Lifestyle brand makes $180k per month on Instagram following store closure

As businesses are struggling with a rapidly changing climate, Stoned Crystals has found a way to remain profitable despite temporarily closing the doors of its flagship store.

The Melbourne-based homewares brand has recreated the traditional shopping experience online and increased sales by 134 per cent conducting Stoned Crystals Live Sales on Instagram.

Held tri-weekly and structured by product category and focus, the online events provide a virtual in-store customer experience―the face-to-face broadcasts have become a significant hub for crystal related news, lifestyle tips, styling tutorials, range previews, consulting and selling.

Crediting Instagram’s live broadcast functionality, the image and video streaming app is responsible for delivering a monthly return in excess of $180k for the brand by merging offline and online selling mechanics in a fully immersive, digital environment.

“Live-streamed broadcasts are the closest thing we have to face-to-face selling in a physically disconnected world,” says Ashley Bellino, founder of Stoned Crystals.

“When done correctly, it can serve as a profitable income stream and allow brands to cultivate a digital ecosystem specific to their customers’ needs.”

“In a way, Instagram has transformed into something more intimate. Customers want to see what happens behind the scenes; they want to be part of a brand’s narrative and they want to know they’re cared for well beyond the transaction.”

Passionate about helping other small businesses thrive, Ashley recommends the following tips in order to develop a profitable revenue stream using Instagram Live.

1 Make the move online. Lockdown has transformed the way customers now interact with brands so developing a strong, reliable and consistent online experience is key. Adopt a customer's perspective and review your website, social media and digital strategies with them in mind. Putting in the prep work now will optimise results following a live sale. The retail sector will never look the same going forward so incorporating Live Sales as part of your digital strategy allows your business to be both proactive and reactive to new economic conditions.

2 Develop a plan. Instagram Live Sales is the closest thing to selling in person that technology can offer. One of the key benefits of a Live Sale is that you won't be buried in a feed of posts. Instead, all of your followers will be instantly notified. Treat a Live Sale like any other conversation you would typically have in person with a potential or current customer.

3 Recreate the offline, online. In today's digital age, customers want to be visually stimulated so it's important to create a mood that represents the brand and transports the customer to world specifically created for them. Customers love the idea of virtually walking through a shop so replicating an atmosphere that closely resembles this experience works exceptionally well, particularly if you have the props and styling tools to replicate a display.

4 Brand each stream. When it comes to maximising a return on this channel, less is sometimes more. Each Live Sale should relate to a specific need or group of products to avoid overwhelming the customer―especially if they're new to purchasing on Instagram. As a result, it's often ideal to run multiple Live Sales weekly and showcase products specific to a single category.

5 Introduce a selling mechanic. The purpose of a Live Sale should be to sell. As such, it's important to come up with a mechanic that works with your community and is easy to understand such as a unique number, code or name.

6 Develop a connection. Customer service is important in real life as well as online. Making the time to deviate from a run sheet and answer questions can foster an interactive forum which is one of the most attractive features of this digital marketplace.

7 Timing is everything. For a beginner, I would suggest keeping a Live Sale to 30 minutes or less. If choosing to run an extensive and lengthy Live Sale, I highly recommend developing an itemised schedule and sharing this with potential viewers via your socials prior. This will allow customers to tune in at a time relevant to them.

8 Marketing is your friend. When times are tough, many brands choose to relax their marketing budgets when in reality, they should be doing the opposite! Like any campaign, planning is key. If budget is limited, use the resources you have available such as your website, social media feed, newsletter etc. For brands with a dedicated spend, online advertising can provide a significant reach.

9 Make mistakes. Managing expectations is very important. The first showing may underperform. Accept the fact you might make a mistake (or two!) and let yourself be vulnerable. People crave this human connection. Learn as you go and take the time to evaluate each showing so you can constantly improve and find a winning formula for your brand.

10 Have fun. Covid-19 has impacted the retail sector significantly. It has also provided businesses with new opportunities for online growth. As a profitable sales channel, Instagram offers an inexpensive way for brands to reach existing and new customers. With the right planning, the right team, the right merchandising and the right mindset, a Live Sale can transform a business.

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