It's an appealing idea to harness the growing trend in live-streamed e-commerce to support local artisans.
Live video shopping at faraway destinations has become common in China, where Trip.com Group’s webcasts alone have this year sold about $300 million worth of travel packages and hotel room reservations. But Western travel companies have, by and large, left the potential revenue untouched.
Enter, Local Purse, a Swedish company founded this year to help the travel sector tap into live video shopping.
Local Purse has built an e-commerce platform that brands can use. It includes an online chat interface and “buy” buttons. The effort goes a step beyond the webinars and online-only classes that tour operators like GetYourGuide, WithLocals, Context Travel, Walks, Tiqets, Klook, Viator, Airbnb Experiences, and other sightseeing and experiences providers have been tempting people with as a way to ride out the pandemic. Shopping through the video interface is instead a central part of interacting with the guide in the Local Purse model.
“Our questions for live video shopping are, can we use it for good so that it’s not just more consumerism?” said Lola Akinmade Åkerström, CEO and co-founder. “How can we bring this concept that’s so popular in retail e-commerce into the travel industry? And how can we help local governments as well as the artisans and other people who preserve traditions?”
Akinmade Åkerström found a partner to use its Web-based platform in Intrepid Travel, the adventure travel firm.
In a test on December 8 and 9, Local Purse will host a two-day live broadcast of a shopping event to support local guides and artisans in Morocco who have been vetted by Intrepid Travel for its in-person tours.
The proceeds from the pilots are going locally.
One tour will stop at a shop in a medina selling spices and herbal products, while the other tour will meet a seller of Berber carpets. Both will also “visit” AlNour, a social enterprise that offers local artisans and embroiderers who have disabilities to receive health insurance and help with obtaining orthopedic aids, training for professional skills and language skills, and help with child care.
If the test is successful, Intrepid Travel will launch some private, or reservation-required, shopping tours in January and February that it will promote on its site. The company has about 20 destinations interested in participating, but the local guides need online sales training.
“It’s potentially a big new revenue stream for us,” said Zina Bencheikh, managing director for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at Intrepid. “It could be a great thing to do long-term in addition to operating trips as the pandemic eases. By the end of the first quarter, we should have everything ready to launch and start scaling globally.”
“Next year, we plan to host a landing page on our website, with all of the product available for us to sell, so we can leverage our customer database and have as many people booking the virtual shopping tours as possible,” Bencheikh said.
Intrepid Travel has already run in-person tours themed around shopping as a way to explore new cultures. Sometimes customers buy, say, ceramics from Fes that arrive broken in, say, Australia, due to accidents in transit.
“That’s why we vet and select suppliers that we know will provide after-sales service in case of a problem, such as if the product becomes broken or if it’s not suitable, there’ll be a solution for refund or replacement,” Bencheikh said. “Hopefully, it doesn’t happen that often.”
Intrepid will build each of the events in 2021 with the idea to support a local non-governmental organization or charity as well as the local artisans.
Live video shopping may be a promising sideline for a few parts of the travel industry. Destination marketing organizations might benefit, as the revenue crisis spurs a search for new marketing models. (For additional context, read: “Travel Brand Storytelling Needs to Be More Local To Meet This Moment.”) To help arts organizations with similar live-streaming efforts, Jing Culture & Commerce launched last month a free white paper called Digital Connections: How Arts Organizations Can Leverage Livestreaming in 2021.
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Photo credit: Intrepid Travel and Local Purse will have two online events focused on Morocco in December. One online tour visits the Koutoubia herbal shop in Morocco via in December 2020. Local Purse