Want to engage with customers without in person contact? Consider live streaming!
Clearly with store closures, in-person contact with customers has significantly reduced or stopped. It is also not clear when such contact will increase even as restrictions start to lift. So it may be a good time to think about other ways of engaging with your customers. Live streaming is one of them.
Why is it a good time to consider live streaming now?
- There are more viewers. With more people at home, with fewer major TV shows and movies being produced and released, more people are turning to services such as YouTube and video streaming services.
- Quality expectations are lower. Everyone else is working from home, so it’s fine for you to do so too. Major talk shows are being filmed at the host’s home – right now people are more accepting of lower production quality.
How to stream
If you have a decent phone with the YouTube app installed, you may have all the equipment you need for streaming! (I do however recommend a stand of some kind to avoid camera shake and good lighting.)
First, if you don’t have one already, create a YouTube channel for your business. There is a lot of information available on how to do this. Then in your YouTube app, log in using your YouTube account.
Next, experiment! There is a little camera icon at the top of the screen. Tap this to bring up a screen with a “Record” and “Go Live” button. Recording gives you the option of editing the video before publishing, but it can take more time overall as you have to review the content. People expect live streams to be a bit more scrappy, and more importantly you can see comments from your audience and answer questions live.
The reason for experimenting is to get the hang of things. Experiment and learn!
- Is the camera in the right position to get a good view of the products you are showing?
- When you are talking, do you sound authentic? (It can be embarrassing listening to your own voice if you are not used to it.)
- Is the sound good enough quality? (Audio quality can matter more than video quality!)
- Is the lighting okay? Do you need more natural light?
- Are the shadows too sharp? (There are lighting panels that create softer shadows.)
- Is your battery going to hold up or do you need your phone plugged in all the time? Can you do the stream in front of your store sign/logo? Get a friend to watch and give you feedback, and get some practice responding to live comments while you are at it.
Using “unlisted” is useful for your first recordings as it allows you to experiment and share with a small number of other people. While you are trying to get online quickly, you still want to put forward a professional experience to show you care about your customers.
For more information, check out Tools and Resources for COVID-19 and look for the link to information on setting up a YouTube channel.
Running your show
One consideration is how are you going to structure your show. Are you going to have a regular time each week people can join? Are you going to share whenever a new product arrives in your store? Are you going to do a long and detailed review stream on one product, or cover a range of products?
You may want to consider having a second device, such as a laptop, also available during the live stream. It can be useful to have someone watch for live chat messages so you can engage with them and get their questions answered.
Get the Message Out
Having a channel does not automatically mean people will find it. This is the time to break out your email newsletter lists, social media publishing channels and so on. Let people know about your new channel so they can subscribe. If you plan to livestream and answer questions live, let them know the best time to join.
If you have online chat, email addresses, or similar on your site make sure you train those responding so they know of the YouTube channel and when you are going live on different topics (as well as previous recordings). For example, if you have a “mad Mondays” or similar session with discounts, make sure your staff know to direct customers to attend at that time.
With a full ecommerce platform you can accept orders and payments online. But there are other simpler options to consider. One is to just share your business phone number and accept orders over the phone. (Make sure you treat customer credit card details with appropriate levels of security.) It is better to try something, get it live, then iterate than try to set up too many things all at once.
Another consideration is how you plan to deliver products. If you have never sold online, working out shipping and packaging is a necessary investment. But just because YouTube is global it does not mean you have to be! It is fine to start off with local delivery or curbside pickup. If you start getting enough requests for delivery to more distant locations, then investigate further.
Learn from others
Live streaming products is not a new concept. Look around and see what others are doing. Do you enjoy their shows? Do they seem successful? How have they approached it? Do you want to promote products you sell or your knowledge and brand, only including products when relevant? For example, do you want to show makeup products that you sell or show how to apply them?
Do you want to partner with an existing streamer or influencer? Don’t be put off by the best streamers – you can still be successful without having their audience and reach. Nobody started large, so start! Taobao has been helping farmers live stream their products. Understand your customers and what interests them most. Customers frequently value authenticity over polish.
Think about the personality and feeling you want to project to your customers. Do you want to be thought of as a warm and opinionated, or scientific and objective? Do you want to be recognized for your expertise? Do you want to promote an individual, or have a range of staff on the show with different areas of expertise?
To wrap up, getting online can be relatively inexpensive in terms of equipment needed. You can probably use your existing mobile phone for a camera and streaming software. But think through your plans, start small, then iteratively improve. Going to use your phone to record but want to support live chat? Who is going to be manning the chat during the session?
If you have not created video content before, it does take time to create good quality content. Sorry, it’s not magic. Try, experiment, learn. Work out what is needed for your brand. Scrappy is much faster to produce and get going with, but may be less suitable for luxury brands.
No-one knows exactly what shopping will look like as COVID-19 calms down and stores start to reopen. But one trend that is clear is COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of online shopping and more customers have liked it and are likely to stay. If you don’t have an online strategy yet, create one. Streaming on a service such as YouTube taking local phone orders is one approach that you can start on without creating an online store.
ADDED June 18, 2020: “Shiseido looks to its China strategies for post pandemic growth”