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A Blueprint for entering the Live Shopping space

Live Shopping – the seamless and simultaneous combination of online shopping, live streaming, and social media – has been taking North America by storm. Poised to become an $11B industry by the end of this year, it’s certainly been the buzzword of every brand marketer’s lips – and still in its infancy, adoption naturally comes with a lot of questions. As a Senior member of the livestreaming community – and one who has watched the country’s earliest of adopters soar to success, we’ll break down how brands should be selecting, auditing, compensating and coaching their influencer hosts, alongside outlining a few key terms industry players should keep note of.  

Knix, the Canadian, female-founded intimates brand, has a model that thrives on its customer community. Less than a decade ago, the first of its kind challenger brand pierced through a $46 B dollar lingerie market to usher in a new era for leakproof undergarments, activewear and loungewear, designed around feedback from consumers. The catalyst of that growth? Word of mouth praise from women in founder Johanna Griffith’s own community – sparking a years-in-the-making reassessment of the influencer. 

What is this new iteration? Meet the Key Opinion Seller – a response to our changing consumption habits over the past several years, coupled with the desire to know more in-depth about the products we buy. The term, of course, is not new. The Western equivalent of KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) in China, Key Opinion Sellers are subject-specific experts who can quickly establish trust and speak to a high level of expertise. In this article we’ll focus on how brands like Knix are “landing and expanding” into newer, fresher markets through their influencer approach with Live Shopping, and how you can architect the same successes as early as this fall.  

“If you are committed to your customers, you’re committed to your community, and you can respond quickly and pivot, you can still succeed in this environment,” Knix Founder, Joanna Griffiths, said in a recent interview about brand growth post-pandemic. Furthering to that commitment, 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. 

Earlier this year, Knix also became the first intimates brand to use Live Shopping in activating the true selling power of its influencer community. Tapping Livescale, a Live Shopping company leading the charge in translating China’s most impactful sales channel, to western tastes, the brand prepared an hour long “girl’s night in” of surprises; encouraging shoppers to grab that glass of wine, feel beautiful in their skin and score some extra deals with all their favourite online friends. The question of course, was not in having influencers host the event; but finding the right ones to suit the sales channel.  

Hosted by influencer Sarah Nicole Landry, real Knix customers, and Joanna herself, the first event succeeded expectations, placing overall sales conversion well above Livescale’s client average of 9.5% (already 3x higher than the industry average). 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. Sarah Nicole was a key anchor in the engagement, conversion and overall efficacy of the events program as a KOS in the truest form. 

So – how can other brands tap into this new phygital phenomenon, and which types of influencers unlock the right kind of brand magic? Keep reading – and take notes. 

Target a “Key Opinion Seller” Instead of traditional Influencers. 

Yes, Live Shopping events with celebrity hosts may make the news – but that doesn’t mean they always make the strongest sales. It is crucial that brands pay attention to the psychology of the Live Shopping experience itself, and keep it authentic when choosing a host – this allows an authentic, facts-focuost personalities to shine. The most authentic persona? The Key Opinion Seller. 

A great example of this? Lancôme, who has become a strong Live Shopping leader in North America since the early days of the pandemic. In Canada, the brand has identified a proven and effective strategy of tapping into smaller, more enthusiastic audiences: a Single’s Day event in November of last year reached a smaller subset of Mandarin speaking Chinese-Canadians, and boasted a conversion rate of 39%, setting the bar for sales records industry-wide.  

“When it comes to high-performing Live Shopping events, we see a strong correlation between the type of host and overall sales conversion rate – and the production setup varies a lot.” Says VP of Product at Livescale, Chanida Rayrolles. “The top-performing host is known as the Key Opinion Seller in our industry – it’s about their level of expertise and ability to establish sales-boosting trust.”  

Authenticity trumps Everything – Even that celeb ambassador. 

Data analysis around the most effective host types is compelling – and impactful for a brand’s bottom-line. On average, internal Key Opinion Sellers – hosts who are often on the brand’s payroll in an educational or ambassadorial context – can score sales conversion rates of 10.5% on average, whereas that pricy influencer host? The average is only 0.61%.  

“This speaks less to the efficacy of influencers as a whole and more to the way brands are selecting who they work with,” explains Rayrolles. “Live Shopping is a different beast – and customers are smart about where they reward brands with their dollars.”  

Knix, in their first experiment with Live Shopping, tapped a longtime influencer and collaborator @TheBirdsPapaya to host the event, and saw incredible results. Even more interestingly enough, New York-based beauty brand Beekman 1802 has a hosting lineup  “The bigger picture is about restoring fun to online shopping,” said Peter Gaston, Director of Innovation at VCCP, in a recent interview. Referencing Colin Huang, CEO of Pinduoduo group in China, he shares a unique piece of insight around the “influencer effect” when shopping live.  

“Shopping doesn’t generate any traffic. But look at Disneyland, it’s always packed. Why? It’s fun. People are always looking for fun. So we made shopping fun. Buying in groups just creates a psychological connection that you aren’t alone. That’s ‘fun’.”  

Pair this “fun” with the fleeting, ephemeral allure of FOMO culture, all wrapped in an influencer-endorsed bow? You’re guaranteed to generate serious sales.  

Knix, in their first experiment with Live Shopping, tapped a long-time influencer and collaborator @TheBirdsPapaya to host the event, and saw incredible results. “It’s a mix of authenticity and finding the right influencer that also knows what they’re talking about,” says activist Kenzie Brenna, who also has worked with Knix for social media and advertising campaigns. “Our community doesn’t want to be shocked into buying something they’ve never heard us talk about before, and so for brands, building long-term, trusting relationships is important. We really care about our communities, and if we recommend something, that has to have weight.” 

Our recommendation, especially for social media obsessed brands with strong influencer relations Invest in the “best of both worlds” model, which blends the star power of loyal influencers hosting alongside an internal KOS. To date, this masterful combination has been tapped by brands like Dermalogica, Vans, Tatcha, and L’Oreal globally, and hits a sweet spot for consistent sales and traffic. 

Invest in your customer, and they will invest in you.  

“When we work with customers, we always tell them – having a Live Shopping event is not enough,” says Annick Sheedy McLellan, co-founder of MXL media, a Live Shopping production agency in Canada. “Giving people a reason to tune in, and make a purchase, is almost just as important as a well-organized production strategy. We always ask clients – okay, now would you make a purchase if you were in the customer’s shoes? There is immense potential, but you have to maximize opportunity.”  

Offering bundles, exclusive discounts, free shipping and first access are some of the fundamental ways brands are using Live Shopping to nurture loyalty, build brand awareness and give love back to faithful customers. Equally valuable for breaking into new markets, new customer acquisition with Live Shopping is also very promising, with Livescale’s average acquisition rate around 40% for clients.  

“With Live Shopping, you have the ability to shorten the sales funnel dramatically,” says Rayrolles. “From discovery, to acquisition,  

To prompt guests into converting and experiencing new product while in the Livestream, Knix offered customers a unique gift with purchase, and early access to shop before anyone else.  

Communication is Conversion. 

The age-old expression “Build it and they will come” ought to be updated to “Build it, talk about it consistently and they will do what is expected of them,” when it comes to Live Shopping. In order for brands to see the results that Live Shopping can pull, and consistently, a persuasive communication plan needs to be in place for customers.  

“We’ve seen brands communicate about their Live Shopping event one hour before launching, and one week before, and the results are staggering,” says McLellan about preparing the customer to tune in. 

Oftentimes, strong communication around the offering of a Live Shopping event can be deployed wherever your customers are: granting access through newsletters, paid ads, exclusive invites, SMS, or social media, in addition to strong website advertising.  

“With brands, and especially how we like to utilize Live Shopping, the onus is on them to build and develop that customer relationship,” she says, as some of the most successful Live Shopping platforms outside of Facebook’s and Instagram’s smaller offerings are D2C. Brands love this approach because they have full ownership over their data, and can provide customers with a clear path to purchase without ever having to leave the event. No apps are needed either – with Livescale, for example, brands are able to share a Live Shopping event link anywhere, even embedding on their websites or social media accounts. Other Live Shopping platforms operate as marketplaces, acting like the true digital pivot of a shopping channel like QVC – requiring audiences to download and app, and scroll through daily for access to new shopping events hosted by influencers. 

Says Rayrolles about communication: “Education, and targeting the right type of buyer for your business, is something you don’t want to leave until the last minute. It’s a brand-new sales channel, and you don’t want to let your competitors get there first.”  

So, how much lead time should you give your brand before starting a Live Shopping strategy? “In our experience, one month is plenty of time to prepare,” says McLellan. “The software and onboarding will take the least amount of time, but it’s crucial brands enter the Live Shopping space with a clear strategy, honest objectives and an open mind.”  

Ahead of a volatile retail season, one theme is clear: it’s a now or never moment for brands who want to adopt Live Shopping, expand their communities and get ahead of their competitors.