Live Selling: Formats
Live selling on social media can be accomplished in a variety of formats. According to Cheryl Calvin, owner of The Store in Lake Highlands in Texas, "Just do something! Your customers will shape it and morph it with you into what is best for your store."
Simple and Effective
Cheryl started with simple live chats on Friday night on her store's social channels during the pandemic, and those live chats have now morphed into a Monday-Wednesday-Friday noontime event that her customers expect to see. She even had someone reach out to her and ask if she was OK when she missed it once - and she now has a reminder set on her phone so she doesn't forget!
Cheryl's live events are just simple live broadcasts. She doesn't formally sell during her broadcast, and doesn't use any technology beyond the native social media live broadcast function. Instead, she showcases new items in the store, themed collections, and seasonally-appropriate merchandise, while one of her store employees follows her with two phones - one to broadcast on Facebook, the other on Instagram.
"The main reason I'm successful is because I kept doing it. It's all about consistency. We are telling new customers to go follow us on social, and are talking about it in the store."
For all its simplicity, Cheryl's consistency and regularity have built her a following, to the point where she's been recognized around town. "I've become my own influencer!" she says, and notes that people come in the store or call and text her orders after her lives, and she even has a few customers from farther away who call and have her ship them the goods. She has also numbered all of her lives, in the description of the video, to make it easier for customers to reference where they saw a particular item - because most of her views come from the replays of the videos.
When asked about going to a more formal live selling system, Cheryl said "For me, this is working. It's helping my brick and mortar store, and for now, I'm going to focus on what I'm good at. As store owners, we have to remember that we don't have to do it all." With society's growing focus on mental health, and all the sources of stress that a store owner can feel, this is a critical perspective to keep in mind when planning your store's approach to live selling!
Selling with Native Tools
Kim Yonda-Lead, owner of Wrapped with Ribbon in Gilbert, Arizona, takes a similar approach, with a little more structure to the selling aspect. Fortunately for her, when she opened her store in September of 2019, she already had intentions of utilizing live selling to grow her business. Little did she know the influence the pandemic would have in just a few short months!
Working within the native live broadcast tools of Facebook, she and her husband Leon go live every Thursday evening at 6:30pm from their store, with a pre-selected set of merchandise that she's got set out for the pair to roll through and actively sell. Customers are encouraged throughout the broadcast to comment when they see an item they want to purchase, and then they can pick items up in the store in the following few days or call/text to arrange shipment if needed.
This method takes some effort to connect with each individual for payment and pickup coordination. If there is a limited number of a given item, you may need to track back chronologically in the comments of the video to see who claimed items first, particularly from replays of the video after the live is over.
The Wrapped with Ribbon team also sprinkles into their media mix some impromptu lives throughout the week, in order to "sell the vibe of the store", and while these don't formally offer merchandise for sale like her Thursday night events do, they also have been producing results.
To take it one step further, store rewards members who are on Facebook are invited to join a private VIP group page. Members of this page are treated to spontaneous live videos that will include live unboxing of new inventory, special sale events, and other deals that are only available to page members.
For Kim, this solution has been working well, as she has been focused on expanding the physical footprint of her store over the last several months, with a move to a new location that doubled her square footage. However, she's beginning to look at managing her live sales with a formal program known as CommentSold.
Selling with CommentSold
Utilizing a software platform such as CommentSold is a great option if you are ready to formally dive into the live selling space. As with any software, there is an up-front investment of time and money - but the downstream simplification of capturing sales and delivering product into the hands of shoppers in your area, and even around the country, can be well worth the effort. You can start with just the live stream technology for social media, you can create an app for your store, or even have CommentSold host your website for you if you would like.
Even within the CommentSold platform, how a live sale is executed can vary widely from store to store. Vintage Barn Chicks, a home decor store in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, hosts one hour long live sales right from the cash wrap area in their store - the elevated counter area is a perfect space to display the variety of items they will feature. They do not ship any of the products purchased during a live sale event, choosing to offer in-store pickup to help drive foot traffic through their front doors.
Clothing boutiques such as Periwinkle Marketplace and Paisley Grace Boutique, however, need a little more room to sell! Both have permanent "studios" set up in their warehouses, with fun backdrops, space off-camera to change outfits, and lighting and large-screen monitors set up.
Regardless of the studio setup, the CommentSold experience for shoppers is the same: while watching a CommentSold-hosted live event, each item is scanned in by the host, which then displays a number on the screen associated with that item. If they are ready to buy, the viewer can comment "Sold #" in the chat stream, and the item is automatically added to their cart! The viewer also has the option to click into each item to see additional details on the item, and purchase the item from there. Once the event is over, they simply need to visit their cart and check out in a process similar to what they'd find in any online store.
Once the event is over, the store then works to fulfill orders and process payments. If the store uses Shopify for their Point of Sale system and/or e-commerce website, data can flow freely between CommentSold and Shopify. If another platform is in play, like Periwinkle Marketplace has, then it can be a little more complicated. The team at Periwinkle resolves this by featuring items on their live sales first, fulfilling all the orders, and after that initial launch, then they introduce the items to their physical store's inventory system and put it out on the floor for shoppers visiting the store.
Behind the Scenes at Periwinkle Marketplace
We spent a day on-site at the Periwinkle store and warehouse, to give you a glimpse of how a live sale comes together.
The Side Effect of Live Selling
While everyone will tell you the final goal of anything they do for their store is to increase sales, utilizing live selling can impact other aspects of the business. "We're selling the vibe of our boutique," says Kim from Wrapped with Ribbon, "and building connections that our customers can relate to us through."
"For us, it's better advertising than radio or newspaper - because it's real conversation with real people."
-Stephanie Ellingson of Periwinkle Marketplace
Discover more details about live selling, and additional insights from store owners, in the following articles:
Live-Sale Retailer Examples
We've gathered a few examples of retailers who do live selling today, in a handful of formats. Check them out for a first-hand perspective on what the consumer experience is like. Be warned - you just might find them addicting!
Here are links to their social channels, where you'll find information on their scheduled events:
Going Live on Social: The Store in Lake Highlands
Live Selling Natively: Wrapped with Ribbon