Inside Live Shopping: The New Era of E-Commerce – ELLE

Inside Live Shopping: The New Era of E-Commerce – ELLE

Nearly a year ago, Zoreen Kabani was consumed by an overwhelming sense of ennui. She felt stagnant, and, quite frankly, bored at the job she’d had for the last nine years. So, the 35-year-old financial advisor switched to another company—and then promptly quit two weeks later. It wasn’t where she worked, she realized, but what she did.

It wasn’t until her brother introduced her to Whatnot, a livestreaming shopping platform-cum-online marketplace that co-founder Grant LaFontaine describes as “eBay meets Twitch,” that she found her calling. For the first few months, Kabani was a spectator, tuning into livestreams and getting to know the streamers, before going live for the first time in June. In the months that followed, Kabani had sold an estimated 6,000 products, garnered a following of nearly 10,000, and made $12,000 in her first month alone, and, remarkably, $50,000 in the first three.

“I fell in love with it right away, and now, Whatnot is my life,” says the Dallas-Fort Worth-based streamer, who adheres to a rigorous Monday to Friday schedule, going live at 10 P.M. ET to an audience ranging from 85 to 200 people and selling clothing that she sources from anywhere, from online sales to thrift stores and other people’s closets. “I treat this like my corporate job. I shop constantly—and that’s been my thing: dressing up and looking cute. It’s something my clients look for, to see what I’m wearing.”

Her story—one of success at livestreaming as a one-woman show and making a living from it—serves as a testament to what many are predicting will become the next frontier of e-commerce: the live shopping era. Already, we’ve seen the live function across social media, namely Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. But as livestreams exist right now, from a shopping angle, they’re all over the place. No one has definitively cracked the code, so to speak. That means they all exude different vibes, formats, and formulas, depending on the streamer, the inventory, and the platform.

Amazon recently relaunched its livestream platform (the tech giant’s first attempt in 2016 was met with little fanfare), ramping up the feature by partnering with its influencer program (including the likes of Lala Kent and JoJo Fletcher) to ensure success. YouTube hosted “YouTube to You,” a week-long holiday event featuring shoppable shorts and long-form videos with 30-plus content creators and brands—one of which included a joint partnership between Ulta Beauty, Tula Skincare, and YouTubers ​​Manny MUA, Amber Scholl, Mai Pham, and AllyiahsFace for a highly produced livestream (complete with a stage, a director, and teleprompters) that felt like QVC-meets-HSN for the digital age. On Whatnot, some streams are reminiscent of auctions (super chaotic, super high-energy, with bids, giveaways, and all). And on Verishop, an online retailer that boasts a roster of 4,000-plus independent brands, others are incredibly low-key and no frills—a streamer simply talking to the camera.

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