Why indies should harness the power of live video streaming to connect with shoppers during the lockdown

With consumers confined to their homes, some shrewd indies are successfully connecting with shoppers via live social media broadcasts. However, as loneliness and boredom sweeps the nation, here’s why shifting SS20 stock isn’t necessarily the point…

While it has battered global markets, some brands have thrived in the coronavirus crisis. From Netflix to Tesco, several global corporations have seen a boom in usage (and revenue) thanks to the pandemic-imposed staying-at-home culture.

Facebook is up there with the best of them. The social media giant, which had begun to steadily decline in popularity after peaking in 2017, reported an average of more than 1.73 billion active daily users in March. That’s an increase of 11 per cent year-on-year. When added to those frequenting its other apps (Instagram, Messenger and Whatsapp), its network reaches 2.36 billion daily – and three billion a month.

One of Facebook’s rapidly growing success stories is its live video feature. Also available on Instagram, it allows brands and bloggers to speak to their fan base or customers directly in real-time. Some see thousands of users joining to watch their live streams, which could be about anything from make-up and styling tips to Q&As and house tours.

Personal touch

Lincolnshire-based womenswear indie Tilletts was harnessing Facebook Live long before the coronavirus pandemic. Its owner Melanie Tillett and her two daughters have been broadcasting live video content to the group’s Facebook fans since 2016. (Today this is somewhere in the region of 80,000 women). But their once weekly broadcasts have become even more frequent since most of its followers became confined to their homes. The team has realised that its content is not just important for building the business, but is helping to alleviate some of the loneliness and boredom its customers are enduring too.


“We’ve had so much feedback during the lockdown about how important these live broadcasts are to our customers; the support has been overwhelming”


“We originally started broadcasting live videos for our global customer base who couldn’t always visit the store,” explains the retailer’s head of PR, Sheryl Gibson-Hill. “But now it’s become a lifeline for people who are self isolating. It offers a chance for interaction via the comments section, to hear new voices, to see the outside world and to just have a giggle. We’ve had so much feedback during the lockdown about how important these live broadcasts are to our customers; the support has been overwhelming.”

When we asked members of its VIP Facebook group how Tilletts’ live videos have helped them during the lockdown, one said: “They remind me of Tupperware parties. You had a night out, a chat and a laugh, but could also buy something. The difference is Tilletts’ products have much more appeal.” Another enthused: “It’s like getting a visit from your friends; a laugh and retail therapy all thrown in.”

Retail therapy

Tilletts’ live video broadcasts offer customers a highly personal experience in the comfort of their own home. Its followers are able to see its directors modelling the store’s latest pieces in real-time,  from a pair of its infamous joggers or loose fitting tee. “This is important, because it means they are seeing the items exactly as they are,” says Gibson-Hill. “There’s no special trickery and no flattering editing – it’s just them, us and the clothes.”

Recently, customers have also been given an insight into the team’s personal life with broadcasts taking place at Melanie’s home. Some live videos have included cooking demonstrations while others have starred the owner’s 10-month-old granddaughter.

While watching the broadcasts, customers can interact with the team by posting comments, emojis and questions. If they want to buy a particular product, they can follow a link through to the store’s website. However, these videos have become just as much about connecting with shoppers as they have as a sales tool. “As a by-product, our live broadcasts have created an online community where customers feel they are hanging out with the girls and catching up on everything Tillett,” says Gibson-Hill.

Get creating

Broadcasting via Facebook Live is surprisingly easy: all you need is a smart phone, internet connection and the confidence to talk to the camera. But what makes a good Facebook Live broadcast?

According to the experts, successful videos offer insight into the broadcaster’s life or personality. For independent retailers, this is an ideal opportunity. After all, you are your business. That’s a major reason why shoppers buy from you over a faceless high street multiple. “For me personally, I think the best broadcasts are often those where things go wrong, ” says Gibson-Hill. “I like it when there is an element of chaos. It’s funny, the women love it and it’s relatable. After all, we are a family run business and it should feel like one big family coming together.”

Even if you don’t run an e-commerce site for your boutique, live video presents a huge opportunity to connect with your customers. Regardless of making a sale (although that would be a bonus), it’s a way to engage and keep your brand visible during this uncertain time.

Whether you choose Facebook, Instagram or YouTube, perhaps now is the time to consider the benefits of real-time broadcasting.

Photo by Sticker Mule on Unsplash