The Integration of Live Streaming and E-commerce in Singapore

1. Introduction to Live Streaming and E-commerce

While online live stream service has been a thing in China since 2016, it began to take off globally and in Singapore from 2020, coinciding with the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a research report, transaction volume from e-commerce live streaming Singapore in 2020 was 910.4 billion yuan (S$185.3 billion), with market penetration at 4.99 million yuan (S$1.01 trillion), occupying 9.7% of China’s industry e-commerce retail sales. In contrast, Southeast Asia’s penetration rate is only 1%. However, it is expected to grow further due to COVID-19. E-commerce live streaming is a catalytic breakthrough, which has replaced traditional media advertising with new marketing and innovative sales formats. This explains why e-commerce live streaming can generate such a high sales volume in just three years.

E-commerce sales across the globe have exploded since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and the trend has continued as we navigate through the uncertainties of our new normal. Due to the pandemic, consumers have mostly resorted to online purchases, including essential items. In Singapore, where e-commerce is less than 6% of the country’s total retail sales, online purchases have increased across various categories. To stimulate retail consumption, shopkeepers looked to online live streaming to publicize their products and attract customers to make an immediate purchase. Shopkeepers have revealed that they enjoy live streaming because customers often make impulse purchases on the spot. On the other hand, customers, especially women aged between 20 and 30, find live shopping fun, entertaining, and instant.

1.1. Definition and Significance

Live streaming is fascinating precisely because of how effective it is in reaching and engaging with large audiences. We delve into what some of the interactions between viewers and influencers are designed for and include an opinion on why some kind of shopping onboarding through live streaming would be beneficial and essential, even in the presence of advanced shoppable videos. Did platform integration with live streaming and e-commerce features for businesses to succeed rankings and statistics be designed with future progression in mind from the very beginning?

Estimates show that big spenders in live streaming will likely only go up, creating more and more opportunities for shopping platforms to get a piece of the action by providing their own monetization infrastructure tools. We take a closer look at how the vast spectrum of e-commerce and live streaming is shaking out in Singapore, where a major in-demand e-commerce platform, Locamart, is leveraging exposed platform APIs to introduce live streaming. This study introduces the concept of live streaming and what makes it so successful in combination with e-commerce today. It also gives the reader an understanding of e-commerce available already in Singapore, the major platform features, and relevant platform updates.

1.2. Historical Development

Guo and Zhang conclude that TV shopping is fundamentally different from e-commerce and is not in conflict with live webcasts. TV shopping is driven by demand to initiate impulse consumption, while live streaming sales are more “trendy” and the consumption of live streaming shopping is driven by demand. Canhuang, representing a sales model. Live streaming pays attention to streaming content, whether it is user feedback or star effects, which are all established and optimized channels. At the same time, it is also a new promotion channel and can be used freely. On the whole, content-driven live streaming shopping will utilize the power of TV content production. Accommodating a wider audience and providing purchase incentives to improve the quality of the entire shopping experience. The entire network platform TV shopping creation content and anchors cooperate with each other at the content level and will be of great significance. TV shopping stabilizes anchors and is a good opportunity, and anchor promotion and TV shopping will become the development direction of the TV shopping industry.

The historical development of live streaming and e-commerce in Singapore is presented as follows. The chronological development is possibly related to the chronological development which has taken place in social media and the wider e-commerce. According to Yu, with the rapid development of the Internet, the forms of online shopping have become increasingly rich, and users are no longer satisfied with the monotonous shopping methods displaying text descriptions and pictures. Livestream e-commerce in short videos has started to raise interest to users. Chen considers that with the breakthrough and innovation of live and VOD technology, the commercial model of anchor online sales in live streaming e-commerce is gradually developing and growing. The large number of fans in the anchor cannot be underestimated in the context of the “new social interaction”. There are opinions on online shopping to the greatest extent, and the anchor attribute is the basis of all commercial values.

2. Live Streaming Technologies

WebRTC stands for Web Real-Time Communication. It is an open-source project that provides web browsers and mobile applications with real-time communication by allowing audio and video communication between peers. It supports high-quality media, such as audio and video codecs like VP8, VP9, H.264, Opus, etc. It also offers a better security solution by supporting secure encryption. Furthermore, WebRTC provides lower latency than traditional video streaming solutions. In this project, I’m using WebRTC to implement two-way communication between the live stream studio and the admin website. Using WebRTC will allow the talent in the studio to communicate with the admin when any issues arise.

Video encoding is the process of changing the video bitstream into something that fits the properties of a given network, such as bit rate, resolution, aspect ratio, and supported codec. Traditionally, encoders were classified into two types: full software and full hardware. The hardware-based encoders implemented the whole codec, such as H.264, in an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit. These encoders are capable of real-time encoding of 1080p without breaking a sweat. These days, there are commercial offers for encoders that have the advantages of both software and hardware encoders. They are known as hybrid encoders. They encode the video with partial help from a hardware accelerator (e.g., Quick Sync) with a software codec to achieve lower bit rates with the hardware-accelerated speed of encoding. With faster encoding speed, the bandwidth usage can be decreased, saving operational costs. The video feed from the studio has to be encoded and transmitted to the e-commerce websites and services. In this project, I’m taking advantage of OBS Studio and its support for Nvidia GPU hardware-based video encoding to achieve high-quality 1080p 60 FPS.

2.1. Types of Live Streaming Platforms

The second type relates to e-commerce platform-based live streaming, such as Taobao Live, Jingdong Live, and Red Live. Many multichannel retailers in Singapore run online stores on these platforms. It is believed that the e-commerce platform-based live streaming is least influenced by the emerging economy’s regulations and fastest in response to new regulations as compared to the remaining two types. Businesses on such platforms focus on integrating e-commerce features such as products, pictures, and chat functionalities which allow live stream hosts to engage, communicate, and help viewers with the purchase process. Businesses can use the various features to create incentives to convert viewers into purchasers. On these platforms, live streams and e-commerce have a symbiotic relationship as they rely on one another for success. In other words, businesses operate the two together, effectively creating “complementary” revenues. Businesses gain extra exposure for their products to live streaming viewers, while live streaming helps businesses generate additional revenues that compensate for poor product performance. The spectacular success of the e-commerce platform-based live streaming is undoubtedly due to it being a game-changer in reframing a new buying experience for online shoppers. However, while e-commerce has dominated the retail market in Singapore, it was reported that only 3.5% of the online sales were based on that model. E-commerce platform-based live streaming provides a new form of sales relying on popular live streaming hosts to drive sales. Such live streams are more popular, attract more viewers, encourage greater conversions to sales, and induce higher consumption levels whenever more popular live streaming hosts are involved.

To appreciate and assess the implications of the integration between live streaming and e-commerce, it is pertinent to understand live streaming first. Arguably, there are three types of live streaming platforms. The first type involves social media platforms such as Facebook Live, Twitter Live, and Instagram Live. These are free platforms that allow enterprises to reach a wide audience and interact with online shoppers to alleviate their concerns about products and help in the decision-making process.

2.2. Key Features and Capabilities

Live broadcasting of shopping by item hosts often has the following key features and capabilities: 1. Attract viewers’ attention with sales and consumer buying impulses in real-time. 2. Utilize research and optimization mechanisms and provide instant opportunities for viewers to purchase goods. 3. Transmit product information in a timely manner and directly promote user interest. 4. Communicate directly with the viewers to encourage more feedback.

Shoppertainment is a combination of shopping and entertainment. It uses live broadcasting to broadcast real-time activities to the public, which greatly increases the interest of users interacting with the network. The merchant only needs to open an online shop on a corresponding platform and advertise the products on the live broadcast. As long as viewers register as a member after experiencing the product by watching the live broadcast, they can interact with the merchant directly. The live broadcast platform provides an operation function called “opinions of the viewer” so that viewers can ask questions online. Merchants can directly interact with the viewer via text message or provide guidance. It is a mobile e-commerce model that allows viewers to interact in real-time and synchronously participate in the shopping process while watching the live online product demonstration.

3. E-commerce in Singapore

Finally, the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns impelled businesses to go digital and harness e-commerce as shopfronts of various physical and service products, such as shampoos and online gym services. The integration of live streaming and e-commerce can be seen as the e-commerce companies seized the strategic opportunity to tap on increased live streaming screen time amid the ongoing pandemic. The Singapore government also supported the local retail industry in digital adaptation. It introduced several retail solutions under the Smart Nation digitalization initiative, which co-funds investments in pre-scoped digital solutions available on the SME Go platform. The digital screens can be interactive or non-interactive touch screens that display multiple videos on each screen. The screens can be incorporated in retail shops, food courts, and stadiums to display advertising and food menu videos, respectively. Upon touch, it would open another video window that provides elaborated and customized information on the advertising posters or food menu.

The e-commerce revenue in Singapore’s e-commerce market is expected to reach US$4,248m in 2021. Entities in Singapore can target their e-commerce towards the neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia. Several e-commerce companies engage in B2B, B2C, or C2C activities and online marketplaces that present a platform for buyers and sellers to transact. Local logistics companies will manage the marketing, sales transactions, and back-end processes. Furthermore, Singapore is noted for its strong broadband infrastructure and internet penetration that resulted in the widespread adoption of access to and usage of digital and e-commerce. Concerns like privacy issues and internet security can be tackled with the enactment of cybersecurity laws and regulations from the Singapore government. Also, the Singapore government is encouraging all small, medium, and large businesses to go digital by supporting them to adopt e-commerce platforms.

3.1. Overview of E-commerce Landscape

Since the 2017 edition of the eCommerce Landscape, we can see a few changes in the demographics. Generally, increases are traced and marked in all mentioned aspects. Significantly, this would mean a particular number of the young Singapore population has inert accounts or never utilizes the internet. The most concerning percentage loss and decrease are from the teenagers 25-33 years old. The consorted largest drop, however, is from the age 34-40 group. Strikingly, the highest increase in percentage is of the group 55-64 years old. Note that these results are post-circuit breaker, and the effects can mostly be due to the lockdowns. We wait till next year to see more definitive outcomes and trends.

The Worldwide pandemic – Covid-19 has pushed retail and consumers online, becoming major breeding. It had caused extreme strains, and disruptions. Singapore and many other nations had to assume lockdowns and distancing measures, shocked the Economy severally. The rules and practices, as per before, are entirely changed, be it where the office toils, where people eat, and where one’s business venturers. Personal importance attached to stay mounting. The Singapore Government isn’t impervious to such breeding; thus, here’s a survey on the modern and evolving Singapore e-commerce environment.

3.2. Trends and Statistics

Already well-developed in China with top leading live streamers, such as Viya live stream e-commerce. The e-commerce-centered live platform offers various brands fingers-on, very easy-to-use screen technology for promotion. The cost and return on a live stream are also very reasonable. Live streamers can reach out to millions of WeChat followers for their daily social life interaction for awareness and entice them to view the live commerce via RED or Douyin or Twitter and at the same time persuade followers to purchase through the social platforms just by the click. Live streaming is also gaining importance within the Singapore market where young social media influencers and entrepreneurs currently use platforms such as RED and even Instagram for live streaming. These well-known influencers attract a broad audience through their social media platforms from which influencing even includes product placement and promotion of businesses. The advantages are that businesses now no longer need to hire a PR company for publicity and promotion services as the influencers already have a strong following that reaches out to their likings.

The hot trend of integrating live streaming and e-commerce by all social media platforms in the China market, where it is popularly known as “shoppertainment” or live commerce, is increasingly appearing and becoming an important part of the promotional mix in the Asia region markets. Live streaming has become a critical part of the fabric of online shopping, never mind that this method, in essence, goes back to the old school home shopping television channels but in a click and select method online. The Middle East market and some parts of Europe are also slowly adapting to live streaming and e-commerce integration platforms now. Time-starved consumers see live commerce as a great way for brands to simplify shopping. Consumers can just browse a brand’s live scrolling catalogs via a website or app, and then strong impulse buying proposals see them purchasing through the click-in-cart method available.

4. Benefits of Integrating Live Streaming and E-commerce

Social bond seeking motivates live streamers to support their favorite live streamers. Live streaming QVC offers these consumer behavior stimuli, such as transparency and promotion of a product. Even chief marketing officers posit that live streaming QVC has many benefits for them. For example, live streaming e-commerce obviates the limitations of e-commerce software. E-commerce is still conducted through a web page, even on apps installed directly on smartphones. Consequently, the shopping space and display are inherently limited compared to an actual store.

Showing data on the people who use certain products, as well as engaging with the hosts, would make a live streaming QVC service the best of both worlds. Just incorporating e-commerce features in your live streaming would not be enough if the host does not have a flair for presenting a product or functionality. Alternatively, QVC alone would not make a highly interactive live streaming event. High sales can only be achieved by integrating the best features of both e-commerce and live streaming, as they will be beneficial for each other. Such benefits of integrating live streaming and e-commerce are anonymity in purchases, organic advertisement, humanized feedback, and social interactions.

4.1. Enhanced Customer Engagement

In response to the emergence of live streaming and the increasing demand for more engaging content, brands have turned to influencers and cast them as content creators portraying (or unportray) their brand story through the influencer’s eyes, which makes content seem more authentic and increases brand appeal. The success of influencer work has driven many followers to become interested and have a demand to explore these branded segmented industries. They want to absorb the messages and create goals which are achieved by a seemingly obtainable purchase or lifestyle that aligns with their favorite influencers. The availability of these peer messages has driven many consumers to capture and own the brand items in the suggestion content. Platforms found the perfect scenario to capitalize on its influencer authentic storytelling engine by allowing them to promote and start selling the unlocked goods promoted when chatting live to their fans, allowing users to preorder new items using a “comment save” shopping basket system. The integration of live streaming, social media, video, and image content perspectives can provide different views and storytelling combinations that can engage different subsets of consumers in varying ways.

For consumers who choose to purchase through live streams, the content they are exposed to is not traditional advertising. Traditional advertising is a method of delivering product information and brand value quickly, but it has the tendency to quickly give viewer fatigue or to cause a negative rather than positive attitude towards the brand for more aggressive advertising, as it disrupts the original content the audience is viewing. Even if consumers choose to view the top commercials and video ads aired during their favorite programs, the messages in those ads are often far less likely to resonate with them than the established program content and are quickly tuned out. Therefore, in addition to exposing products, advertising needs to contain interesting, entertaining, and engaging content to captivate viewers. Because live streaming allows frequent direct interactions with audiences, it is effective in delivering advertising content with entertaining and engaging information to the audience.

4.2. Increased Sales Conversion

With the rise of gaming and e-sports in Singapore, Huya has seen an increase in engagement from the local market. It has also continuously invested in teaming up with local businesses to provide e-commerce services to more clients and users. With the existence of more function buttons at the back end of the live broadcasting, there are more links for the anchor to advertise their products. During the live streaming through Douyu, the links address will automatically expand and the user can click through for a simple operation. Thirty minutes before the live streaming, there will be a quick entry link on Taobao homepage. Taobao live broadcasts are operationally friendly and it is advisable to be as comprehensive as possible in order to improve sales. Make the most of Taobao’s live interaction function. The anchor has a two-way interaction with the audience which can enhance the audience interest in watching the number of live broadcasts and improve the conversion rate.

In order to have a greater sales conversion, it has to be easy for viewers to purchase the products they like, and live streaming can help with that. It provides instant purchases with real-time interaction, meaning that they can ask questions of the live streamer during the broadcast and get authentic reviews. Viewers are also likely to stay on the platform because live streams are constantly updated. Uniquely in the case of Taobao, viewers are able to pause the live stream altogether and purchase products straight away. Live streaming platforms often provide various forms of action links or flash purchase for product purchase. Huya is an example of a live streaming platform that enables a flash purchase window, or a ticket for purchasing the product at a discounted price during the show.

5. Challenges and Solutions

Challenges typically surface in the attempt to unveil new trading posts inside the network. These commercial operations are in charge of turning the crowd into potential buyers or the buyer into final consumers. By adding some commercial features, new business models have to fight reducing followers or consumers. Consequently, some questions and oppositions arise, e.g., transactions for brand endorsements don’t match with the crowd’s spirit. The protected and reserved space should stimulate both the crowd’s participation and the consumer’s attention in the e-commerce execution, while the effort to advertise live shows according to the proper crowd’s categorization should therefore ease both the audience and consumer attention. With a few consumer features and brand endorsements, every broadcast production may transform into a real-time sale power. Only a common interest can stimulate the audience to stay connected to and monitor a real-time sale deal market. However, these challenges and oppositions might be easily managed. The cooperation can take place between the many actors and produce advantages for everyone. The new coming business demands youth, spirit, and drive to turn ideas into actions and at the same time, boost the live sales data.

The following section discusses the potential challenges of integrating live streaming and e-commerce, before providing a few potential solutions. The challenges include the ability of consumers in identifying genuine products featured by brand endorsers, oversaturation of social networks, difficulty in tracking the reach or the result of live shows, and security and sharing of sensitive data, specifically credit and bank details. Specifically focusing on live streaming, some challenges faced by both broadcasters and brands could include the over exaggeration to draw attention, script of live shows and engaging storytelling, budget constraints and top broadcasters’ price quotation. Ultimately, the capabilities of both broadcasters and brands in managing the attempt to be verified as genuine and cooperation, catapults live streaming and boosts e-commerce performances.

5.1. Technical Challenges

Despite the importance of real-time integration for driving innovation, operational uncertainties arise during system upgrades or modifications. Issues such as inaccurate inventory records, malfunctioning payment systems, payment gateway outages, and disruptions in live stream replication and delivery infrastructure can result in customer attrition to rival businesses. Managing these intricate and high-stakes scenarios, which are inherent in operationalizing live streaming and e-commerce integration, presents a formidable operational challenge.

The integration of live streaming and e-commerce poses significant technical challenges across technology, business processes, and organizational aspects. A key hurdle lies in seamlessly merging live streaming channels with e-commerce elements like product databases, inventory management, and payment gateways. This integration enables platforms to swiftly introduce new channels in response to market demands, but it also risks overwhelming live streaming content with excessive e-commerce data. A critical technological aspect involves distinguishing between e-commerce information and real-time content within the live stream, especially for features like online auditing and live polls that demand precise event detection.

5.2. Regulatory Compliance

Further to being categorized as media companies, live streamers may also be held to an additional standard within the Code of Practice for Competition in the Provision of Media Services. Part III – Fairness holds the live streamer to ensure that it complies with their internal guidelines. As it stands, these guidelines are currently opaque. Furthermore, in December 2019, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) in Singapore introduced the proposed Media Market Conduct Code. This document specifies that intermediaries such as social media influencers (live streamers included) should take reasonable steps to ensure that there are no false or misleading claims in broadcast advertisements. Statements made in broadcast advertisements should also not be inconsistent with each other.

Regulations in Singapore deem live streaming platforms to be not only a media company but also an e-commerce platform. As a media company, the platform must comply with the Broadcasting (Class License) Notification in relation to advertisements, with a prohibition on political advertisements. With the growth of live streaming, there may be situations where merchandise being promoted is not being sold by the creator, but could be delivered from a separate commercial entity carrying out a form of outsourcing. In such a situation, it is currently unclear what constitutes an advertisement and whether the goods would still need to be inspected under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act. The combination of a potential gray area allows live streamers to leverage Singapore’s position as a global logistics hub to their benefit.

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