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Here are 8 steps for retailers to hawk products on social media in real time, according to sellers who make as much as $9,000 per show

  • Livestream shopping is projected to become a $25 billion market in the US by 2023.
  • If you’re starting a new business or want to boost sales, there are a few steps to begin livestreaming.
  • The keys to successful livestream shows are engaging with customers and staying consistent.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Livestream shopping has been popular in China for over a decade, but it’s beginning to gain momentum in the US. Several startups have emerged in the last couple of years to bring the phenomenon stateside — Popshop Live, WhatNot, and NTWRK are just a few. 

If you’ve been thinking about starting an ecommerce business, or already have one and want to boost sales, it’s prime time to get into livestream shopping. Pandemic-induced shutdowns accelerated the trend’s ascension in the US — the market is expected to be worth $6 billion this year and $25 billion by 2023, according to retail and

technology research
firm Coresight Research.

Here are the basic steps to start a livestream shopping business, according to sellers who average $1,000 to $9,000 per livestream. 

Start by identifying the niche you’re serving

There are two ways to start livestream selling: You can launch a new business or incorporate it into an existing company. Either way, it’s important to identify the niche you’re serving by looking at what your customers and followers are interested in, livestream entrepreneurs told Insider

“You gotta relate to the [product] that you’re selling,” said Robert Valentine, who sells on WhatNot. “I know people — they’ll sell things they can’t even pronounce the name, and that kind of irks me.”

Livestream shopping is partly entertainment, so in addition to sharing insight on the products you’re selling, you should direct your conversation to your niche market. This will help you build a credible reputation with viewers, as well as make it easier to host a three- to eight-hour show. 

Robert Valentine and Lisa Busco - Whatnot sellers Funko Pop collectors

Robert Valentine and Lisa Busco sell Funko Pops, among other collectibles on Whatnot.

Courtesy of Robert Valentine and Lisa Busco


Set up your streaming studio

You don’t need much more than a smartphone to start livestreaming, but there are a few tools you can purchase to elevate the experience for viewers.

High-speed internet is a must to ensure a good connection avoid interruptions. Additionally, sellers recommend a tripod for a hands-free filming and a ring light if your space isn’t adequately lit. The rest is up to you and how you wish to showcase products.

Think about how to give your audience the best view and provide different angles, such as a rack for clothes or a turntable for figurines. When Cindy Cortez livestreams on Popshop Live she uses both a standing tripod and mini tripod, depending on the products viewers want to see.

Download the right app for your needs

There are several livestream apps and platforms available, each with its own features for different types of businesses. Some function as web pages, so customers only need a link to access your site, while others require customers to download an app and set up an account. 

However, you should consider how the platform you choose reaches particular audiences. Popshop Live and WhatNot have strong collector communities, while others like NTWRK are powered by limited-edition products and hype culture. 

Read our full guide of popular livestream shopping apps here. 

Promote your show on social media

It might take a while to build an audience, so utilize any following you already have on other platforms. All of the sellers Insider spoke to promote their livestream shows on social media a few days before they go live. Be sure to include instructions on how to tune in for anyone new to livestream shopping.

You can also preview some of the products you’ll present on the show, especially if you have something rare or unique. If you’re restocking something that sold out, you can also market the livestream as a first dibs for anyone hankering to get their hands on it, sellers told Insider. 

Popshop Live seller Vivian Nguyen has made more than $60,000 selling squishy toys and cross-promotes her shows on her YouTube and Instagram accounts. 

Vivian Nguyen - Popshop Live seller and influencer

Vivian Nguyen is the owner of Cyndercake and sells squishy toys on Popshop Live.

Courtesy of Vivian Nguyen


Upload and update product listings

Depending on the livestream platform you choose, you may need to list products ahead of time so they’re easy to access once you go live. Some platforms integrate with your ecommerce site and others require you to list directly on the app.

Once Cortez begins her livestream on Popshop Live, she displays pre-listed products and adds new listings during the show, paying careful attention to how many items she has available. 

Make sure all your listings are up-to-date and that you show the proper inventory count to avoid any confusion or last-minute changes during your livestream. Viewers want a seamless shopping and check-out experience, especially when competing for a low-stock item or bidding on a collectible item. 

Become an expert on your market

Whether you’re selling antiques or anime, collectibles require a level of expertise to attract people to your livestreams. That’s why sellers are most often fans and collectors themselves. 

Valentine said viewers will notice right away if you don’t know a pop culture or historical reference to the item you’re selling. Plus, it helps create conversation and community with your viewers around a mutual interest. 

If you’re not already familiar with the sub-culture, study up on the shows, movies, or history behind it. For example, if you want to sell Pokemon cards, you should know the TV show and character backstories. If you want to sell vintage clothing, be well-versed in fashion history.

Valentine recommends following the shows your customers are watching so that when something major happens in the latest episode, you know it would be a good time to sell related products. 

Go live and engage with customers

When it’s time to start your show, let your personality shine. If you’re not comfortable in front of the camera, it might help to do a couple practice runs, but ultimately people relate to a natural, unscripted host. Most shows last three to five hours, so create a fun environment they’ll want to hang out in. 

Valentine and his fiance Lisa Busco like to play music in the background of their livestream shows to set the vibe. “There’s a lot of the same customers that come to our lives, and they stay the whole three to five hours,” Bosco said.

“Sometimes they won’t even buy anything — they’ll just want to watch,” Valentine added.

Engage with your audience — welcome each viewer by name, address comments, and ask everyone questions about what they’d like to see, sellers suggest. Tell the story behind your business, the products you sell, and if you’re comfortable, mention a couple things about your personal life. This is the time to get nerdy about your interests — that’s how viewers who share those interests will connect with you. 

“Sell yourself and your products in a way where people would be interested in supporting you and purchasing the products, not just for the item but also because of who you are as a person,” Nguyen said.

Set a consistent schedule

Determine at least one day per week that you’ll go live and stick to the same time so returning customers know when to expect your show. Do your best to keep a consistent schedule and if you must skip a show, let your followers know ahead of time.

“Always be consistent and active because your followers will notice,” Nguyen said. “If they see you disappear for a couple of months, they kind of start to forget about you and wonder where you’ve been.”

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