The benefits of hosting a live selling event on social media far surpass making an extra dollar. See how a live video can grow your loyal customer base, engage your audience and share your brand story with the world.
When retailers started closing their doors in 2020, the mother-daughter owners of Amber Marie & Company, a lifestyle store in Tulsa, Okla., knew they needed to stay connected to their audience — and keep making sales. So, Amber and Jere Welch took to Facebook Live.
“When customers talk about Amber Marie & Company, one of the things they will nearly always mention is how they feel when they walk in,” Amber said in her winning submission for a 2022 Retailer Excellence Award. “Our staff is welcoming, our store is inviting, and the overall vibe is friendly. Mom and I knew at the beginning of the pandemic, we had to translate these feelings to our customers online, and we had to do it right away.”
Their gut feeling was right, and their virtual solution of hosting Facebook Lives, including daily devotions (taken from books they sell), Thursday Night Live shopping events and a monthly virtual game called “Blingo,” is a key example of how retail brands can use social media to not only sell products, but connect with their customers, expand their reach and engage with their audience through authenticity.
The benefits and advancements of going live on social media have only grown since the pandemic. According to social-media-management platform Hootsuite, 51 percent of businesses that use social selling are more likely to reach their sales quotas. Other businesses have reported about a 24 percent increase in revenue since they started using social media to sell to and engage their customers.
The Social Selling Difference
Bob Negen, retail expert and co-owner of Whizbang Retail Training, emphasizes how pivotal hosting live videos and selling events on social media is for independent retailers.
“To go live on Facebook literally costs nothing and the value it provides is just absolutely tremendous,” he said. “Not only do you get the ability to sell, but you get the ability to build relationships … When I talk about the competitive advantages of independent retailers, one of the top competitive advantages is the ability to be authentic.”
Posting a personable live video on social media is one of the easiest ways to share — and cash in on — your authenticity.
There are several ways that retailers can “go live,” whether it’s streaming a video on Facebook Live, posting a Reel or Live Story on Instagram or creating a video on TikTok. The subject matter of the videos can be as simple as an owner popping a bottle of bubbly and casually walking through new items at the store each Friday — or a little more complex like hosting a raffle, virtual fashion show or product demos in conjunction with social-selling software CommentSold.
Pulling Off the First Video
Crystal Vilkaitis, social-media expert and owner of Crystal Media, says that there are multiple approaches to selling on social media and a retailer should first decide what the goal of their video is: Is it to sell on the spot from the video? To have people come into the store and buy? To get more engagement and have people comment? To build your following and have people tag their friends? Maybe it’s all of the above!
“If one goal is to have people buy right there on the live stream, make sure you have a way to facilitate the sales so it’s easy for you and your customers,” Vilkaitis said. “I recommend numbering each item, so people can chat in the number that they want to buy or call the store and share what number(s) they want to buy.
“CommentSold is a great platform that will automate this experience for you. Also, I recommend having someone help you; it’s best if there’s at least two people doing the live stream. One person can monitor the chat and do the backend tech, and one person is in front of the camera showcasing the items. Finally, I recommend pinning a comment to the top of the feed that shares the information on how to buy, which might include your web address, instructions to buy through a comment (ex: Comment “Sold” and the product number), and your phone number to call and order.”
Vilkaitis, who recently launched a podcast for retailers, reminds storeowners that it’s also important to promote the live stream beforehand. “Don’t rely on people seeing the live stream pop up in their News Feed. You can send an email, talk about it in store, post images and videos leading up to it and run ads if you have a budget. If you give something away to live attendees, like a gift card or item, there’s a good chance you’ll have higher attendance at the live event.”
As far as which platform to use, Vilkaitis says that Facebook and Instagram are the two best platforms for social selling, and that most of her clients have seen the most success with Facebook Live.
Don’t Let Fear Keep You From Cashing In
While the advantages of hosting a live selling event on social may seem obvious, it can seem daunting for retailers new to the platform. Both Negen and Vilkaitis say not to let fear deter you from an amazing business opportunity.
To get started, first remember to stay true to you and your brand — that’s what your customers love, and that is what’s going to attract new potential customers that will love your brand. “Just be you,” Negen said. “You are enough. The most important thing is to start.”
“I’d recommend doing several Lives,” Vilkaitis added. “It will take time to get used to the format you like and what your audience is responding best to. If the first one or two or several aren’t converting, don’t give up! It can take time to build awareness and engagement. We’ve found that live-streaming selling events are some of the best ways to connect with your audience online and sell, so stick with it!”
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