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Livestream Shopping’s a ‘Merchandising Mentality,’ Betabrand CEO Says

Launching an e-commerce site requires minimal barriers to entry, but creating a compelling experience is a whole different level of creativity and investment put together. With the introduction of livestreaming and augmented reality (AR) in recent years, apparel companies have greater opportunities to put their thinking caps on and provide experiences that can’t be found in a store.

Betabrand, an online women’s fashion retailer that launches products based on crowdsourcing, debuts brand new products every day as part of its live interactive shopping experiences.

“If you like yoga pants you can wear to work, or anywhere outside the studio, we invite you to select the ones that we put out next,” Chris Lindland, founder and CEO of Betabrand, said in a CommerceNext webinar. “People vote to the tune of about 10,000 votes a day to determine what we put out. We then make them, and then there’s a mailing list of 10,000 people who say, ‘I can’t wait to get them immediately.’ They then show up and snap up every last pair in a live outrageous bazaar of shopping and chatting that occurs daily.”

Betabrand operates three hours of live programming per day, with the presentation front and center on the company’s website. When a show has finished, it is replayable for a few hours afterward.

In the meantime, Lindland pointed out that while watching the video, shoppers can view a “Shop Stream,”  a real-time reflection of all consumer and voting behavior related to the live program. The stream shows when shoppers vote for or purchase a showcased item, and enables shoppers to chat with staff.

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Shoppers can even access “Recent Drops” which highlight some of the top livestream videos from the week before.

“We’ve produced about 300 shows so far,” Lindland said. “We’ve discovered is that livestreaming is not just technology, but it’s actually an entire broadcast and merchandising mentality.”

Over the course of the past year, Betabrand has seen its top cohort of what Lindland calls its “obsessive consumers” grow by 40 to 50 percent. Crowdsourcing new products has enabled the retailer to build mailing lists that consistently generate 10 percent conversion rates.

“The nut we haven’t cracked yet, but we’re going to be working on for the next quarter, is how to get new acquisition eyeballs to participate in live experiences,” Lindland. “Everyone who’s on our mailing list only experiences Betabrand through live interactive UX, but now we’re going to be saying, ‘Okay, now it’s time to get everyone else that even shows up to our site.’”

Betabrand built much of the technology behind the livestream production in-house, while leveraging Twitch to broadcast the videos. Although Betabrand has seen a high level of output, most brands have yet to even get off the ground with any sort of livestreaming strategy.

A poll of the CommerceNext webinar attendees indicated that while 24 percent have added video consultations to their arsenal, only 8 percent have gone to the next level by enabling livestream shopping.

While livestreaming may be viewed as a business model that attracts a younger, mobile-friendly shopper, Lindland has seen adoption across various generations, which has helped get the initiative off the ground.

“Every woman who is either Gen X or Gen Y should be very proud of themselves, because they’re the ones that are bringing livestreaming to the United States,” Lindland said. “A lot of people suggest that this is a Gen Z thing, but it is not at all on our site. We have thousands and thousands of interactions every day by people who are psyched to participate in these experiences that are not 18 years old.”

Going forward, Betabrand is expanding the livestreaming capabilities, with plans to go beyond the allotted three hours of live programming per day, and more experimentation with in-program polling so that shows and products showcased can change on the fly based on the feedback.

AR pilot boosts eyewear brand’s conversions 135 percent

Beyond Betabrand’s livestream experience, the webinar also highlighted heritage eyewear brand Moscot and its recent introduction of AR via solutions from Vertebrae.

Moscot offers multiple sizes for its frames on the belief that “not one frame fits all or fits every face,” but the brand was reluctant in prior years to due to concerns about accuracy, according to Zack Moscot, the family-owned brand’s chief design officer. But that changed when he was introduced to Vertebrae’s founder and CEO Vince Cacace.

Cacace revealed that users of the Vertebrae AR Try-On experience generated a 135 percent conversion lift for Moscot, as well as a 174 percent increase in revenue per visit.

Both a web-based 3D viewer and the Virtual Try-On experience are currently available for the brand’s Lemtosh, Lemtosh Sun, Lemtosh Black, Miltzen, Miltzen Sun, Gelt and Zolman product lines. Shoppers visiting Moscot product pages from their mobile or desktop browser can choose to view a 3D model of one of these popular styles and closely examine it from every angle.

From there, consumers can tap “Virtual Try-On” and see the virtual image of the eyeglasses projected onto their face and dynamically mapped to the proportions of their individual features. The virtual eyeglasses can be tried on in all sizes and colors, and the experience doesn’t require uses to download an app.

The Virtual Try-On feature is accessible via mobile and desktop.
The Virtual Try-On feature is accessible via mobile and desktop. Vertebrae

“Whenever we’re looking at our digital experience, we’re always trying to see how we bring this memorable expertise-driven, in-shop experience online, and we’re always looking at the converse as well,” Moscot said in the webinar. “One of the largest barriers for us online was the size component. Having that variant available on our PDP was a barrier in conversion for us, so when we dug down into the metrics of the page and we understood where people were getting stuck specifically, it was understanding size. This functionality really helped enable our users to get through to get down the funnel.”

Moscot is also widely deploying QR codes to help shoppers access the 3D and Virtual Try-On experiences from their mobile devices. The QR codes are displayed to all desktop users and are also being used in Moscot’s shop windows as a visual merchandising tool.

“This is something fun for [passersby], especially in shop locations where we might have higher traffic when the shops closed,” Moscot said. “We might have a certain type of audience and neighborhood people that might swing by and scan. They can scan the frame and start trying it on while they’re walking down the street. We’re just thinking how you can bring something like this to all types of physical spaces.”

Overall, Cacace said that shoppers were twice as likely to make a purchase when using Vertebrae’s Axis 3D and AR platform, with brands achieving a 112 percent conversion lift and 106 percent in revenue per visitor.

Like livestreaming, AR still has sluggish adoption, with 20 percent of the webinar attendees saying they have used it in the past. The in-session poll also revealed that only 13 percent have used virtual reality (VR), while 34 percent said they haven’t tried any AR, VR or livestream experiences. But Cacace sees greater promise for AR, particularly as more retailers learn how to integrate it in different distribution models such as email newsletters, social channels and dynamic product ads.

“We view 3D and AR as the next version of product photography and it should be as accessible as product photography is today,” Cacace said. “That’s across every channel, and that creates this amortization of the assets that are being created, because they are expensive to create. They cost anywhere between $200 to $500 per model to make. We’re very agnostic whether you make them through us or not. The opportunity is to then take that content once its owned and then expanding the channels where that content can live.”