Swirl - Online Video Shopping

Should You Use an Influencer or Retail Staff/Expert For Your Live Streams?

Date: June 4, 2022

Live streaming commerce is the next revolution in the e-commerce industry. Originating in China, social commerce – a perfect amalgamation of social media and live commerce – has ignited influencer marketing even more. In this new format of e-commerce, retailers or brands use live sessions to introduce their products and engage with their audience. 

In fact, a 35-year-old celebrity, Huang Wei, who led a live streaming session was able to sell 38.6 billion yuan (S$8 billion) worth of goods. Another great example of a successful live streaming session was by cosmetics brand, Maybelline. They invited Angelababy, a Hong Kong model, actress and singer, along with 50 other influencers to launch their new lipstick edition in China. Around six million viewers watched that live event, and they sold 10,600 Lip Flush Oil lipsticks in two hours. 

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Clearly, the use of influencers in live video selling significantly helps brands increase customer interaction and engagement. Various retailers are seeing an increase in sales by combining influencer marketing and livestream shopping. Livestream selling requires hosts that can easily hook their audience’s attention and engage with them. 

But does it always have to be influencers? Not necessarily. 

In 2021, Forrester Consulting conducted a survey to understand what type of live shopping hosts are most effective. Out of a choice of social media influencers, celebrities, product influencers, and local product experts, the top response 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 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 say that they would rather watch a live video than read a company’s social media posts. When an influencer hosts a livestream, it offers a well-known face to boost brand recognition and helps viewers stay engaged. 

Influencer-hosted streams are growing in demand and top brands like Maybelline, Clinique, Vogue, and more are leveraging the unique ability of these influencers or celebrities to create a compelling storyline and engage with their consumers. 

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. 

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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.

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The trick is to find an influencer who has created a community that can resonate with your brand’s values. 

But collaborating with influencers or celebs can be expensive, which diminishes the ROI you expect from livestreaming. In addition, if the influencer doesn’t connect with your brand values or have a like-minded following, you stand the risk of your viewers seeing it as a gimmick. 

Read our post on Top live shopping trends to watch for in 2022 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 may attract more views and reach, having store associates host the event promotes authenticity. It brings in a more targeted audience or people who are watching for the brand or product, and not just to see a celebrity. In essence, live streams run by a brand’s staff associates appear to be more trustworthy. 

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” (March 21-March 26). 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

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Having an in-house store associate run the live stream will allow them to experiment with their creativity and move from ‘social zero to social hero.’ It will eventually result in increased reach and turn your brand associates into influencers. 

When these employees are positioned as subject matter experts, it promotes authenticity and positively impacts consumers intent to purchase. This also helps churn out more branded content in the process, more aligned to the company values. 

Once your staff associates start to get recognized, they can further collaborate with the right influencers. This will help build a more powerful network and nurture one big community that resonates with the brand’s missions and values. Employees can then also share influencer-generated content, helping them run more interesting live streams. 

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

The Bottom Line 

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. 

But as more live streaming content becomes available, viewers will get more selective in choosing what they watch. Live streaming that is entertaining, authentic, and believable will naturally receive higher engagement. Brands will need to innovate and create new ways to make their live streams interesting so that viewers keep coming back. Having an optimal mix of the right influencers and employee experts on your livestream can create a memorable experience for your audience.

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