Brands considering a live-shopping strategy must lean on influencers

Live shopping — the seamless and simultaneous combination of online shopping, livestreaming and social media — has been taking North America by storm since October 2019. Though booming to take up over 13% of all e-commerce sales in China, the North American set is still new to this innovation, where influencers transform star power to selling power in moving millions of dollars of perfume, produce and even seats on a rocket launcher.

In Canada, cosmetics brand Urban Decay introduced a deeper meaning to “see now, buy now” through its first use of live shopping in October 2019. Since this first foray into the “phygital” wild west, live shopping is set to become an $11 billion industry in the United States by the end of this year.

While “live shopping” has been the buzzword on every brand marketer’s lips, adoption comes with a lot of questions. One of the most pressing questions we’ve seen circling around emails, webinars and routine Zoom calls is in deciding who the face of these live-shopping events should be, and how a new industry standard for selection, payment and expertise can be implemented.

As director of marketing and communications at a live-shopping startup in North America, I’ve watched the continent’s adopters soar to success — or learn big lessons.

After watching the influencer market rise to its present-day success, I want to break down how brands should be selecting, compensating and coaching their influencer hosts, as well as outline a few key terms industry players should keep note of.

Start with influencers on day one

Knix, the woman-founded Canadian intimates brand, has a model that thrives on its customer community — and ambassadors that bring it to life. The brand pierced through a $46 billion lingerie market to usher in a new era for leakproof undergarments, activewear and loungewear, designed around real feedback from real consumers.

A huge pivot came when the brand shifted entirely from retail sales to direct-to-consumer in 2016, focusing on connecting and communicating with customers online. Knix has also implemented a robust influencer affiliate strategy, seeding product and providing exclusive 10% off discount codes to communities close to their influencer affiliates.

Earlier this year, Knix also became the first intimates brand to launch with Livescale, using live shopping to add extra excitement to its buzz-worthy swimwear launch. Hosted by influencer Sarah Nicole Landry, real Knix customers and Knix founder Joanna Griffiths, the first event exceeded expectations, placing overall sales conversion well above live-shopping’s average, and certainly for a first-time event.

The live-shopping experience was the first to blend social media strategies with the expertise of the Knix brand team, showcasing online polls, gamification features and direct paths to purchase without ever leaving the brand’s social channels, website and online newsletter.

The secret? In part, the organic community culture the brand has worked for years to build — topped off with the selection of an influencer host who has known the brand for years and can speak directly to its merits without a second thought.

Expertise is more crucial than following

Yes, live-shopping events with celebrity hosts may make the news — but that doesn’t mean they always make the strongest sales.

A well-organized script with a passionate spokesperson is more important than budget-busting hosts, flashy names and buzzy PR tactics, our data show. The TL;DR? Let your host’s authentic connection to their audience shine brighter than anything else.