Livestreaming eCommerce is finally picking up steam in the U.S., care of an evolving business model from a three-year-old startup called Glamhive. The company has hosted two events so far, bringing at least one major sponsor together with a star-studded array of Hollywood stylist talent. But when you mention to Glamhive CEO Stephanie Sprangers that she might be a pioneer in this space, her modesty kicks in.
“A pioneer? I’m not really sure I’m a pioneer,” she said. “I’m still trying to explain our business concept to stylist talent that might not know how to refresh a page. See, what I’m trying to do here is get beyond the bloggers and the Instagram influencers. We’re trying to bring celebrity flair into our platform – I feel like that’s necessary to make this work."
Glamhive started as a stylist marketplace, and that still remains its core business. Even before the pandemic, its business model was to allow interested consumers to log onto the platform, browse all available stylists and then have a styling advisory session with them, for a fee. Sprangers calls it “one-on-one livestreaming.” For example, a housewife from New York City could request a session with Kelly Gerber, who also advises Alicia Keys.
Now, during the pandemic, Sprangers has struck out into the all-day event space, and in the process has become one of the first livestreaming platforms in the U.S.
“In the U.S., people feel overwhelmed by choice and frustrated that, despite all of their purchases, they still don't have the style they want for themselves,” noted Sprangers, who in addition to being a digital entrepreneur is also a stylist herself. “The in-store experience isn't what is used to be — it's rarer to have a salesperson who you'd work with for years and knows how to make you look great. Online, you have close to zero help. Glamhive solves this by making it simple to connect with a stylist, literally the best in the business, to get wardrobe advice, curation and ongoing styling services.”
Sprangers has seen the livestreaming shows in China and has studied up on the best practices evolving from there. One of her main tenets is the need for expertise and celebrity. Livestreaming celebrities perform shows to attract their audiences, who are hopefully later converted to customers.
According to Chinese measurement company O’Ratings, livestreaming’s conversion rate is much higher than that of offline channels. Celebrity is important. For example, in November 2019, Kim Kardashian appeared on top Chinese top livestreamer Viya’s show to introduce her products to the Chinese audience. All 15,000 of Kardashian’s KKW perfume units sold out within minutes.
Here in the U.S., Sprangers has had to fight to get attention and to explain the concept to executives. She has been able to solicit repeat business from Mary Kay, which has been supportive of the stylist community, but she’s still preaching short-term success for a platform that needs a long-term vision.
“The current purchasing power in the U.S. is primarily with the Baby Boomers, who have an inherent bias toward mainstream purchasing processes,” she pointed out. “The younger generation's purchase power will eventually be greater, but it's not currently. So for U.S. retail executives to sincerely adopt a new way of shopping — in this case, livestreaming eCommerce — they would have to make an investment that will have a lower ROI than their current way of doing business. U.S. companies tend to solve for quarterly results, so if an executive pushes for an initiative that in the short-term doesn't perform as well as proven methods, that initiative will likely be viewed poorly.”
Currently, Sprangers is planning more livestreaming events, although the exact dates are still uncertain. And Glamhive’s social platform angle will remain up and running.
“I’ve been learning from other events,” she said. “I have to say it’s amazing to create something new. I think the way we’re approaching the business is very compelling. It’s a completely virtual event. I’ve been to beauty shows that have had virtual components, but never an entirely virtual one. We think it’s an authentic way to do it.”