Live Shopping On-site vs Live Streaming On Instagram

An increasing number of retail brands have begun to adopt live streaming into their content strategy. Once this decision has been made, brands are faced with the choice of where to host the stream. Two key areas where a brand could host the stream are through Instagram Live, or hosting the live stream event on their site. This blog discusses each format, and how to exploit the advantageous format of live shopping on-site.

Firstly, some background on how each live stream is hosted.

How To Host Through Instagram Live:

Instagram offers its live broadcast feature to all accounts. This can simply be done through the Instagram app. Viewers join the stream directly through Instagram, with the live stream appearing in the stories section of the app. Content-wise, brands can choose to stream anything they like, as long as this follows Instagram’s community guidelines. 

How To Host Live Shopping On-site:

Providers such as Smartzer offer brands the possibility to host live shopping events on-site. The streams are set up using user-friendly software, and a streaming provider is connected. This can be through an app on a mobile, or more complex setups can be achieved using free streaming software packages such as OBS. The stream is then embedded anywhere on a brand’s site through a simple iframe, minimizing the time it takes to set up on a brand’s website.


It is important to discuss the different features each of these formats have, so brands can discover which format suits their needs best. 

Instagram Live Features:

Instagram Live offers standard live streaming directly through its app, using your phone camera. These can be started at any time, but can also be scheduled to give a brand’s audience a reminder that there is a live event upcoming. Viewers join directly through the Instagram app.

Features such as comments and reactions come as standard here. Additional hosts can join Instagram live shows directly through the app, either via invitation or a request to join, with up to 3 guest hosts being able to join. 

An Instagram Live Stream

There is also a useful Q+A feature found in Instagram lives. Brands can post a Q+A sticker to their story prior to the live stream, then answer these questions during the live event, displaying the question on screen as it is answered. 

Instagram live broadcasts can be shared on the Instagram feed, but these are shown without reactions and comments and can clutter a brand’s feed. 

Crucially, functionality such as featuring products, shopping items, and adding clickable links are all not available through Instagram Live. Guests would be required to leave the stream to discover a brand’s products, greatly increasing the purchase journey.  

Live shopping On-site Features:

Using software dedicated to live shopping allows brands to produce high-quality shows, being able to film not only through a mobile but also via high spec camera set ups if they should want to do so. Brands have the option of going ‘Live Live’, or streaming a pre-recorded video as if it were live. 

The holding screen of a live shopping event on site also contains a countdown, as well as the option for viewers to add the event to their calendar, helping to notify people prior to the event going live.

Live shopping events hosted on site are joined via the website, with users once again being able to comment and react as standard. Additional features such as product pop-ups with clickable links are what sets live shopping on-site apart from Instagram live. Viewers are able to explore the products being displayed, click on CTAs to find out more, and even add them to cart directly from the live shopping experience. 

Recordings of the live experience can easily be embedded into a brand’s website, containing the comments and reactions, as well as all product pop-ups and interactive features. 

With all the features laid out, brands must decide which format is best for them. Below we discuss each format and form a conclusion on which format suits which content styles. 

Instagram Live?

Instagram live is a great way for brands to connect with their social following. It is easy for people to join the streams through an app they use regularly, and notifications encourage high volumes of viewers to the streams. 

However, the nature of the Instagram app leads to low average view times. It is extremely easy for viewers to leave the stream to discover something else on the app, with the overall attention to the live broadcast therefore being quite low. 

Comments and reactions provide a great way for viewers to interact with a brand through Instagram live. They can ask questions, which the host can respond to, and show their love for anything being featured on the stream. 

However, if a person loves a product and is interested in making a purchase, the journey to purchase is very long. They must leave the stream, leave the app, visit the brand website, find the product, add to cart, then purchase. There is therefore an extremely low conversion rate from Instagram live streams due to the drop off at each of these stages. 

Overall, Instagram live is great way to raise awareness for products, and offer useful Q+A live broadcasts. It is also a nice way for a brand to regularly engage with their audience in a more personal, live way. However, it is very difficult to see conversions from this format, acting as more of an informational form of content. 

Live Shopping On-site? 

Live shopping on-site offers the interaction you can get on Instagram and so much more. Not only can viewers comment and react, but they can directly interact with products seen in the live shopping event. 

Interactive pop-ups allow viewers to click on products and find out more, with the option to visit the product page, or even add to cart. This adds a shopping experience that cannot be found within Instagram, offering brands the chance to make sales directly from their live shopping experience. 

Some brands shy away from live shopping on-site due to concerns about enough people joining. This is less of a concern on Instagram, with its direct notifications to followers encouraging many people to join the stream. 

However, it is not as difficult as it seems to encourage people to attend live shopping events on a brand’s website. Simple email and social campaigns can help to raise awareness of the events, and creating a regular schedule of events will also help to increase the audience. Why not even go live on Instagram, informing people to join the live shopping event on site? 

With viewers on a brand’s site engaging with the live shopping event, average view times are significantly higher. Social platforms see around 30s average view times. Live shopping on site often sees up to 20x this. It is simply far too easy to get distracted when viewing streams on Instagram. 

What’s more, when they choose to leave the stream, they are already on the brand’s site. Perhaps something else catches their attention and they choose to purchase that item. Brands hosting the experience themselves is a great way to increase their site traffic and also encourage a wealth of new customers to the site. SuperPharm saw 60% of their traffic from new customers in their live shopping series. 

Overall, live shopping on-site offers brands the opportunity to add a conversion element to their live streams, as well as grow their site traffic. Not only can they increase overall brand interaction and awareness as with Instagram Live, but a whole new layer of conversion is exploited. 

In conclusion, both Instagram live and live shopping on-site offer a great way for brands to interact with their audience, and increase their brand awareness. Live shopping sets itself apart by offering additional features to Instagram however and carries the several benefits associated with having viewers on-site rather than a social platform.

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