In recent years, livestreaming has seen its popularity rapidly rise as marketers make use of the channel to engage with audiences. It’s especially popular in Southeast Asia, where recent research from Mileu found that across the region 82% of people surveyed have watched a livestream sales video, among which 48% tune in at least once a week.
Perhaps even more impressive, the study found that 63% of those who have watched livestream sales videos have made a purchase –not a shabby close rate by any measure.
To get more insight into livestreaming and how brands are using it for wider reach, we recently spoke with Gemma Battenbough, Head of Brand Partnership Studio for APAC at the popular streaming platform, Twitch, which attracts, on average, 31 million daily visitors.
Over the course of our conversation, Battenbough talks about livestreaming’s continued rise, how brands are reacting to it, the “unapologetically human” aspect of livestreaming engagement, maintaining authenticity, what differentiates Twitch, and more.
There has been a surge in livestreaming with recent data showing 5 in 10 consumers in Southeast Asia tune in once a week and 63% of those have made a purchase. That’s impressive. What do you think makes it so resonant in the region?
It’s very impressive, and absolutely corresponds with what we’re seeing on Twitch – our own viewership figures are also up 16% year-on-year across Asia Pacific, with brands increasingly partnering with us to create more personalised and entertaining live shopping experiences.
“The live nature means that audiences can ask questions and receive authentic assessments about the product from the host in real-time, as if they were shopping with a friend.”
I think there are a few reasons for this – for starters, it’s no secret that Southeast Asia is rapidly digitising. In fact, a report by Google, Temasek and Bain & Company found that the region’s digital economy has grown considerably faster than expected, hitting $200 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) in 2022 – three years ahead of earlier projections.
E-commerce plays a big factor in this. Despite a return to relative ‘normality’, it’s clear that some of our pandemic-induced habits are here to stay – a separate study by Lazada, for example, found that 73% of Southeast Asian consumers consider online shopping to be an integral part of everyday life.
But it’s also well-known that consumers in this region love choice and will spend a long time comparing options before making a purchase – in an offline world, that would mean going to multiple stores to see products in real-life, and talking to reps to find out more.
However, in online retail, livestreaming has come in to bridge the gap and act as that proxy for touch and feel instead. The live nature means that audiences can ask questions and receive authentic assessments about the product from the host in real-time, as if they were shopping with a friend. That really speaks to this region’s cultural preferences.
In general, how are brands globally reacting to this trend? Are they getting on board?
Forward-thinking brands understand the power that retail livestreaming has to connect them with online audiences – especially younger millennials and Gen Z.
The unique characteristics and online behaviours of this group makes them hard to reach via conventional marketing channels. For example, our research shows that 54% of Twitch’s APAC audience does not watch more than 1 hour of traditional TV each day – and when they do, they are usually also on a second device. What’s more, a staggering 39% of our audience is not reachable via traditional TV at all.
Meanwhile, attention spans are decreasing – your average Gen Z is only able to focus for around 8 seconds compared to the 12-second attention span of Millennials. In other words, capturing and retaining enough attention to land brand messages has become more and more challenging.
However, this demographic is very passionate about participating in and engaging with their entertainment. This impacts how they want to consume content – they don’t want to just be passive consumers, they want to be part of the narrative. So in a retail setting, live shopping essentially provides them with that opportunity to interact with products in a more unfiltered way.
Grabbing the attention of Gen Z and Millennials can be hard but live creator-led content and the one-of-a-kind interactive community experience on our service is what makes Twitch their go-to destination. This has also prompted brands to engage with this group in a more dynamic, interactive and connective way. On average, active viewers spend more than 3 hours on Twitch daily, so if brands are trying to connect with this group, Twitch is where to find them.
What about the Twitch offering differentiates it from others in the segment?
On average, we attract 31 million daily visitors globally, and nearly 70% of that audience is made-up of hard-to-reach Gen Z and millennial viewers aged between 18 and 34 – digital natives that thrive in user-generated environments. So we do have a unique view into what makes ‘Generation Twitch’ tick.
However, I’d say the beauty of Twitch lies in a feeling of authenticity that is native to our service. We are, above all else, a community and creator-first business, where anyone with a passion can find their tribe. This means tight-knit bonds between viewers and their favourite streamers, and much higher levels of engagement than are typically seen elsewhere. It also means we are extremely careful to support our creators by finding brand partnerships that fit with their values.
“I’d say the beauty of Twitch lies in a feeling of authenticity that is native to our service. We are, above all else, a community and creator-first business, where anyone with a passion can find their tribe.”
This approach has led to some great successes – communities are really welcoming of brands because they understand the economics of that relationship, with 76% of Twitch viewers saying they appreciate that these partnerships are ultimately helping to support creators. 69% say they would be more likely to consider brands that creators use themselves, while a further 66% of Twitch viewers are more likely to consider brands that creators recommend.
For retailers who don’t know where to begin, it’s worth also mentioning the Twitch Brand Partnership Studio, which empowers brands to create with us by guiding them on best practices. That includes education around authentically communicating with the Twitch community – whether through new and creative activations, sponsored livestreams, custom commercials or event sponsorships.
Most streamers I see on social are often solopreneurs sitting in their apartments surrounded by products passionately pitching away. There’s an engaging authenticity to the raw nature of it. How are established brands approaching their livestream strategies to project authenticity?
I couldn’t have put it better myself – in an era of information overload, where authenticity is constantly being questioned, livestreaming is seen as unapologetically human. It’s less constructed and polished, so creators are better able to create genuine moments of emotion and drama.
So when it comes to branded livestreams, the most successful are typically those that are ready to show their human side, welcome spontaneity and embrace candour. For example, we worked with Maybelline on the launch of their new Colossal Curl Bounce mascara, partnering them up with popular streamer /Fasffy for a two-hour dedicated make-up stream.
During the stream, viewers were able to choose every part of /Fasffy’s look, from colours to style, using Twitch’s poll feature. Twitch also created a custom chatbot enabling viewers to click-through directly to purchase the mascara for themselves.
However, what really stood out was the fact that this campaign sparked honest, unscripted and authentic conversations around the role of make-up in society, beauty standards and gender expectations. The experience was relatable to your everyday viewer, and didn’t try to cultivate a ‘projected life’. This very successful and engaging stream ended up amassing over 22,000 views and also beat our total minutes watched benchmark by 89%. Suffice to say, the product ended up selling out on stream.
At Twitch, we also have our very own interactive live shopping show called Pog Picks – which is a variety show, game show and live shopping blended together, where the audience can interact with the hosts and shop directly from the live stream.
“So when it comes to branded livestreams, the most successful are typically those that are ready to show their human side, welcome spontaneity and embrace candour.”
It gives multiple brands a platform to sell their latest and greatest with our top talent. These live events are geared with our new ‘Stream Picks’, an interactive overlay which allows viewers to click straight through to the product page from the stream, creating a seamless shopping experience during the show.
One of the shows we did last year, Pog Picks Prime Time, was hosted by popular streamers /HexSteph and /NichBoy where they packed the programme with entertainment – from games, comedy, and cooking to music and of course shopping. The show brought on retailers like Samsung who tapped on the platform to launch their new Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 and Z Fold4 phones. This successful event racked up more than 2.3K hours watched, with close to 36K views and 25K unique viewers.
In terms of presentation, is it possible to have too much polish on a livestream channel and risk losing authenticity?
There’s a realisation that those deemed influencers often selectively curate and share only the moments from their lives that are tailored to their ‘online selves’. But do that too much, and you end up creating a false representation of life – and that makes it difficult to have a more intimate relationship with our fans. So absolutely, there is definitely a line.
I would however caveat this by saying that clean, big-budget productions do have their place in livestreaming – especially when we consider that for younger generations in particular, livestreaming often replaces other entertainment channels. I’d say that sense of authenticity comes more from whether you’re ready to celebrate candour.
In producing high-quality, interactive live streamed entertainment, Twitch thoughtfully integrates brands into exclusive and original content across music, sports, talk shows, and, of course, gaming, and beyond. Due to our social video features, our strong community, influencers, and hard-to-reach audience demographic, brands work with our Brand Partnership Studio team to offer unique activations that can’t be replicated on other services.
I’d say that Twitch is an honest means of discovery proven to influence purchasing decisions. Overproduced advertising can be misleading; live product interaction isn’t, especially when accompanied by real-time feedback from the person holding it and others in chat.
What are some particular livestreaming campaigns you are fond of?
On the Twitch side of things, a recent campaign I absolutely loved was an activation we worked on in Thailand with Coca-Cola, Gaming Nation, Prime Video and Lenovo called the “11/11 Would Recommend Festival”. As you might have guessed, it was linked to Single’s Day, which also happens to be one of Thailand’s biggest shopping celebrations of the year.
Hosted by popular Thai variety streamer /fifatargrean, the two-hour live broadcast featured entertainment, game product unboxings and exclusive flash deals from the participating brands. /fifatargrean acted as that proxy for viewers looking to get a ‘feel’ of the items – but my favourite part of the stream was when he challenged his community to share the love by coming up with their own catchy product captions. It was chaos in chat as the ‘quirky’ reviews poured in – and at the end of the show, /fifatargrean shared the co-created brand content on his Facebook page, allowing the community to bask in the glory of their ‘contributions’, while also giving the sponsors an extra nod of approval.
I think this is a really clever example of how a group of savvy brands managed to not only engage the Twitch community in a personal way, they also were able to avoid the typical ‘how low can you go’ bandwagon that characterises these shopping days. In total, the campaign garnered 38,000 video views and 11,000 product views.
Sharing the love beyond Twitch, Uniqlo has spent several years trialling live shopping and it really feels like they may have cracked the winning formula in the form of their LIVE! WITH UNIQLO show. The show acts as a platform for in-store staff to demonstrate the different ways a single product can be used and paired, while also giving them an opportunity to talk about how Uniqlo’s brand values are embedded into every item they produce – going beyond colour and style to introduce aspects such as functionality, utility, convenience and versatility.
Uniqlo also regularly invites influencers to make guest appearances to ensure there’s a third, more objective perspective added to the mix. In a recent interview, Global Head of Marketing, Masahiko Nakasuji, spoke about how vital it was to the brand that customers didn’t feel ‘cheated’ and that there were voices out there speaking authentically about their experiences with Uniqlo.
This sometimes means the brand is caught by surprise at the stories influencers choose to share, but they ultimately feel this practice needs to be embraced. Overall, I love that Uniqlo has backed its staff to speak with passion and expertise, yet has also understood the role of content creators – this is product storytelling at its finest.
What advice do you have for brands looking to expand their offering via livestreaming?
Throw out your old marketing playbooks and start experimenting! Brands need to pay close attention to new consumer behaviour and tailor their strategies to launch dynamic content. A few tips to get you started:
- Make sure you understand how viewers are interacting with the service you decide to use: for example on Twitch, we have features like Twitch Chat, bits and subs, and our SureStream technology to ensure a powerful, interactive service. You’ll want to understand how you can leverage these to create new experiences.
- Go beyond product placement and think about how to foster real engagement: think about how you can make your content fun and interactive. Maybe there’s an immersive or gamified element you could incorporate into your campaign?
- Take a community-first approach: the most successful advertisers on Twitch first understand our community values and behaviours. Authenticity is key – viewers are far more likely to trust and interact with brands that thoroughly integrate themselves into the community.