Why Facebook Live looks good on Birchbox

September 20, 2016 08:00 AM

Birchbox Inc. is doing more than just batting its eyes at Facebook Live.

The online cosmetics retailer has broadcast via the social network’s live video tool since February, and it quickly has become an integral part of the retailer’s social media strategy, says Juliette Dallas-Feeney, Birchbox’s senior manager of social media.

“We had a feeling that it was going to be impactful, but I didn’t think it would be integrated into our strategy,” Dallas-Feeney says.

But after consistently garnering tens of thousands of viewers each weeks, Facebook Live is a top priority for Birchbox to build brand awareness, educate consumers on its products, interact with shoppers and drive sales, she says. Birchbox is No. 202 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide. 

“We can assume that not everyone who is following us on Facebook is a deep and educated fan or subscriber,” Dallas-Feeney says. “The value that I see Facebook Live really brings is to make that person fall in love with us a little bit more.”

Education is key to selling beauty products, and video is one of the best ways to show consumers how to use the items, Dallas-Feeney says. Plus, with the live component, the retailer can interact with its consumers via Facebook’s comment box. For example, viewers can leave a question in the comment box on the video, and the broadcaster can verbally respond while still live.  

“The big differentiator with live video is being able to have conversation with your audience in real time,” Dallas-Feeney says. “We see the comments come in and we can talk to our customers, and that’s really powerful for us.”

The live Facebook segments usually last 45 minutes to an hour. During the live stream, a smartphone faces Dallas-Feeney and whomever she is doing the segment with, so the pair can see the questions rolling in. Per segment, the retailer receives anywhere from 50 to several hundred questions, she says. Many questions are personal, such as “will this product work with my skin type,” Dallas-Feeney says. Birchbox tries to  answer as many questions as possible while the video is live, but if there are too many, Birchbox’s communication management associate will reply in the comment box to questions.

Dallas-Feeney says she enjoys seeing sales-related comments, such as “I’m adding this to my cart now!” and “Birchbox you are making me broke!”

One particularly successful live video involved Milk Makeup. The cosmetics line recently started on selling on Birchbox, and Milk and Birchbox broadcast a Facebook live video from Milk’s studio in New York City. Milk products posted their best sales day via the day the video aired,  with that one day generating a 111% lift in sales compared with the previous seven-day average, Dallas-Feeney says.

Birchbox films four live segments a month. One is always about products in that month’s subscription box and one is about the next month’s box and how to customize the options. The show is not scripted, and it usually takes a few hours for Dallas-Feeney to plan a segment. She will anticipate questions the audience might have and prepare answers, plus create a bulleted list of points she wants to hit during the segment. On video day, she ensures all of the product are out, the background is in place and the iPhone is on its tripod. Because the segment is live, there is no editing involved.

Dallas-Feeney plans Birchbox’s social media content and video lineup about six to eight weeks in advance, however, the retailer also tries to tie in timely events when possible.

It may be time consuming to prepare and shoot video compared with other Facebook posts, but the live segments pull their weight. On average, each video has about 20,000 to 30,000 real-time viewers. Segments that show a transformation, such as getting a blowout at a hair salon, receive even more views. For example, Dallas-Feeney received a haircut on a live segment while 50,000 consumers watched.

“[Facebook Live] continues to be the most engaging post, [have] the most reach and overall engagement whenever we do a live video,” Dallas-Feeney says.

The videos also will get a bump in views a couple hours after they post on Birchbox’s Facebook page, however, consumers typically do not watch the videos much after that, she says. When consumers go on Facebook, they are scrolling through their timeline, which is how they would see a live video, and not going to a brand’s page to look at previous posts, she says.  

Besides educating consumers Birchbox hopes videos will drive product sales, which Dallas-Feeney is confident it is doing based on the comments and a bump in orders after a post. Currently, there is no direct shopping comment, such as a Buy button, to Facebook Live. Birchbox can respond within the comments with links to products, but consumers have to scroll through the comment box to find such links. To smooth out the process, Birchbox would like to add a filter that pops up during the video so consumers could click through to the website to purchase the product.

“I would love for shoppable Facebook Live to be a thing,” she says.

Other than a tweet and Instagram post, Birchbox does little promotion before its Facebook Live sessions. The e-retailer typically shoots the live video at the same time, 4 p.m. Eastern, which is when the majority of its audience is online, Dallas-Feeney says.

Previously, Birchbox was on Periscope, a Twitter Inc.-owned app and site that allows consumers and brands to share live videos. While Birchbox was trying to build its presence on Periscope, Facebook launched its live video tool. Since the retailer already had a large audience on Facebook (1.9 million likes), it made sense to switch exclusively to Facebook and shutter its Periscope presence, Dallas-Feeney says. 




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