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Why Livestream Shopping Could Be a Trend to Watch in 2019

Shoclef, yet another player in the emerging mobile livestream shopping scene, refreshed its mobile app after launching internationally earlier this year. Since its debut, the San Francisco-based company claims its active user base stands at 80 million, heavily concentrated in mobile commerce-savvy Asia.

The startup joins a number of competitors like ShopShops, Streamlist and Livby that bring stores both large and small to faraway viewers through the power of the smartphone. And similar to its competitors, Shoclef relies on an ecosystem of stakeholders to make the virtual shopping experience come to life. Personal shoppers earn money for each minute a customer, or “buyer,” stays on a livestream with them, and they can serve more than one customer per stream. But if they’re shopping simultaneously for multiple people, one wonders if they ever mix up products and ship the wrong item to the wrong person. Regardless, personal shoppers purchase products for buyers, boxing up and posting orders themselves.

Shoclef claims its users can shop in 150,000 cities around the globe and have personal shoppers or pseudo stylists model garments, search for alternate sizes and colors and handle the grunt work that comes with navigating a store. City Deals allows buyers to compare products and services, and find the best offer.

Merchants can use the Shoclef app for more than streaming a shopping event. When they’re not livestreaming, they can post products they have available, giving buyers a reason to keep opening the app even when there isn’t a livestream running.

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The next-generation of cellular network technology, 5G, is just rolling out here in the U.S. AT&T has a dozen cities, mostly clustered in the South, live on its 5G network. When its faster data speeds finally replace 4G, livestream shopping might finally reach its tipping-point moment and go mainstream among American shoppers seeking that storied experience mash-up known as “shoppertainment.”

But according to GSMA, a mobile operator group, Asia Pacific is set to become the world’s largest 5G region by 2025 with 625 million people using the next-gen network—many of them in prospering nations and strong or growing economies like China and South Korea. Middle-class and affluent consumers in these regions are already on the hunt for brands and deals around the globe as technology erodes the barriers to cross-border commerce.

If mobile livestream shopping goes big, what does that mean for retailers? How do they collect data on customers acquired through tuning in? How do patterns of demand from international customers affect in-store inventory? What happens with a return? Are small U.S. boutiques even equipped to handle the language challenges that might crop up with shoppers from far-flung nations?

Still, retailers might be relieved to find demand from shoppers thousands of miles away when perhaps domestic business is weathering a challenging climate. And livestreams—offering the in-store experience from the comfort of the consumer’s couch—could further validate brick-and-mortar investments, perhaps staving off some store shutterings.

Maybe mobile livestream shopping is just another passing fad, but as of now all signs point to a trend to watch in 2019.