June 21, 2023

Influencer Vs. Retail Staff/Expert: Who Should You Choose For Your Live Streams?

Uncover the pros and cons of using influencers or retail staff / experts for live streams. Find the perfect video commerce business strategy for your brand.
The Perfect Host for Your Live Shopping Event
Retail Staff or Influencer
Explore the decision of whether to use influencers or retail staff for live stream shopping. From extended reach to more reliability, explore what each of them have to offer. Gain valuable insights into the different aspects of each approach for your live video commerce strategies.

Live Stream is revolutionizing the e-commerce industry as the next big thing. Originating in China, social commerce combines the power of social media and live commerce, fueling the growth of influencer marketing. In this innovative format, brands and retailers leverage live sessions to showcase their products and interact with their audience.

A prime example of the success of live streaming sessions is Huang Wei, a 35-year-old celebrity, who generated a staggering 38.6 billion yuan (S$8 billion) in sales. Another noteworthy case is Maybelline, a cosmetics brand, which invited Hong Kong model, actress, and singer Angelababy, along with 50 other influencers, to launch their new lipstick edition in China. The live event attracted around six million viewers, resulting in the sale of 10,600 Lip Flush Oil lipsticks within a span of two hours.

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It's evident that leveraging shopping influencers in live video selling significantly enhances customer interaction and engagement for brands. Many retailers have witnessed increased sales by combining influencer marketing with livestream shopping

But does it always have to be influencers featuring in live video commerce content? Not necessarily. 

In a survey, respondents were asked to identify the most effective type of hosts for live shopping sessions. Among the options of social media influencers, celebrities, product influencers, and local product experts, the top choice was local product experts.

Let’s evaluate the pros and cons of using influencers and retail experts in your live streams.

The Case For Influencers In Live Video Commerce

There’s no denying that brands have seen success (and skyrocketing sales) using a social media influencer in their live streams. Here’s why: 

Easier, More Engaged Watchability

80% of shoppers prefer watching live videos over reading social media posts from companies. When an influencer hosts a livestream, it not only enhances brand recognition but also keeps viewers actively engaged.

The popularity of influencer-hosted streams is increasing, with renowned brands like Maybelline, Clinique, Vogue, and others utilizing the captivating storytelling skills of these shopping influencers or celebrities to actively engage with consumers during live video commerce sessions.

For example, Emilia Clarke, an actor famous for her lead role as Mother of Dragons, Danaerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones has partnered with Clinique to host a series of skincare livestreams. 

Swirl - Online Video Shopping

Like-Minded Fan Growth

A trusted influencer with a loyal following also brings in a group of like-minded fans who can become ambassadors. 

For example, American department store Kohl’s leveraged the following of vlogger and Youtube star, Judy Travis of ItsJudyTime to promote their Black Friday Sale.  

Judy took her mother shopping on a Black Friday haul and posted it to her page to drive additional traffic to the store. She talked about convenience – how they can get anything they want in one store – and great deals, and included links to all the products she purchased in her live description. The video has got around 200,000 views to date.

Swirl - Online Video Shopping

The key is to identify an influencer who has built a community that aligns with your brand's values.

However, partnering with influencers or celebrities can be expensive, which can impact the expected ROI in live video commerce. Moreover, if the influencer doesn't resonate with your brand values or attract a like-minded following, there is a risk that viewers may perceive it as a mere gimmick.

Read our post on Top live shopping trends to watch for in 2023 and beyond

The Case For Leveraging Your Brand Experts

Working with different brands, Swirl found that retailers are experimenting with brand-run live streams. That means that store experts host the live stream, interact with the audience, explain and demonstrate products, and keep viewers engaged. 

Greater Authority and Believability

While influencer-led streams can generate higher viewership and broader reach, having store associates as hosts adds a sense of authenticity. It attracts a more focused audience who are genuinely interested in the brand or product, rather than being solely drawn by a celebrity presence. Ultimately, live video commerce conducted by a brand's own staff instills a greater sense of trustworthiness.

One good example of brand-run live streams was that of Yanzhiwu. The brand ran a 16-hour live stream on Taobao’s “Spoil Fans Festival”. The live stream had 150k viewers, and the brand even saw an all-time high peak in the number of new registered members and followers. 

Converts Staff Into Ambassadors

Empowering in-house store associates to host live streams provides them with the opportunity to unleash their creativity and transform from being social novices to social stars. This, in turn, leads to increased reach and transforms your brand associates into influencers themselves.

By positioning these employees as subject matter experts, it cultivates authenticity and positively influences consumers' intent to make a purchase. Additionally, this approach generates more branded content that aligns closely with the company's values.

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As your staff associates gain recognition, they can collaborate with relevant shopping influencers, fostering a powerful network and nurturing a united community that resonates with the brand's mission and values. Furthermore, employees can share influencer-generated content, adding excitement to their own live streams.

Read more about Turn your sales staff into content creators and brand influencers with these easy tips


The bottom line is that collaborating with influencers can help drive more reach and sales but it can be expensive. Whereas in the case of staff-run live streams, the reach may be low in the beginning but it can help establish brand authority in the industry. While keeping costs low, the brand can develop a direct relationship with its audience. 

As live video commerce continues to gain popularity, viewers are becoming more discerning in their choices. Livestreams that are authentic, entertaining, and convincing are more likely to attract and engage viewers. Brands need to find innovative ways to keep their live streams engaging and keep viewers coming up. By having a combination of the right shopping influencers and employee experts on their live streams, brands can create an unforgettable experience for their audience.

Don't miss out on maximizing your brand's potential – leverage the power of Swirl's Live Video Commerce to skyrocket your brand engagement and revenue today!

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