What Brands Can Learn from Going LIVE for the Holidays: Moving Beyond Just a Trend to a Tentpole

opinionThe following is a guest contributed post by Fritz Brumder, CEO and Founder of Brandlive.

As 2016 comes to a close and the holiday shopping season is upon us, a few trends are emerging in the tech and media landscape. One of the most evident is brands and retailers leveraging live video to connect with consumers, market products and drive sales. But we aren’t just talking about using social media to engage their audiences with shareable gimmicks, brands are now realizing that integrating interactive live video into their owned and operated digital channels, and using these broadcasts to actually sell products will absolutely drive revenue.

With social media platforms widely expanding their support for live video in 2016, streaming video is projected to account for 82% of all internet traffic by 2020, according to Cisco’s June 2016 Visual Networking Index report. Consumers are now seeing live video all around them. Many of them are dabbling in creating their own live broadcasts. And for some brands, the live video medium is emerging as an essential platform in their digital toolbelt, and we are seeing more and more brands taking the leap.

Many companies have started to invest resources in developing a winning live video formula as online shopping crossed over this year in overall consumer engagement. Considering that the National Retail Federation estimates that 108.5 million Americans shopped online during Black Friday weekend (compared to 99.1 million who visited stores), it’s clear why brands are shifting their attention to live commerce events online as a new way to capture consumer attention.

Live isn’t just being leveraged by up-and-coming brands in an effort to differentiate; some of the world’s biggest brands have embraced the power of live. This holiday season has already seen live commerce activations from Cabela’s and their Gifts for the Hunter” segment, Ace Hardware’s “How to Decorate for the Holidays” segment, and the massive Cyber Monday Live Activation from Walmart, which featured products from Intel, hp, Windows, AT&T and Samsung.

With live video seemingly everywhere now as a broad new model for consumer engagement, why does it have the attention of top brands?

We are seeing several major reasons.

LIVE video provides an authentic experience. Live gives us a chance to connect with our communities, engage with consumers and feature experts for thorough product demonstrations. A 2016 study from Brandlive found that 200+ executives ranked authenticity and the ability to add a human element to their digital marketing strategy as the top reasons to use live video.

Increased digital engagement. 45% of consumers ask questions on the live event page. 47% say live videos increase their purchase confidence. 70% said they are more likely to purchase, and 89% say they would recommend live events to others.

Enhanced experience, no matter where you are. Consumers can view the merchandise up close, learn about the products and have their questions answered by experts. They are also able to make purchases from the comfort of their own homes, offices or wherever they choose.

LIVE video captures and keeps consumers. The average view time for live video is roughly 6x higher than it is for a pre-recorded video. The combination of audience interactions and the unscripted, unpredictability of it all keeps audiences much more engaged.

Since Ustream was founded almost a decade ago, influencers of all kinds have been trying to crack the content code for live streaming, but the key for brands and retailers is not looking for inspiration in gimmicks like exploding watermelons. The key for actually selling something is in providing authentic shopping experiences, in which shoppers can interact with product experts from the comfort of their own homes.

With consumers turning to live video for concerts, sports and events, it is exactly where brands need to be looking. Now is the time to take live video for a ride and understand the impact that these live activations have in consumer engagement, creating open interactions and driving actual sales. Live video is here to stay and is the obvious evolution in branding and authenticity. What better way for consumers to tune in and connect with the brands they love?