When Covid-19 hit, Melbourne-based Ashley Bellino had to figure out a way to keep her homewares business, Stoned Crystals, afloat.
With customers no longer able to visit her bricks-and-mortar store in Elsternwick, Victoria, or any of the brand’s stockists, Bellino needed to figure out a way to bring the in-store experience to the online realm.
Cue Stoned Crystals Live Sales, an online auction-type event where Bellino broadcasts the traditional shopping experience via Instagram’s live function, increased sales by a whopping 134 per cent, and delivered a monthly return in excess of $180,000.
“Live-streamed broadcasts are the closest thing we have to face-to-face selling in a physically disconnected world,” Bellino said.
“When done correctly, it can serve as a profitable income stream and allow brands to cultivate a digital ecosystem specific to their customers’ needs.”
The live stream is a mix of showing off the merchandise, being entertaining, engaging in discussions with viewers, posting promotions and creating a connection with your customers.
“In a way, Instagram has transformed into something more intimate,” she said.
“Customers want to see what happens behind the scenes; they want to be part of a brand’s narrative and they want to know they’re cared for well beyond the transaction.”
Here are Ashley Bellino’s steps to selling a product on Instagram.
Make the move online
If your business isn’t online yet, you need to get online – and that doesn’t mean just setting up a website.
“Developing a strong, reliable and consistent online experience is key,” Bellino said. “Adopt a customer’s perspective, and review your website, social media and digital strategies with them in mind.”
That means asking yourself questions like, ‘is the path to purchase easy to navigate?’ or ‘are the visuals up to date?’
“The retail sector will never look the same going forward so incorporating live sales as part of your digital strategy allows your business to be both proactive and reactive to new economic conditions.”
Develop a plan
When running an Instagram live, don’t fly blind, Bellino said.
“As with live TV, the unexpected can happen so it’s best to prepare a run sheet before any live sale,” Bellino said. “Know what you’re going to say and in what order.”
Recreate the offline, online
In a live, the visuals are just as key as they are in a store. Make sure the lighting, vocals and ambience is styled correctly, so customers get a feel for your brand.
“Customers love the idea of virtually walking through a shop so replicating an atmosphere that closely resembles this experience works exceptionally well, particularly if you have the props and styling tools to replicate a display,” Bellino said.
Develop a connection
Customer service is just as, if not more, important online as it is in store, so make time to deviate from your selling to respond to customers’ questions in the live stream, Bellino said.
And if you’re caught off guard by a comment, look at it positively.
“People love candid conversations and transparency,” Bellino said. “It’s always good to be responsive to comments so you can constantly evolve your pitch.”
The purpose of a live sale is to, of course, sell. A good way to sell your product is to come up with some kind of system where customers can purchase your product via the live comments.
At Stoned Crystals, each crystal is assigned a unique number or code, and each one has a caption that highlights the stone type, its dimensions and its properties.
“If a customer chooses to buy, they simply quote the crystal number with a purchasing identifier - i.e. ‘MINE’ - in the comments so a team member can review the transcript, contact each buyer and send them a direct link to our website so they can process the order securely,” Bellino said.
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