Changes in consumer shopping behavior accelerated by the Covid 19 pandemic have brought livestream shopping by video into the limelight, opening new opportunities for the use of XDN-based real-time streaming.
Often likened to traditional TV shopping channels like QVC but with the added benefit of direct interactivity, livestream shopping typically involves live broadcasts of pitches by sales people or even individuals with something to sell and, occasionally, celebrity hosts. The underlying platforms support direct in-video purchasing options and chat links that presenters can respond to live as part of the webcast.
1) Livestream Shopping is Going Mainstream
Livestream shopping has taken off in China, where the sales take in 2020 was estimated to have hit $150 billion compared to $65 billion in 2019, which, according to another estimate, represented 9% of total ecommerce that year. The adoption of this approach to ecommerce elsewhere has gone much slower, registering sales of just $1 billion in the U.S. during 2019 and far less in most other countries.
But now the phenomenon is accelerating worldwide amid a persistent pandemic. With the decline of in-person shopping, retail outlets as well as brand advertisers in the U.S. and elsewhere have wholeheartedly embraced the strategy. For example, major players in the U.S. are mounting cloud-based livestream shopping platforms, including Instagram Shopping Live, Amazon Live, Facebook Shops and Google Shoploop, as startups like Popshop Live, TalkShopLive, Packagd, Very Very Shopping Network, and many more pursue a wide range of innovative approaches, often with a fun-loving, youth-oriented slant.
The existence of these platforms and the fact that sellers and buyers are acclimating to livestream shopping as an alternative to traditional ecommerce appear to ensure the new trend will endure and grow. As Maira Genovese, founder of the global marketing agency MG Empower, put it 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
But livestream shopping as it is supported by most platforms today still has a long way to go to better emulate the in-store shopping experience. The obvious next step is to enable a synchronized real-time viewing experience on the part of shoppers, which is to say, end-to-end latency on any video stream in the 200 to 400 millisecond range. This eliminates the disparate multi second latencies that conventional one-way streaming injects into the interactive communications between presenters and audiences.
Equally important, real-time synchronization of viewing experiences paired with the ability to stream video interactively from any direction to any number of people in real time enables interactions with the presenters where viewers’ questions selected for airing are posed via video rather than chat alone. Marketers who choose this approach have the advantage of drawing the higher engagement that occurs when viewers know they have an opportunity to be seen during the presentation.
3) Real-Time Video Interactivity Is a Commercially Proven Opportunity
These capabilities are native to the experience delivery network (XDN) technology developed by Red5 Pro to address exploding demand for interactive real-time video experiences. Red5 Pro–based XDNs are in operation worldwide supporting applications related to social media experiences, sports, esports, multiplayer game playing, gambling, auctions, enterprise collaboration, surveillance and much else, as well as livestream shopping.
One example in the live-streamed commerce space is Whatnot, which operates a platform that enables its community to connect and interact in real time to buy and sell just about anything. The startup’s stated aim is to bring people together, individually or as part of existing communities with shared interests and hobbies, by making it easy and safe to connect, buy and sell. Some Whatnot sellers are small businesses, but over 90% are people who sell items as a hobby or side-hustle.
Making these experiences enjoyable is a key element of the value proposition, says Whatnot co-founder 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, noting his team chose the XDN platform after considerable due diligence.
“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 explained in this white paper, Red5 Pro’s XDN platform utilizes a server software stack hierarchically deployed and orchestrated in three-tiered clusters across one or more public or private cloud environments (fig. 1). Each cluster consists of one or more core 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.
Nodes can be deployed in virtualized public cloud or private cloud facilities anywhere in the world to create a seamlessly orchestrated, highly scalable infrastructure for delivering interactive real-time video experiences. In addition, the stream manager also attempts to assign geographically close origin nodes for broadcasting and edge nodes for subscribing. Whenever one or more video streams are displayed during a live marketing event, everyone sees the content simultaneously in real time.
This level of real-time interactive performance stems from Red5 Pro’s success at scaling 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. With this transport foundation, the XDN platform can employ live streaming modes optimized for either mobile or fixed access scenarios on a session-by-session basis.
In the case of fixed network connectivity, WebRTC is ideal, because it eliminates the need for plug-ins or purpose-built hardware. Client-side support for interactions with the protocol have been implemented in all the major browsers, including Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari and Opera.
To stream content from or to mobile devices, Red5 Pro employs RTSP, which exploits the client-server architecture employed in mobile communications, eliminating the need for browser support.
Along with ingesting any content delivered via WebRTC or RTSP, the Red5 Pro XDN can ingest video formatted to all the other leading protocols used with video playout, including RTMP (Real-Time Messaging Protocol), SRT (Secure Reliable Transport), and MPEG-TS (Transport Protocol). These are packaged for streaming on the RTP foundation with preservation of the original encapsulations for egress to clients that can’t be reached via WebRTC or RTSP.
The XDN also preserves the benefits of adaptive bitrate (ABR) streaming without incurring the multi second latencies of HTTP-based CDNs. The XDN origin nodes ingest ABR ladder profiles, then stream in profiles matched by node intelligence to each session in accord with client device characteristics and access bandwidth availability.
The need for XDN functionality in the livestream shopping market is a microcosm of the global shift to real-time interactive video applications. For those who take advantage of these capabilities, there’s a major opportunity to differentiate by creating real-time experiences that others can’t provide.
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.