Periscope-Powered Commerce

Last Thursday morning, as Olivier Rousteing’s Balmain for H&M collection was crashing H&M’s website, I wondered—not for the first time: when—when!—is Periscope going to be commerce-enabled??

In 2015, shopping online is pretty much the same experience it was when commerce first hit the web in the 1990s. And it is essentially that same experience that has been migrated over to mobile. It's tired, and it's a hassle, with different backends and checkouts for every site, every platform. 

Periscope, by contrast, is fun. I’ve written about this briefly, before: it serves up a great combination of behind-the-scenes access and impromptu, unscripted global conversations. It’s Snapchat, only better—it’s immediate, it's intimate.

The best Periscope broadcasts create a sense of community and belonging—the live feed, the hearts, the questions, the comments and back-and-forth. Layer on buying, for a dynamic, real-time digital shopping experience that is entirely different from today's static, one-dimensional web and mobile drudgery. To super-charge, add bidding. 

Periscope + commerce = HSN, QVC and eBay, all dressed up and rolled into one—one platform, one backend, one bid and one buy button. And with Periscope’s integration into Apple TV, shopping can happen on small screen or large. 

Rousteing was appointed to his post at Balmain when he was 25 years old. He’s now 30, and, unsurprisingly, he’s pushed Balmain into corners of social media it might not otherwise have gone without him. He’s an instagram-a-holic. His 1.6 million followers profess love through hashtags: #balmainarmy #balmaination.

Imagine: Periscope-powered selling events during the week leading up to H&M's collection release—Rousteing himself running the sales—scheduled and unscheduled, 15 minutes at a time, limited edition items on offer, surprise guest appearances by his posse.

Or Kanye, selling custom Yeezy Boost 350s. Elon Musk, selling the 1,000th Tesla Model X off the production line. Taylor Swift, selling concert tickets. Ai Wei Wei auctioning Zodiac Heads, in collaboration with Phillips.

Each of these is a big, PR-driven event. Periscope is owned by Twitter. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also sits at the helm of Square, whose ethos is decidedly small.

And Periscope-powered commerce can be small too — enabling one-of-a-kind businesses to reach, speak with and sell to broad, global audiences — spontaneously or on calendars. It can be volume-driven as well, as HSN and QVC both are—entertaining and easy for on-the-move, mobile-minded shoppers. 

On the same day last week that Rousteing was bringing down H&M’s website, a session at ad:tech New York featured companies, including GE and Wendy’s, that are using Periscope to serve up ads and sponsored content to viewers—obvious, easy and sort of uninspiring revenue streams for what is a lively, engaging service. 

Twitter has long-struggled to find solid ground for its core business—what if it looks instead to the edges, past the core, past the obvious, past the easy, to discover its wings?  

For more on opportunities in mobile commerce, see Facebook Messenger: Inside Zuckerberg's App for Everything and How WeChat is Powering a Mobile Commerce Boom, and on the latest moves to embrace digital the in luxury sector, see Does Digital Finally Have a Seat at the Table?.

This story is also available on Medium