Is 'Disney plus Costco' the future of shopping post-COVID-19?
Catherine Drew
People could stop going to shopping malls and visit stores online with live streaming. /Adrian Dennis/AFP

People could stop going to shopping malls and visit stores online with live streaming. /Adrian Dennis/AFP

Shoppers are heading out to their favorite stores across Europe as non-essential shops reopen – but this doesn't mean they were doing without the thrill of new purchases during the lockdown.

Online retail for everything from food to clothes and household items rose between 40 and 80 percent across the continent. 

It could increase further according to some analysts, who say Europe is ripe for a way of shopping that has become common in China – live commerce. Similar to a shopping channel or infomercials, it's retail therapy for the digital age. Live commerce platforms combine shopping with streaming and let brands interact with consumers.

China has around 900 live streaming sites where Key Opinion Leaders, or KOLs try to grow an online community of customers for products they and their teams have selected. China's Pinduoduo claims to have pioneered social commerce after it was founded in 2015. It now has 628 million users in China on its platform.

"You can think of going to a shopping mall or a weekend farmers' market, you're not quite sure what you will find but you know it's going to be something interesting, and you may not end up buying anything but it doesn't really matter because you're having a good time," Andre Zhu, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Legal at Pinduoduo, told a webinar hosted by Asia House. 

"Our goal is to move that shopping experience from offline to online. We like to call this business model, Disney plus Costco, which represents a combination of great entertainment and great savings at the same time."


This form of shopping is in its infancy in the West. Amazon launched a live-streaming platform last year, while Facebook unveiled a new platform moving in a similar direction last month.

But what impact will this have on bricks-and-mortar shops in the UK and Europe, which were struggling to compete with online rivals even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit?

Pocket Sun, an investor and entrepreneur, says traditional retail shops could benefit by embracing live commerce.

She said: "Very little foot traffic happens during the weekdays, so how do you make the empty space work for you? Live-stream might become the next step for these retails spaces to really utilize the space, the shelves, the merchandise and turn them into a digital mall, when there aren't people visiting."

While tills are ringing again, more store closures and job losses are expected in the coming months. Analysts say savvy sellers would do well to look East for examples of how to evolve and survive.