The global pandemic forced many changes upon us. Quarantines and a general preference for minimizing contact with other people drove shoppers online. This accelerated efforts that were already under way and opened new opportunities for the use of XDN-based real-time streaming.
Often compared to traditional TV shopping channels like QVC, shoppable videos have 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. 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 was already well established in China, generating $65 billion in 2019. The pandemic year of 2020 rocketed 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 just $1 billion in the United States during 2019 and far less in most other countries.
Like everything else, the persistent pandemic has changed things. Facing the decline of in-person shopping, retail outlets and brand advertisers enthusiastically turned to live stream shopping. For example, long-established players in the U.S. are mounting cloud-based livestream shopping platforms, including Amazon Live, Instagram Shopping Live, Google Shoploop, and Facebook Shops. At the same time innovative startups like TalkShopLive, Popshop Live, Very Very Shopping Network, Packagd, and many more pursue a wide range of new approaches, often with a fun-loving, youth-oriented slant.
Though this change was brought about by the pandemic, there are signs that it will stick around. Sellers and buyers are growing increasingly acclimated to using shoppable video as an alternative to traditional ecommerce. Online shopping was already well established, so it stands to reason that —, 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
However, the current state of livestream shopping as implemented by most platforms, has room for improvement toward simulating the in-store shopping experience. Namely, shoppers need to see a synchronized real-time viewing experience. This means the live video needs to support an end-to-end latency in the 200 to 400 millisecond range. Such low latency sidesteps the multi-second latencies created by conventional one-way streaming between presenters and audiences.
Real-time latency also unlocks the ability to synchronize incoming streams. When those incoming streams are also multidirectional streams, that enables interactive features such as multiway conversations between a group of people. Synchronization 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.
This combination of synchronization and multidirectional streaming means that exciting features can be added. 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 that marketers recognize as a more effective method to sell a 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 sports, multiplayer game playing, esports, social media experiences, auctions, gambling, surveillance, enterprise collaboration, and others as well as shoppable videos.
The live-streamed commerce space Whatnot is a good example of one such operation. The Whatnot app is a live auction platform that offers additional functionality, not just a way to buy and sell stuff. Describing itself as “community marketplace,” Whatnot enables its community to connect and interact in real time during live streams and auctions. The startup’s aim is to bring people together, both on an individual basis as well as within already existing communities with shared interests and hobbies. Their process of verifying collectibles makes it easy and safe to connect, buy, and sell. 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.
Figure 1. A Red5 Pro cluster can be deployed on a cloud platform to support millions of users while guaranteeing sub-500 milliseconds end-to-end latency.
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 scale — if that high scale is needed, of course. This flexible XDN configuration means any node can be configured as an origin node for ingesting content from corresponding users in order to rout the content across the most direct node paths to other users. No matter how many video streams are displayed during a live event, everyone will simultaneously see the content in real time.
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.
The WebRTC protocol is ideal for users facing fixed network connectivity because it eliminates the need for plug-ins or custom-built hardware. This is due to the fact that all the major browsers, including Firefox, Edge, Safari, Opera, and Chrome have implemented client-side support for WebRTC.
RTSP is used by the Red5 Pro mobile SDK to stream content to or from mobile devices. The RTSP transport protocol exploits the client-server architecture employed in mobile communications, eliminating the need for browser support.
Red5 Pro and XDN support the ingest of content delivered via WebRTC or RTSP, as well as other leading protocols used with video playout. This extended ingest compatibility includes video formats such as RTMP (Real-Time Messaging Protocol), SRT (Secure Reliable Transport), and MPEG-TS (Transport Protocol). These are configured 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 duplicates the benefits of adaptive bitrate (ABR) streaming without accruing the multi-second latencies 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.
The consumer demand and embrace of shoppable video is just one example of the global need for real-time live streaming. XDN technology is meeting that demand, and early adopters are benefiting from the high degree of differentiation that comes from supporting such interactive experiences. This is a major opportunity.
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.