Creators are making thousands of dollars through livestream shopping events.
If it weren’t for social media, would anyone know what to shop for or where to get it? Since platforms like YouTube and Instagram became part of our lives, creators have used them to show off recent purchases and share recommendations. After the pandemic first hit, 62% of U.S. shoppers said they shopped more online than they did before the pandemic, but a new trend is already on the rise, and it’s actually a blast from the past.
In the 90s, consumers shopped by watching live TV channels like QVC, and the 2020s might also be dominated by similar live shopping, this time on social media. Creators and brands stream directly from their homes or studios to sample and promote their own products, or show off products made by other companies in exchange for a commission.
In China, live shopping has already taken over, with 60 million people having participated in or viewed shopping live streams last March alone. Worldwide, live-shopping accounted for $60 billion in sales in 2019, with one billion based in the U.S.—and that’s when live shopping was only just getting started. That same year, Amazon launched Amazon Live, where influencers can recommend their favorite products via a livestream and earn commission on any purchases. A year later, Facebook and Instagram introduced their own live shopping features, and now Pinterest is getting in on the trend with Pinterest TV.
Influencers, small businesses, and big brand names alike can take advantage of the live shopping boom. To host your own live shopping event, you just need a phone with video-streaming capabilities, something to sell, and the right platform for your needs.
What is a Livestream shopping event?
Just like hosts used to showcase products on live TV for viewers to call and purchase, a livestream shopping means shoppers can watch their favorite creator or celebrity recommend products on a livestream and purchase those products through links provided directly on or underneath the video. For influencers this means participating platforms allow them to earn commission from every item they sell thanks to the stream—similar to affiliate links. However, a livestream allows an influencer to take their skills finding and sharing home wears, fashion, and more, to video, where their personality can shine and they can interact in real time with their audience.
Which live shopping platforms to use?
For the everyday influencer, Amazon Live is the easiest way to make money selling products over livestream. Eligible creators—as in, creators who are part of the Amazon Influencer Program—can get started right away by showcasing products available on Amazon over video and earning a commission from each viewer who purchases a product from the video. Commission can vary by category, according to TechCrunch, and be anywhere from 1% to 10%. Jailyn Tamia, an Amazon Influencer with over 26,000 Instagram followers, says she earned over $6,000 in the month of October from selling products on Amazon. On average, she receives 20,000 viewers for each live stream.
“It’s good money only if you work hard though,” she tells Linktree in a phone call. “If you’re not consistent, you won’t see those numbers.”
Creator Tiffany Allison has been selling on Amazon Live since 2019, and has completed over 300 livestreams. While she declined to share her exact income, she says she currently receives an average of 60,000 views on her live streams.
“You take this across the popular holidays like Black Friday coming up and we are expecting up to 1M views on one stream—it’s incredible!” she says over email. “You take a platform like Amazon, where people are already shopping, and bring your brand and expertise behind it, and amazing things happen.”
Earlier this year, YouTube began testing an integrated live shopping experience with select creators like Simply Nailogical, who launched her new nail polish collection to 2.8 million subscribers, and Hyram, who dropped his new “Selfless” skincare line to 4.5 million subscribers. This holiday season, starting on November 15, YouTube launched the YouTube Holiday Stream and Shop, kicking off with the Merrell Twins.
While a study conducted by YouTube in partnership with Publicis and TalkShoppe found 89% of viewers agree that YouTube creators give recommendations they can trust, only select creators can conduct shoppable livestreams (in which viewers can shop directly from the video). Until the feature opens up more widely, creators can approximate the same thing by recommending products in livestreams and directing users to shop using affiliate links in the video description.
The first live shopping stream on TikTok took place in December 2020 thanks to Walmart. Walmart tapped TikTok creator Michael Le, who has over 51 million followers, to be part of a one hour shoppable variety show called the “Holiday Shop-Along Spectacular.” While Walmart didn’t share exact details about what they earned through this event, they did share it reached seven times more viewers than they had expected, resulting in a 25% increase in their TikTok followers.
Live shopping officially launched for brands on TikTok alongside a host of other shopping tools back in September, which means a creator would need to be recruited by or partnered with a brand in order to do their own TikTok live shopping stream.
Facebook’s live shopping feature is similarly built for users who have their own Facebook shop or are admins of their shop Page. Those who go live can include a “product playlist” of all relevant products that are available in their shop catalogue, and users can shop from the playlist during the livestream.
Of course, users unaffiliated with their own shops have found ways to use Facebook as a live shopping tool, most notably the sellers of LuLaRoe. According to Forbes, LuLaRoe fashion consultants made Facebook groups for interested shoppers, and then announced sale hours, “during which they live-stream the presentation of their inventory for customers to view and to claim. Standing in front of their webcam or iPad camera lens, consultants hold up each new item one-by-one and describe the adorable print, soft texture and cute style. Each product has its own unique number for reference.” Viewers claim pieces in the comments. In 2016, LuLaRoe was shipping over two million items each week.
Anyone with an Instagram business account that has checkout capabilities can use the live shopping feature on Instagram, tagging a product from their catalogue so it appears at the bottom of the screen during a livestream for users to shop directly. Because of this, Instagram’s live shopping is another platform best suited for creators who have their own brands or can act as the spokesperson for a brand.
For instance, beauty creator Nikita Dragun was an early user to use Instagram’s livestream features, reaching 43,000 viewers in her July 9 live shopping video in honor of her Dragun Beauty brand’s DragunFire Color Corrector. An Instagram spokesperson told Glossy that the livestream drove 33,000 product page impressions, and 5,000 products were added to viewers’ shopping bags.
6. Pinterest TV
Pinterest’s live shopping feature is only just getting started, and is being debuted through a handful select celebrities and influencers. In the platform’s first live shopping series this month, creators like Tom Daley and Manny MUA are starring in “shoppable episodes” on the new Pinterest TV, where viewers can shop discounts and brands like All Birds, Crown Affair, Melody Ehsani, Outdoor Voices, Mented and more.
As the live shopping craze continues to sweep social media, dedicated platforms just for niche sellers have also started popping up. TalkShopLive is another place where brands and celebrities appear via video stream to sell their products while talking with fans via chat. NTWRK is a mobile-first video shopping platform with a focus on art, fashion, and streetwear. And The Information reported that live-shopping startup Whatnot is raising new capital at a valuation of $1.5 billion.
How to plan your first live shopping event
Allison says that the “majority” of the work that goes into her livestreams is done beforehand.
“Studying brands’ briefs, products, purchasing appropriate products, opening packages, preparing products, shooting content, creating appropriate graphics, preparing the stream in the broadcasting system, prepping content to publish on social media, the list goes on,” she says.
Depending on the platform, you may be working as a spokesperson for a brand that has sent you free products to promote, or you have already purchased the products you’d like to promote and plan to recoup the costs—and ideally profit—off of live stream commissions.
To get maximum views on your stream, Amazon Livestreamer and Linktree user Emily Hand says to promote your livestream on your social channels in advance. Hand has over 21,000 followers on Instagram who she gets to tune into her regular Amazon Lives all about affordable fashion
Then, right before you go live, Tamia says it’s helpful to set up flattering lighting, lay out the products you’re going to mention, and do your hair and makeup to be camera-ready.
How to sell more products
Tip 1 — Schedule streams during peak viewing time
Hand regularly goes Live on Amazon to alert followers to deals on affordable fashion, homewear, and athleisure. She’s found that 10am, 2pm, evenings, and weekends are the best times for her to go live if she wants to reach the largest audience.
Tip 2 — Be consistent
“Your audience needs to see you all the time, or they’re going to forget about you,” Tamia says. “If you’re not posting, like they’re not about to come looking for you. They’re just going to see another influencer pop up doing what you’re doing, and maybe doing it better.”
Tip 3 — Sell items you actually have used and can honestly talk about
Hand’s social media presence consists almost entirely of her wearing and modelling the clothes she makes available for shoppers to purchase through her Amazon storefront. A follower browsing Hand’s Instagram page can shop any of her looks through the link in her Linktree profile, which means when Hand goes on to recommend a piece of clothing in her Amazon Lives, viewers can know it’s been tried and tested.
Tip 4 — Offer exclusive promotions for your livestream when possible and/or giveaways.
Hand’s Linktree also points users to a number of discount codes they can use on products so they know that shopping through her gets them the best deals. This helps differentiate her from other livestreamers, and incentivizes viewers to tune into her work because they know she has the best deals.
Tip 5 — Don’t try to be any other influencer.
Tamia says that people will watch an influencer’s livestream because they want products endorsed by them—not anyone else. “Don’t try to change yourself,” she warns.
“Just because you see Jayda Cheaves wearing a certain thing, just because you put it on doesn’t mean they’re going to feel the same way about you, as they feel about Jayda. You are you and you are going to attract the audience that loves you”
Hand agrees: “There are thousands of streamers. You make you unique.”
What to do after your livestream
Almost all platforms with live shopping capabilities have the option to save the stream after it’s aired, so Tambia makes sure to direct followers who may have missed the live broadcast to the saved version via social media.
“I always go and get a snippet of it and I’ll go put it on my Instagram story and I’ll do a swipe up link telling them, ‘Hey, watch the replay’” she says. “I also have a text message list of exclusive subscribers and I send them a text like, ‘Hey, catch the replay’.”
After her going live, Allison reports sales and analytics back to brands via tools provided by Amazon.
“The reporting on Amazon is excellent, very detailed,” she says. “The great thing about livestreaming is you always have a place to house your content and reference back to it—similar to a blog, but in video format. It’s awesome for brands looking for conversions and brand awareness, and it’s great for the creator who always has a link back to shoppable content.”
In many ways, live shopping is just getting started. Creators like Tamia, Allison, and Hand are pioneering the trend that they predict will be all over feeds in the next year. They advise interested creators to get involved now. Find your niche, engage with your community, and use Linktree’s shopping tools to clearly organize your products, deals, and recommendations.
“This is the beginning for livestreaming in America,” Allison says. “The best is truly yet to come in this space.”