connect in real time and geek out with their favorite sellers.”
Real-time video connectivity is vital. “Whatnot would not be in the place it is today without Red5.” Head says, adding that his team chose the XDN platform after thorough research of all the available livestreaming tech.
“Red5’s low-latency video streaming technology is top notch,” he says. “After trying three other video streaming solutions, Red5 blew everything else out of the water. Not only is their technology great but their team is A++. It seems they really care about their customers and go above and beyond with any needs they have.”
4. Red5 Pro’s XDN Architecture Introduces Unlimited Opportunities for Innovation
As outlined in our white paper, Red5 Pro’s XDN platform consists of a server software stack deployed in a hierarchy and organized in three-tiered clusters across one or more private or public cloud environments (fig. 1). Each cluster consists of one or more origin nodes where encoded content is ingested and streamed to relay nodes, each of which serves an array of edge nodes that deliver live unicast streams to their assigned service areas.
These nodes can be configured in virtualized public or private cloud hosting platforms across the globe creating a highly performant infrastructure for transmitting interactive real-time video experiences at a very large or very small scale as needed. This flexible XDN configuration enables all nodes in a cluster to provide real-time streaming support for content in all directions with origin nodes for broadcasting and edge nodes for subscribing. No matter how many video streams are displayed during a live event, everyone will simultaneously see the content in real time.
The automated node configuration and routing capabilities of the XDN architecture enable all nodes in a cluster to provide real-time streaming support for content in all directions. In addition, the stream manager also attempts to assign geographically close origin nodes for broadcasting and edge nodes for subscribing.
Such a high level of real-time interactive performance comes from Red5 Pro’s ability to scale live stream distribution over either WebRTC (Real-Time Communications) or RTSP (Real-Time Streaming Protocol), both of which rely on RTP (Real-time Transport Protocol), the transport mechanism supporting Internet-based telecommunications. By establishing this transportation architecture, the XDN platform is optimized for live streaming with either mobile or fixed access scenarios on a session-by-session basis.
WebRTC protocol is the best choice for users facing fixed network connectivity, because it does not require plug-ins — all the major browsers (including Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, as well as Edge and Opera) have all added client-side support for WebRTC. This allows you to run WebRTC-based apps directly in the browser.
While WebRTC is used in browsers, mobile devices have the additional option of adding a native app with the Red5 Pro mobile SDK. This mobile SDK uses RTSP to stream content to and from mobile devices. The RTSP transport protocol more efficiently optimizes the client-server architecture used in mobile communications which eliminates the need for browser support.
Red5 Pro and XDN support the ingest of content delivered via RTSP or WebRTC as well as other leading protocols used with video playout. This extended ingest compatibility includes video formats such as RTMP (Real-Time Messaging Protocol), MPEG-TS (Transport Protocol), and SRT (Secure Reliable Transport). These formats are configured for streaming on the RTP foundation while preserving the original encapsulations for egress to clients that can’t be reached via WebRTC or RTSP.
Another advantage of our XDN platform is how it mimics the benefits of adaptive bitrate (ABR) streaming while avoiding the greatly increased latency of HTTP-based CDNs. Once ABR ladder profiles are ingested into the XDN origin nodes the content is streamed in profiles matched by node intelligence to each session as determined by access bandwidth availability and client device characteristics.
Consumers across the globe have embraced the current forms of video commerce and are increasingly growing to expect it from all the virtual places they shop. XDN technology not only meets the demand for real-time interactive shopping but also serves to add custom functionality as well. Early adopters are benefiting from the high degree of differentiation that comes from supporting such interactive experiences. It is increasingly clear that this is an opportunity that retailers cannot miss out on.
Of course, that head-start window will close as ever more sellers take advantage of this new infrastructure. To learn more about the livestream shopping possibilities enabled by the XDN platform contact firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule a call. Also, take a look at our white paper.