Every few months it seems social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube add new features to make selling online easier for merchants. One of the most popular features today for both buyers and sellers is called live commerce, also known as live selling.
What is live selling?
Live selling is when online retailers showcase their products via a live stream on social media or streaming platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, or Twitch.
During the live stream, retailers can highlight features of the product, interact with customers by answering their questions, and sell products in real-time. You can even let your followers know if inventory of a certain product is getting low. Imagine an experience similar to watching HSN or QVC on your television, but for small businesses on social media.
According to consumer data, live selling has grown by 76% since the start of COVID. This massive demand for live commerce can be explained in a few reasons:
- More people are using social media today for longer hours.
- There are more options to buy products on social media, with live selling amongst the most popular options.
- Live commerce gives viewers a sense of community. It allows them to partake in the selling process by being able to ask questions and receive answers in real-time from online retailers.
- Viewers get to see how the product looks in real-time, not just a filtered photo. This makes the buying experience feel more "real" and authentic.
- Retailers can explain the products in greater detail than just writing a caption.
With the right playbook, live selling can give your business a major boost in social media followers and more importantly, online sales. But it's not exactly something you can jump right into. In the next section, we provide some best practices from real store owners on how they began live selling. Read along if live commerce is something you'd like to explore.
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How to start live selling on social media
Live selling can be a game changer for your business, but jumping in without a plan won't get you the results you hoped for. You'll need to approach live selling with a methodical step-by-step process, said Jessica Kats, a retail expert at Soxy.
“It may seem like a piece of cake, but it takes effort to make it work,” Kats said. “Selling through a live stream isn’t the same as selling in-person or through other avenues. Hence, you must do your due diligence before starting with it.”
Tip #1: Find which social media platform works best for your audience
Using the right live selling platform for your business and your audience is key to success. If you’re targeting a certain demographic, then you need to meet them where they tend to visit the most.
For example, Jen Greenlees, the owner of Sydney So Sweet, sells her products to parents of young children, who are likely to be on Facebook or Instagram. If you’re marketing to younger generations, then you might have better luck video streaming on platforms like TikTok or Twitch. Amazon also offers live shopping capabilities on its Amazon Live platform, which is highly popular amongst Amazon Prime users.
Most Popular Live Selling Social Media Platforms in the U.S.
Image by Statista
You may find success using multiple social media platforms, too. Jeff Moriarty from Moriarty’s Gem Art said when they began live streaming in 2020 via Facebook and YouTube, they ended up discovering that they could successfully advertise their live shows on Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit.
“Now we are getting about 1,500+ watching our show each month,” Moriarty said. “Not only has it helped to stay connected with our customers via social media and YouTube, it has generated a ton of sales – $30,000 from our last month’s show – for our business.”
Moriarty's Gem Art live selling on YouTube
Tip #2: Get organized and practice before you stream
Once you’ve chosen your platform, it's time to prep before going live. Follow the checklist below to make sure your live stream is efficient and successful.
- Practice your sales pitch ahead of time so you don't get flustered during the live stream. Creating cue cards or using a teleprompter can be helpful aids.
- Make sure you have the merchandise that you want to showcase organized ahead of time. This ensures you aren’t fumbling on camera trying to look for it.
- Test out purchase links to make sure they work properly. If you need a way to keep purchasing organized, consider using a selling tool while you’re streaming like CommentSold, which will track purchases, send out invoices, offers checkout, a mobile app, and more.
- Technology prep: Test your internet connection so you know it’s reliable. This is also when you should set up your camera and/or microphone, turn off mobile device notifications, and remove any other distractions. Record yourself and play it back to rehearse so that you can check the quality of your sound and lighting.
While you'll want to be prepped before going live, not everything has to be completely perfect, said Nicolas Bailliache, co-founder of eStreamly. Glitches will happen during live sales events, but roll with it.
“People want to see genuine content, and your show can be polished but does not need perfection,” Bailliache said. “Control is an illusion. Seize the moment, have fun, and the audience will follow.”
Once you have your confidence built up, you should feel ready to tackle the first event.
Tip #3: Keep the stream fast paced, fun, and interact with your viewers
There’s a lot to keep in mind when you’re streaming, but make sure you're always focused on keeping your audience engaged. While you don’t want to talk too fast, you do want to try and keep the session at a consistent pace, said Michael Knight, co-founder and head of marketing at Incorporation Insight.
“The key is for sellers to be quick and consistent. This will keep things eventful and keep engagement high with your videos. This also makes way for the business to show off more products during the live sale which will keep viewers buying more over a longer period,” Knight said.
For brands just getting started with live selling, data tells us that being anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes with your streams can be effective. But take note of your popularity. Some brands may have streams up to an hour, or even longer! Whichever your audience prefers is what you should aim for and do consistently.
During your stream, you should interact directly with your customers as they watch. This is one of the most important takeaways for your live stream, because:
- It shows your viewers you care about what they like and don't like.
- You get real-time feedback about your products.
- It allows you to answer questions about your products.
- You get to talk with your viewers, thank them for tuning into your live stream, and ask them to share with their friends.
A brand that is textbook at interacting with its viewers is Kohl's. In the example below, you can see one of their sellers looking directly at the camera and talking to her viewers like they were personally shopping with her. This level of connection is what you should aim for when live selling.
Kohl's live selling on Instagram
Tip #4: Offer limited-time deals and create a sense of urgency
Live selling should have some of the exciting and urgent feelings of an auction – you want to sell out fast and you should focus on high-demand products during the show.
“Live selling is a modern sales strategy that maximizes consumers’ FOMO,” Knight said. “The fear of missing out on the product being demoed at each moment and not having any idea what other products are in the lineup for that live sale session keeps viewers from having a longer time to consider purchasing, pushing them to make a decision to buy constantly.”
Capitalize on that FOMO by creating a sense of urgency. The example below from Sydney So Sweet shows how they capitalize on urgency by showing their inventory of sizes in real-time. If you have a child in a specific size and really want that outfit, you'll probably buy sooner than later and not risk missing out.
Sydney So Sweet live selling on Facebook Live
Tip #5: Promote your stream both before and after
If your customers don’t know that the stream is happening, then they won’t show. So be sure to promote your stream to your audience ahead of time, but you can also share the link out after for anyone who wasn’t able to come.
“The real money is on repurposing the event,” Bailliache said. “As a matter of fact, 60–70% of the sales we see happen after the live.”
When you promote your event, try to keep it consistent so your audience gets used to your schedule and knows when to tune in. Greenlees keeps her shows on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. “Our customers literally plan their week around our live sales,” she said.
The benefits of live selling, told by real store owners
You have everything at your disposal to start live selling. But if you're still not convinced, we asked real online store owners what the benefits of live selling brought to their businesses. Here's what they had to say.
It makes online shopping more personal
About two years ago, Jen Greenlees started live selling on Facebook and found that it doubled her revenue, increased trust in her brand, and completely changed her business. Her company expanded quickly, so took it on full time.
Greenlees said they didn’t anticipate that their customers would be able to get to know them on such a personal level. “Ecommerce can be very impersonal, and live selling has helped us put faces behind our brand. The increase in trust for our brand now cannot even be measured,” she said.
Since live selling was going so well, Greenlees decided to expand the audience for Sydney So Sweet’s Facebook page. She found that returning customers would also help during the streams, becoming brand advocates during their Facebook live sales.
“We have a lot of internet ‘friends’ that interact with us weekly, and even act as experts to help out new customers,” she said.
Greenlees now goes live 3 times a week: Mondays and Fridays are for new product sales, and Wednesdays are for themed clearance sales. Typically, each sale gets around 2,000 visitors, and gross sales for Wednesdays can total around $10,000.
It reduces item returns and exchanges
"Ever since I started live selling, there has been a significant decrease in returned items. That’s because live streams allow buyers to have a better idea of what to expect from a product – as a result, improving the overall customer experience,” said Aviad Faruz, chief executive officer at Faruzo.
Be patient - success doesn't happen overnight
Live selling can be a great tool, but it does take time to build up your audience and get them used to a live streaming routine. So, if it doesn’t happen immediately, be patient and stick with it.
Like anything worth doing, it takes time to see real results.
Michael Baldicaña, a health enthusiast and dog trainer with Stayyy.com, does live selling with products for dogs. At first, live selling wasn’t working for him, and he would only have a few viewers. Even though the audience was small, he didn’t give up and used social media to boost his visibility.
“Just reach out to your audience, quality over quantity, post great content, integrity, and love what you are doing,” Baldicaña said.
Also, take a look at your initial videos and measure engagement. If you need to, consider using an influencer to present your live streams, as they already have a presence on social media and the know-how to get an audience involved in live stream shopping. Or it could be that you need to switch platforms based on the products you’re presenting. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find what works best for you and your retail business.
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Live streaming is a great way to personalize your marketing and reach your customers in a different way.
As an ecommerce business, live selling gives you the ability to build real connections with your audience and has the potential to bring in massive sales.
So if you're looking for a brand new channel to test out, give live selling a shot. As we've seen over the last couple years, it's here to stay.