Ben Tibbels and Drew Roder of Newegg, standing in front of their recording set.
Newegg now produces over 30 hours of livestream shopping a day on multiple channels, and attracting 1.3 million viewers and shoppers a month. — Newegg

Why it matters:

  • Generation Z is generally considered the demographic born between 1997 and 2012, which means they are the first shopping generation to completely be raised during the internet and social media era.
  • They are an estimated 27% of the U.S. population. Ignore this group and you’re ignoring nearly one-third of U.S. shoppers.
  • To that end, consumer electronics retailer Newegg is investing in livestream shopping — which is expected to be a $2.61 billion global industry by 2026 — to capture Gen Z consumers.

Newegg Commerce Inc., a public online retailer that generated $1.72 billion last year by selling computer hardware and consumer electronics, is investing in, and embracing, a way of shopping that didn’t exist a generation ago: live shopping online via a real-time video broadcast.

Livestream shopping, the digital age’s answer to television shopping networks like QVC and HSN, has gone mainstream in China in recent years. But it’s only started to (slowly) pick up in popularity in the United States in the last few years, as the pandemic’s retail landscape of shuttered stores helped accelerate adoption.

In the last year, Newegg, based out of the City of Industry, California, has leaned into live shopping in a big way, investing heavily in its livestream commerce technology and a production studio to capitalize on Generation Z (Gen Z), which boasts estimated $360 billion in buying power, according to Gen Z Planet.

The goal is to meet these shoppers where they increasingly hang out: on digital platforms. In turn, Newegg is bringing its sales staff directly to Gen Z on a slew of social media sites.

“The old shopping model was going to the store to buy something, and now the store comes to us. Live shopping is reminiscent of the good old QVC channel, just more interactive, experiential, and targeted,” said Torsten Doering, Assistant Professor of Business at Minerva University in San Francisco.

[Read: Pandemic-Weary Consumers Explore Live Virtual Platforms Aimed to Replicate the Magic of In-Store Shopping]

‘You’re always trying to find the next thing before it’s the next thing’

Although Newegg had been experimenting with live shopping via its app, the retailer’s serious push into livestream commerce started during the summer of 2022, according to Drew Roder, the Director of Newegg Media, a subsidiary of Newegg, and Ben Tibbels, a Producer at Newegg Media. That’s when the retailer launched one-hour live shopping sessions out of a 10,000-square-foot studio, every Tuesday and Thursday. It was mostly an ad hoc experiment in which they filmed sessions with their phones. Still, Roder and Tibbels had a mission: to hang out where their customers were. “You’re always trying to find the next thing before it’s the next thing,” Tibbels said.

Newegg found it. Roder says that according to the proprietary figures they’ve seen, the future is going to involve a lot of livestream shopping. Certainly, Newegg’s future will, he said.

One year after testing the waters, instead of two hours of livestreaming a week, Newegg is now producing over 30 hours of livestream shopping a day, with three different streaming channels often running a day at the same time. The retailer boasts 30 rotating hosts and a 25-member film and production crew, not including backend support from logistics, networking, and administration teams.

And people are watching and buying. Newegg’s live shopping has been attracting 1.3 million viewers and shoppers a month.

[Read: 3 Emerging Social Media Strategies Businesses Must Know to Grow]

Meeting Gen Z where they linger

Gen Z is generally described as having been born between 1996 and 2010. They’ve been shaped by everything from iPhones to the Great Recession to climate change and COVID-19, and they’ve never known a time when there wasn’t something called the Internet.

And how they have lived has shaped how they shop. The London-based audience research company GWI has described Gen Z as impulse shoppers who seek out inspiration and experiences when shopping.

Live shopping is about far more than shopping, Doering said.

“It’s also about entertainment, drawing us into a lifestyle community, and connecting with influencers,” he said. “Live shopping plays the role of a shopping assistant and makes us part of the show."

And the way Newegg does it, live shopping is a show. Some of the hosts are actors, and others are social influencers who have grown up talking to cameras. Tibbels, who has been in front of the camera for Newegg, used to do improv and worked for Mazda at auto shows in a car sales booth. During one livestream, Tibbels let viewers and shoppers choose a tattoo for him.

“We try to make it as clean as we can, but it's unpredictable and as high energy as we can make it while still being a sales-based show,” Roder said. “So it’s not unusual for the stream to diverge for five minutes and talk about something ridiculous and [about] culture like Star Wars, or why can't Wookiees climb trees better, or some ridiculous thing like that,” he said. “But ultimately it comes back to, ‘Well, this Wookiee would love a motherboard.’”

As an e-commerce platform, it's kind of our job to try and find the market … 40% of Generation Z starts searching for things to buy on TikTok rather than a traditional Google search or YouTube search. Insane, right?

Drew Roder, Director of Newegg Media

Why businesses of the future will engage in live shopping

It’s probably safe to say that live shopping isn’t going to be what every business in the future engages in, but Newegg could be in the early days of an enduring trend.

Jimmy Baratta, an Adjunct Professor and the Metaverse Executive in Residence at Chapman University in Orange, California, says that it makes perfect sense that Gen Z has embraced livestream shopping.

“This is a highly sophisticated demographic that spends its life online,” Baratta said, adding that he thinks live shopping will catch on with additional generations, older consumers as well as emerging ones. “Who wouldn't want a more meaningful and engaging shopping experience?”

You can visit Newegg’s website and find live shopping, and it’s also a constant presence on social media, livestreaming to its customers, who skew male and are primarily between the ages of 18 and 34, with the bulk of them between 18 and 24.

Newegg promotes its merchandise — from consumer electronics and games to TVs and software —through live shopping on mainstream social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok, as well as newer, more niche sites such as Twitch and Discord.

“As an e-commerce platform, it's kind of our job to try and find the market,” said Roder. “And so, we are seeing that millennials and Gen Z groups are going to shop online. Well, 40% of Gen Z starts searching for things to buy on TikTok rather than a traditional Google search or YouTube search. Insane, right?”

As a society, Roder adds: “We’ve moved past even wanting to watch a five-minute video. Now, we want it in 30 seconds.”

It may sound insane to people who have never been on TikTok, but if you use TikTok all the time, it’s not so certifiable after all: TikTok has been in the mainstream with other social media outlets for some time now. “We know there’s an audience there, and it would almost feel negligent to ignore it,” Roder said.

‘If a brand wants to start selling [via] livestreaming through TikTok, they can come to us. We'll either teach you all how to do it, or we'll just do it for you’

Newegg feels so strongly that this new way of purchasing is here to stay that in January, Newegg Media began offering live shopping services to other companies such as technology giant Intel and data storage company Seagate Technology.

As Tibbels puts it, “If a brand wants to start selling [via] livestreaming through TikTok, they can come to us. We'll either teach you all how to do it and help you get set up, or we'll just do it for you.”

And if you think live shopping is simply a souped-up version of a cable home-shopping network, Newegg’s three-dimensional avatar would probably beg to differ.

The avatar – named Vivi, but there has been some discussion about changing the name – has been doing some of the hosting duties for Newegg multiple times a week. Newegg’s virtual, animated host can engage and interact with the public in real time. Moreover, the animation team can easily customize the avatar’s appearance, so each time she hosts, she can wear a brand’s clothing or hold up a product that Newegg is selling.

And fortunately, according to Newegg, customers are buying.

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