Search to discover vs. search to find with livestreaming

Amazon and Google have announced new livestreaming features this week, prompting discussions around which platforms can be the most effective for selling via livestream (Instagram, Youtube, Amazon, Google, Facebook, twitch, etc.). Beyond that, the discussion on latest episode of the Omni Talk Fast Five where these are thoroughly discussed inspired me to dig deeper into the difference between searching to discover via searching to find on different platforms within the context of livestreaming.

Influencers who are part of Amazon’s Influencer Program can now earn commissions on products purchased when they livestream on Amazon (Talking Influence). This allows any influencer who is accepted to the program to essentially set up their own, interactive storefront on Amazon to recommend the products that they use to their followers while earning a percentage of each purchase. If you haven’t checked out the content on Amazon Live, I highly recommend doing so as the categories span anything you can think of, you can chat to the video creators in these livestreams, and you can find some significant discounts all with the ease of Amazon’s checkout.

Google took its first dive into mobile livestreaming with the launch of an app called “Shoploop” (Retail Dive). Shoploop focuses on beauty, makeup, and nails, and provides a feed of creators/influencers talking about their favorite products with links to purchase attached. Shoploop is only available as a mobile app, for anyone who opens a new tab while reading this to look up Shoploop. Google launched shoppable ads on Youtube recently, but this marks Google’s first venture into true video commerce.

I could spend a great deal of time talking more specifically about these launches, however, I am going to focus more in-depth on what you might really use these for.

We all know that Google is a powerful search engine for anything, but it has been digging deeper into its ecommerce potential this past year. Amazon is also an intelligent search engine for products, and both Amazon and Google can help you find exactly the products that you are looking for.

When you are looking for specific products, you probably turn to Amazon or Google because they are reliable. My educated guess, based on personal observation, is that if I need something as specific as Adidas no-show socks in white, I’m going to head to Amazon, search exactly that, scroll past one or two sponsored listings and then add exactly what I’m looking for to my cart. This is a great example of search to find. I know what I want, and I know Amazon will get me there quickly.

I can, of course, also search for these socks on Google, but I know that the same pack of socks is going to show up as a listing from a variety of different sites. This is less direct than the Amazon route. Maybe, however, I don’t actually care about the socks being from Adidas. I just want to look at the options for no-show socks that are white. This is where I would turn to Google, because in my opinion, Google knows which brands I like better than Amazon and will cater this search of socks to my past purchases, as I am an infrequent shopper. In this example, I am somewhere between search to find and search to discover. I want to find a specific product, however, I am open to where it’s from, which means I’m open to discovering a new brand.

Now, I’m going to get into Instagram. Brands, influencers, and retailers have the options on Instagram to go “live” on their stories, which, when you’re trying to sell a product, is selling via livestream. My personal favorite way to shop is through Instagram, as my shopping for pleasure revolves around discovering new things and Instagram knows my product/brand references better than I know myself.

Brands, influencers, and retailers are perfectly set up on IG for search to discover. When you need a new pair of hiking boots, you’re probably going to Google “hiking boots” and see what pops up. When you don’t need a specific product and are just browsing with the intentions of discovering something to buy (whether you start in your Activity or Shop tab or actually seek out a specific brand), watching a livestream from a brand/influencer/retailer allows you to discover new products in an interactive and informative way. Seeing the products move, getting style tips from a real, live person, and truly hearing the voice of a brand might inspire you to purchase something you didn’t even know you wanted from them.

One of my favorite local boutiques in Minneapolis does frequent IG livestreams where they unbox new inventory and try it on to show their followers what the products look like up close, from far away, and how they move on a human. I watch this livestream whenever I can because it’s exciting to watch unboxing clips and the content is more engaging than just scrolling past these products on a website.

I also watch the IG livestreams of a local jewelry store and a local furniture store because they’re fun and I love to see products in a more personal light. For me, watching gemstones shine in the light of a video is much more intriguing than just seeing pictures, and furniture is a lot more attractive when you can see the size of the piece compared to a human, how the doors/drawers move, and how the color of the piece might look different depending on the lighting. I never go into these streams with the goal of purchasing something specific, but I am always open to discover new products that I might see and determine that I NEED.

Circling back, if Google could have a video of someone talking about the different products that come up when I search for socks, there’s a good chance that I will purchase those socks from a brand that I found through Google. I think there is also untapped potential for Google to utilize video commerce by creating livestreams that cover searches such as “the best black t-shirt” or “the best electric toothbrushes for under $50.” This would allow them to continue to dominate that gray area between searching to find and searching to discover.

Amazon will probably remain the leader in search to find accuracy for a long time. However, with the addition of more and more livestreaming content, I think that they have found a way to enter the search to discover market. Sure, Amazon can recommend you products. But when Amazon can recommend a livestream of dogs trying out different toys after knowing that you purchased a new leash last week, there’s some money to be made there in the discovery of products you didn’t know that you needed.

Lastly, when it comes to brands and retailers and the influencers that work with them, livestreaming via Instagram is a great way to allow followers to search to discover, and there’s a solid chance that conversion rates from livestreams will be relatively high because IG knew exactly which livestreams from brands/retailers/influencers to show you based on what you like and how you shop from the app.

Featured image: a screenshot of my Amazon Live feed

Published by Emma Irwin

Emma Irwin is a passionate student of the retail industry. Freshly graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. in Retail Merchandising, she will be pursuing an M.S. in Apparel Studies with a concentration in Retail and Consumer Studies in fall 2020. Career ambitions include writing a formal research paper, becoming a retail writer and reporter, and maybe being a CEO someday.

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