In a fitting room next to a rail of clothing, two women discussed fashion trends and their favourite pieces of the season, as well as their outfit choices that day.

It could have been two friends sharing tips while shopping, but Monki editor-in-chief Eleonore Nygårds and buyer Nina Gomes were being filmed and broadcast to users across the H&M-owned brand's 19 markets, who had tuned in for the label's first-ever livestream shopping experience.

Fans watching the livestream, which was hosted on Monki's website instead of a third-party app, were able to interact with Gomes and Nygårds, along with other viewers, and shop the products, which are added to an online basket. To complete checkout, shoppers leave the video to key in their payment details. The stream can be replayed once it has ended. (Representatives from Monki declined to share how many users had tuned in or how many sales were made during its debut stream.)
Monki, a millennial-focused brand founded in 2006, has a history of co-creating with its community. It has hosted in-store shopping events and worked with highly engaged shoppers to create content for channels like Monki Television and Monki Magazine. "We're always looking for different ways to connect with them and keep the conversation going," says Nygårds, noting that livestreaming is simply the next step in that process.

Livestream shopping builds on a decades-long history. Since the 1980s, US television networks like QVC and HSN have been broadcasting presenters who sell products from costume jewellery to pots to millions of homes globally. But they now have to transition to the age of online shopping: 66 per cent of QVC sales in 2018 were made in a mobile app. They are competing with platforms like Instagram and TikTok, where younger people spend more of their time.
Buying moments now occur across a consumer's daily online activities. Product discovery can happen anywhere, at any time, with shopping becoming increasingly interwoven into our lives.

Livestream shopping has been a fast-growing industry in China, with local livestreams reaching 456 million viewers and generating $4.4 billion in sales in 2018, an increase of 37 per cent over the previous year, according to Deloitte. More than 100 million viewers in China watch a live online video event every month, according to Gartner. When used for e-commerce, livestreams typically involve a celebrity or social media influencers, known as wanghong, demonstrating a product and answering questions from a digital audience in real-time.

Taobao, an Alibaba platform gets celebrities to livestream or perform on the app, especially for big events like Singles Day. It's very personality-driven.

More than $413 billion of goods will be sold through social e-commerce in China by 2022, an almost fivefold increase from $90 billion in 2017. Most importantly, livestreaming provides that trust and transparency that e-commerce has traditionally lacked.

The hope is that Western audiences will also take it up. But what will it require for livestream shopping to be fully adopted in Western markets? For starters, the technical capabilities of social networks and e-commerce sites in the West need to catch up. Most apps, including Monki's, direct shoppers to another platform or page, where they have to enter credit card details, disrupting their entertainment.

In markets like the US or UK, social platforms are very focused on being social, and they tend to generate income via media buy, rather than looking at how they can integrate into the e-commerce market.

Another boost could come from tech giants who are trying to popularise livestream shopping with Western customers. In May, Google began testing a new feature on YouTube that displays product prices and recommendations under videos playing on the site. In February, Amazon launched its Amazon Live Creator app, which lets brands and users live stream shows featuring products available for sale on the platform. (In 2016, the tech giant launched a similar feature called Style Code Live, only to cancel it a year later.)

While the technology is there, it's more about getting people to actually embrace it!