New trend in digital marketing provides customers with interactive experiences
By: Jenna Lang Warford
Given social distancing and the low win rate of pre-recorded and printed material, livestreaming is a strong avenue to pursue. It’s been used quite successfully in Asia Pacific already.
—Damian Mobley, Ex. Dr. of Technology, MONAT Global
Sending an email for a flash sale is almost like ‘junk mail’ now. People aren’t as interested in what they receive in their inbox.
—Jason Sicala, Director of Events, The Avon Company
Livestream shopping has arrived in the direct selling channel. With this interactive platform technology, direct sellers are expanding their customer base, increasing sales and generating excitement for their field.
Early adopters The Avon Company and Beautycounter are now offering distributors and customers live shopping experiences similar to those hosted by Home Shopping Network® and QVC®. The difference is that the sales are attributed to the distributor automatically.
Beautycounter has opened a brick-and-mortar store from which it streams its live shopping events. The store, which is just under 700 square feet, emphasizes its Los Angeles vibe with an on-air sign indicating a live event is being filmed and a glass front through which consumers can watch.
In a recent statement, Gregg Renfrew, founder and CEO of Beautycounter, says, “As more and more people shop from home, live-selling is a way to reach and engage our community in an incredibly impactful and convenient way. Our in-store studio is not just a store feature. We see it as the future of dynamic content and e-commerce selling.” The retail space is also designed with an eye toward content creation.
Livestream shopping is an excellent fit for The Avon Company’s focus as well. “We are always looking for ways to digitize,” says Jason Sigala, director of events. “We were working on this before COVID, but this sped up the process to bring this interactive selling tool to our Representatives and the Customers. Livestreaming is fun and interactive. We also always have deals, and it’s totally focused on selling. It’s something our reps and their customers can watch wherever they are, and it gives them a reason to interact and learn about new products from Avon.”
And the results are compelling. Avon has had two distributor-focused livestream sales events with 11 consumer events planned for 2021. While declining to give exact sales numbers, Sigala does reveal that the second representative livestream shopping event saw a sales increase of 76 percent, compared to the first.
Improving on Flash and Comment-to-Buy Sales
Livestream sales are creating a much stronger buzz than flash sales, Sigala says. “Sending an email for a flash sale is almost like ‘junk mail’ now. People aren’t as interested in what they receive in their inbox.”
But, he adds that the response to livestream has been strong. “(People) want fun ways they can interact, hear and see what is great about the products. Nothing beats live testimonials and comments in the chat to influence a purchase. The shows are interactive and one-night-only offers.”
Distributors at virtually all direct selling companies are frequently engaged in social media, and that was a driving factor for the company. Sigala notes, “Digital media consumption is exploding right now, and we felt it was the right time. Livestream shopping is another selling tool to help our Representatives sell and push Avon’s social selling presence to the next level.”
The previous level was live-video-broadcasts with “comment to buy” sales. While the live broadcast is able to display the products’ features and benefits in a more appealing way than a still graphic image, the follow-up for the distributor includes invoicing, confirming receipt of payment, and then placing the order. A common hindrance to the process is customers experiencing “buyer’s remorse” and simply not responding to the invoices.
Keys to Success
Ryan Kell, co-founder and chief technology officer at BlooKanoo, says livestream shopping technology gives the distributor a simplified, stream-lined upgrade. “This new phase of integrating a checkout experience directly into the video platform simplifies the process for customers and helps the distributors to close the sale.”
The key to success, says Kell, is making it simple for the customer. “Don’t create complicated hoops that the customer has to jump through to be able to participate in these experiences.”
Avon promotes its livestream events as “watch and shop” and offers exclusive sales as well as prize drawings for the representative and the consumer. Sigala says the company has discovered one key to successful attendance and sales: “We have our Representatives really focus on sharing and reminding their customers of the live shopping event so that they don’t miss out on the exclusive offers. Reminding the customers to watch is where we concentrate a lot of our efforts.”
Notably, about 80 percent of Avon’s attendees viewed the program on their mobile phones rather than other devices.
BlooKanoo’s Kell says that selecting the platform and processes that are right for a company’s demographics is key. “Distributors can range from 18-year-olds that don’t realize that you weren’t born with a cell phone all the way to those who only started using Zoom because they wanted to talk to their grandkids. So it’s important to determine how easy it is for them to engage and how deeply it integrates into your current sales processes.”
The options can range from an app that is directly integrated with an existing platform to even a personalized URL that links to an experience where shoppers can buy the products. It’s possible, he explains, to embed the livestream directly onto the distributor’s replicated site.
“The key to keeping it a streamlined experience is making sure you’re not inventing new channels and new shopping carts. Think of having a livestream shopping event that you can add to a replicated website just as easily as you can add a YouTube video to your website. We’ve worked really hard to make sure that you can embed a livestream directly into that same environment. Then the distributor, instead of inviting people to a Zoom call, sends a link to their replicated site. (Viewers) see a product, and when they click the purchase button, it goes into their existing shopping cart,” Kell says.
He adds that it’s important for executives to ask themselves, “How much does this participate in what we already have, and how much does this introduce new features that our field has to learn and adapt to?” The more simple and streamlined the process is, the more it will be used, he says.
The technology investment is paying off for The Avon Company in more ways than one. “The Representative response has been very positive,” Sicala says. “They are learning that this is a great selling tool they can utilize to sell and get customers excited about new products and offers.”
And there’s the cache of the excitement of being cutting-edge. “The Representatives are also thrilled to be a part of a company that’s at the forefront of the future of retail. They’re bringing new ways to shop with them and learning that these are often preferred methods of shopping with younger demographics,” he says.
Tips for a Successful Livestream
Damian Mobley, executive director of technology at MONAT Global, suggests executives answer three questions when considering livestream shopping as a solution for their field:
- Does the product offering lend itself to being demonstrated online—being quick to show, with a few standout products that make sense for the format?
- Are they willing to get behind it with training and promotion, understanding that livestream shopping isn’t a “Shiny Object Investment,” but rather a game changer?
- Have they watched it in action with another business, in addition to a demo from a vendor?
“This technology allows the distributor to close the online sale—a strong advantage over product demos and online parties on platforms such as Zoom and Sqweee,” says Mobley. “Plus, using the native cart of the company makes it a practical solution.”. He adds that integration with the company’s cart, rather than a separate cart included with the tool, is something he considers essential.
Nonetheless, Mobley cautions companies as they prepare to launch these capabilities. “As with all new technology, people are creatures of habit,” he says. “They are slow to adopt what they don’t know and trust. Companies that implement these tools really need to support their field with it by evangelizing it, providing to-the-point live and interactive training, and that includes adequate scripts that are kept up to date with new products and promotions. In other words, this is not a ‘fire and forget’ launch.”
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