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Betabrand, Kelley Cawley and Facebook Show What Makes Live Shopping Retail’s Next Big Opportunity

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Social commerce is poised to be the focus of the next retail revolution: two-thirds of consumers say that social media has become as important as their other sources of information when making purchase decisions, according to data from Facebook. The social giant has embraced the selling potential of its user community, and both online and brick-and-mortar-focused retailers are using it to connect with shoppers in new ways.

“As we all know, people window shop to see what’s new, for entertainment or to decide what to buy,” said Yulie Kwon Kim, Director of Product Management Commerce at Facebook in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “They often want to talk to a live person and get suggestions, ask questions, see the product in context. Increasingly, people have been discovering and deciding what to buy through social media. We see that happening all over our apps — they’re learning about new brands and getting product recommendations through content. This is happening in photos and videos, news feeds and in [Facebook] Watch stories, and people are really turning to their online communities for advice as well.”

Facebook’s ubiquity makes it a natural fit for social commerce: nearly 75% of global shoppers say they get purchase ideas from Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp Messenger. With 1 million active Facebook shops and 250 million shoppers interacting every month, the platform is taking its success to the next level by helping retailers connect with consumers in a direct, personal manner: via live shopping.

Fashion brands in particular stand to benefit from these streams, which combine education, entertainment and even personalization into a completely modern shopping experience. Two standout retailers in this area are:

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  • Betabrand is no stranger to cutting-edge retail strategies, including turning its San Francisco store into a podcast studio in 2019. The company has embraced live shopping as a way to connect with customers not just online but in-store by making its space stand out from the competition.
  • Main street fashion boutiques, particularly smaller ones focused on serving local communities, were hit hard during the pandemic — but live shopping helped Kelley Cawley turn challenging times into a social commerce-driven success story.

Betabrand’s Shows Are Live — and the Retailer Wants You To Know It

Betabrand’s embrace of broadcast retail has been a boon not just to its online presence but for the San Francisco shop that doubles as its studio. Recordings initially were a Friday-only affair, but the brand currently hosts at least two shows daily and up to four in a single day. These online shows also act as live marketing by turning the store floor into a unique experiential space, helping the retailer draw in passing customers intrigued by what they’re seeing inside.

“The thought behind that was, not only do we get to do our live shows within our studio space, but people on Valencia, which is a very intriguing and vivacious window shopping street, will be able to see our shows,” said Marie Andresen, Creative Director at Betabrand in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Then, when you came into what we were calling the showroom, you’d be intrigued because there’d be some cameras on and it would be a live show happening. It was just one of our ways of getting the word out.”

Of course, proving that these shows actually are live is harder online, and prerecorded footage isn’t nearly as interesting as something happening right now. Betabrand proves its real-time nature by making interaction a big, important part of the program. Polls guide the flow of each show, simultaneously making shoppers feel like they’re part of the experience and ensuring the retailer is showing off items that directly interest viewers.

“You can have the biggest live button in the world and most people still won’t believe it’s live,” said Chris Lindland, Founder and CEO of Betabrand in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “So when we organize our shows the hosts ask questions to try to provoke participation from anyone who’s demonstrably into it. That’s a big deal. Then as you gain more and more of an audience of people who’ve had that moment, they understand that it’s real. A big piece of this is that it’s like a ‘Choose your own shopping adventure.’ We really want you to guide the show as it happens, so you’re confronted in the chat room with a big poll that says, ‘Which outfit should she wear next?’ And that’s an easy way to get in.”

Because the host can’t answer everything, Betabrand has a team of workers on hand to make sure everyone in chat has their questions answered through a dashboard provided by Facebook. This not only provides further proof that the broadcasts are live but also makes sure everyone stays engaged with the content.

Live Shopping Brings Kelley Cawley’s Local Experience Nationwide

Unlike Betabrand, Kelley Cawley had little ecommerce experience prior to the pandemic. The small retailer had thrived due to its intimate store experience and professional fashion expertise, but the COVID-related shutdown meant it had to pivot to a new model in a hurry. Live shopping proved to be the bridge between the styles of in-person and online interactions.

“How am I going to stand on my foundation where I provide a service, where we style you?” said Kelley Cawley, Founder of Kelley Cawley Boutique in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “How am I going to do that in the digital world? You just can’t do that on a website, so that’s where live shopping is absolutely priceless. I’m able to show our credibility: What do we know? Why are we the experts? Why are you going to come to us? We’re able to show our personalities, because at the end of the day I don’t care what anybody says, in business we’re all people. We were really able to show who we were and what we were about even though you couldn’t come in our front door.”

While the initial jump to live shopping was driven by survival, Kelley Cawley has fully embraced the medium as a growth driver. Shoppers who tried out live shopping for the first time during lockdown now realize how fun and personal it can feel, and even a smaller brand like Kelley Cawley can find a large audience: the retailer has reached more than 100,000 new customers through its efforts on Facebook.

“I’m from a small town, and my brick-and-mortar location is in a rural area — you know, a small-town girl with a fashion dream,” said Cawley. “It’s crazy what happened when we had to innovate and adjust to the times, just constantly absorb all of this knowledge of what is going on in the world. If you don’t keep up, you’re going to get left behind. We innovated, and what I can tell you is the amount of reach that you can have and the amount of growth that you can have so quickly is insane. The reach just consistently builds and the growth consistently builds, but you definitely have to be consistent with it.

Cawley also noted that a major part of consistency is constantly putting out content. Don’t worry about shoppers growing tired of it — if your offering is good, they will always want more.

“I think some brands have this concern like, ‘It wouldn’t be interesting anymore, I shouldn’t be doing this all the time, I need to make it unique.’ I actually think that’s completely incorrect,” said Cawley. “You cannot overdo it. It’s something that the world wants and we are proof of that.”

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