Daniel Howell, 25, is worth an estimated $2.5 million. He has hosted the BRIT Awards, published a book, gone on a world tour, and sells his own line of clothing. And he has a world-famous catchphrase, “frickin’ zazzed,” which sounds much cooler than it looks with punctuation.
Daniel is a YouTube star, and a prime example of what happens when you mix e-commerce with live streaming.
And–at least theoretically–you could be just as successful as Dan.
Live streaming and the offshoot recorded videos attract millions of viewers. Last year’s global e-commerce sales came to more than 2 trillion U.S. dollars. So why aren’t more of us putting those two facts together and creating our own online shopping channels? You don’t need to be able to sing, dance, or dunk a ball to be able to do e-commerce live streaming. You don’t need to be able to sew, design an app, or bake a cake.
You just need a webcam, a PayPal account, and lots and lots of personality.
YouTube Live Lets Us Find Our Own Stars
Live streaming sites like YouTube Live, Facebook Live, and You Now have totally upended broadcasting–as long as you consider a live performance watched simultaneously by hundreds of thousands of people broadcasting. These platforms’ stars are both too ordinary and too extraordinary to find a place on broadcast television–perhaps just too risky in both cases–where TV companies try to appeal to a mass audience without offending anyone and chasing away advertising partners.
These streaming stars, however, attract their own devoted audiences and generate substantial revenue every month without so much as a single celebrity interview. There are traditional advertising connections involved in making this money, such as getting a cut of Facebook Live’s ad revenue, but personal merchandising and direct donations from viewers are also valuable–streamers on platforms like YouNow and Live.me are able to make money from virtual gifts which can be redeemed for cash.
In return for directing their advertisement-inducing eyes on the live stream the audience gets… whatever it wants. There are streamers for every demographic, every interest, and every sense of humor. Daniel Howell, for instance, does this:
You could do that.
Further, you could do that not solely to entertain, but to sell online.
E-commerce Gives a Small Business Global Reach
The first time I spoke to my sister on the day her daughter, my first niece, was born, she told me she wanted to dress the infant as a ballerina ASAP. About 30 minutes after that call, a tiny tutu handmade by a woman on the other side of the country was being delivered to my sister’s home.
That’s what e-commerce can do. I had never heard of the one-woman company that made the dress, and I did nothing more than Google something like “handmade tutus for infants,” and I have no idea if the price was fair…and I don’t care. E-commerce shrinks the world down to your base impulses. It lets little companies act like big companies and makes spending money too easy.
All you have to do in this new digital economy is get someone’s attention, and you can have their money as well. That particular seamstress (it may have actually been made by a team of Boy Scouts for all I know) benefitted from the collective online advertising of Etsy–a startup itself that generated $19 million in profits in 2016–but there are other ways to attract attention.
Types of E-commerce Live Streaming
So where do e-commerce and live streaming intersect? There are more ways to potentially link the two than I could probably imagine. But here are a few I could:
Host your own shopping channel: Learn from the live stream celebrities and let your personality loose online. Every week, every day, or every hour you could broadcast a stream dedicated to whatever new product you have on sale. You can buy an HD quality webcam for less than $100, and PayPal is right there for the transaction phase. Make a little studio in a corner of your home and start working on your insightful, unique presentation skills. It’s like the Home Shopping Network online!
World’s strangest product demonstrations: Use the same home studio as above, but this time put down a drop sheet and get a little creative with how you display your wares. In true knife-cuts-through-shoe spirit, test the tensile strength of cakes, your cat’s reaction to tie-dye shirts, or the freezing point of shaving creams. There’s nothing too weird for a live stream.
Stream the life story of your products: Just like the J. Peterman Company, give each product you’re selling its own backstory and reason for existing. It could be informative, ridiculous, or poetic, but make sure it’s enthralling. Tell us why that dress had to have a blue spot on the hem, about the first time you combined cinnamon with mint, or which cathedral window inspired that shade of green.
Build live customer service into your website: This isn’t live streaming per se, but you can create a video calling customer service portal with the same tools. You still need your HD webcam and your digital wallet, but now you wait for the customer to contact you, instead of broadcasting to them. You can build the video connection yourself using WebRTC tech that turns any compatible web browser into a video conference app. While you obviously can’t speak directly with every customer, you can schedule face-to-face appointments or just offer an incentive for repeat visits by offering the chat feature at random times. Either way, the online shopper could experience old-fashioned Main Street service without leaving home.
As with the live streamers who’ve gone on to tour the real world, what you’re really selling here is yourself–and live streaming is a proven way to do that.