They say you ‘eat with your eyes’ and that is especially true for online shoppers in the food and beverage industry. Without the ability to smell or taste a product, or to even hold it in their hands and inspect the packaging, food, beverage, and spirits brands need to work extra hard to create compelling lifestyle imagery and videos that can inspire the tastebuds despite appearing in 2D.
The good news? The food and beverage industry is getting something right, with one of the highest ecommerce conversion rates around, at 4.4%. And ecommerce sales for food and beverage businesses has also been on a steady incline since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, reaching 9.5% of all food and beverage sales by the end of 2020 (up from 6% in 2019).
In comparison, online apparel and fashion sales have hovered around 14% of total global sales, a number that’s expected to grow to 20% in the coming years. The lesson? There’s room to grow.
What can food and beverage businesses do to drive more traffic and sales? For one thing, creating a more engaging customer experience, one that takes customers even further into their ‘virtual tasting’ journey than a static site experience could ever allow for.
Enter live video co-shopping. Imagine a sampling station in a store, brought to life online. A live shopping associate can talk through product ingredients, suggest pairings, upsell to a larger size or premium product, cross-sell other items or kits, and even provide a live demonstration of preparing an item.
While the customer still won’t be able to *taste* a product, getting on a live video shopping call will enable them to get all the information they could ever need to make a buying decision, and possibly even spend more.
Live shopping use cases for food and beverage brands
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. There are two types of food and beverage brands out there. The vast majority of them typically fall into the consumer-packaged goods category, and are lower-cost items comparable with grocery store prices.
Why do these customers need to be serviced if the cost isn’t high? Well, for one thing, most DTC food and beverage brands are innovating in some way, and it’s that innovation that may need some explanation, or even ‘selling’, to get a customer to convert. Not only that, live shopping presents an opportunity to sell more. A savvy sales associate can upsell a bigger size or subscription, or cross-sell add-on items to enhance the product a customer is interested in. Low price point or not, there’s more juice to squeeze out of many shoppers.
On the flip side, there is a premium-priced category of food and beverage brands, primarily in the wine and spirits category. A deluxe bottle of liquor can easily cost as much as a nice pair of jeans, and in both cases will likely elicit some thoughtful consideration. Live shopping provides trust and authenticity to the transaction experience for bigger ticket items, while providing the bespoke customer service a shopper would expect were they visiting a store in person.
Both of these experiences can be serviced by live video shopping, no matter where you’re planning to host live shopping calls from, or what type of staff you’re looking to enlist to sell for your business.
Dietary preferences are more critical than ever for many shoppers, whether because of actual health-based restrictions, ethical lifestyle choices, specific diets, or plain old tastes. Shopping for a new type of food and beverage means a new set of ingredients to consider, and a live shopping call can give customers the peace of mind they need to know that a product suits their needs. Associates can also talk up certain ingredients and why they’re a part of a product, speaking to health benefits or production methods (including safe production for high allergen individuals) as a way to motivate shoppers to feel great about their purchase.
Review health and nutrition considerations
On a similar note to understanding what ingredients are in a product, customers are also often interested in nutritional information. While many brands will post nutrition breakdowns on their site, a shopper may still have questions about how a product fits into their diet. This is particularly relevant for brands geared toward specific diets, whether it be vegan, low fodmap, Keto, or some other nutrition-based angle. A live shopping guide can speak to ideal serving sizes, as well as discuss their own personal experience with an item.
Check out a product size
Let’s be real: Food and beverage product sizes, apart from standard units of measurement like a soda can or wine bottle, are pretty hard for the average consumer to grasp. And it’s entirely possible a shopper will end up being disappointed if they order a ‘sampler pack’ with the intent of feeding hungry guests for an event, only to find it’s a pack meant for one person. Getting onto a live shopping call allows shoppers to understand product sizes and how quickly they might go through an item. Enter the live shopping associate to upsell a multi-item order or a bigger size of a product, depending on a shopper’s needs.
Get insight from a foodie / beverage expert
Imagine a grocery shopping experience with a professional chef - you’d get all the insight you could ever want on how to shop for the freshest produce, best cuts of meat, and perfect accoutrements. Live shopping can bring food and beverage experts into the homes of any customer. Sommeliers can talk through ideal wine pairings. Distillery or brewery owners can speak to their favorite cocktail recipes. A professionally trained chef can walk through the ideal spice blends to buy for a particular meal. A baker can show their special technique for creating the fluffiest frosting. Whatever the case may be, shoppers can tap into foodie experts to get their carts and bellies full.
Find a gift
Food and beverage can make a wonderful gift, and tends to be a lower-risk item to buy as one given it’s a consumable item. Still, many shoppers wouldn’t mind a helping hand when selecting a gift. They may want to understand bestsellers, or ask for help putting together a gift based on a set budget (Pro tip: Train your live shopping associates to upsell gift wrapping or gift baskets). Alternatively, for brands with large product selections, the shopper may speak to a giftee’s preferences and ask for help selecting that perfect bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for a friend’s milestone birthday or a luxury spirit that’s appropriate to gift as a thank you.
Provide truly customized cross-sells
Many sites rely on AI-generated cross-sells to drive bigger basket sizes - and those can be effective, to a degree. But AI is based on inferences and guesses, not human preferences, which can be incredibly particular when it comes to literal tastes. A one-on-one live shopping experience can better understand what a customer is and isn’t into, and provide truly tailored recommendations. For example, a business that sells baking kits may cross-sell a popular strawberry cake mix for a customer looking at a chocolate cake. But the shopper could tell the live shopping associate they don’t like fruit-flavored dessert, and instead, the associate could point them to best-selling brownie mix instead, given they already have a proclivity for chocolate.
Complete a custom order
Food and beverage products can easily be manipulated into custom orders, whether it’s for corporate gifting (enter gift baskets), event-based (hello special wrappers and packaging), or something even more decadent, like a custom flavor or combination. If a shopper is willing to shell out for a larger one-time order, most food and beverage brands are happy to answer that call. Instead of going back and forth over email or the phone however, live shopping is a smart way to get customers from consideration to checkout. The live sales associate can talk through every step, provide visual examples for comparison, and ensure the customer is getting exactly what they wanted.
Get a product preparation demo
How many times have you walked by an item in the grocery store that looks interesting, but you have little idea how to prepare it? The same goes for online food and beverage brands as well. Recipes can help, but a demo can take things even further, particularly for products that are in a new category. A live shopping associate can step into the kitchen while on video to talk through exactly how to prepare a product, giving their pro tips and essentially conducting a mini cooking demonstration on the fly. Chef’s kiss alert: Consider filming your live shopping associates simultaneously on a separate camera when they’re doing demos, and editing together short videos of use cases and prep tips for use elsewhere.
Compare multiple products
Vanilla or chocolate? Sampler size or family size? Mild or spicy? There are a million variations and preferences within the food and beverage industry, and it can be easy to get overwhelmed without an actual human to talk to. A live commerce call lets shoppers get their questions out and get real-time feedback on what the right choice is for them. When in doubt, the shopping associate can also endorse multiple items and suggest the customer try them both (yay bigger basket sizes).
Close more sales with coupon codes and incentives
There’s a reason why most grocery stores post coupons at the entrance to their stores: Because they want to motivate shoppers to seek those items while they shop, not abandon their cart mid-shop to see if they can get a discount elsewhere. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for online shoppers, who are notorious for skipping around the internet looking for coupon codes, reviews, and other distractions that take them away from hitting checkout. Live video shopping is a chance to win out over another cute cat video. If a customer seems like they’re waffling during the final moments, a live shopping associate can offer a private discount code for free shipping, a gift with purchase, bonus loyalty points, or a discount - but only if they check out right then and there.
Team up with a celebrity shopper
Remember how we mentioned there’s magic to shopping with a foodie or beverage expert? Your day-to-day live shopping associates should be well-versed in your product selection. But to really crank things up a few notches, consider enlisting some famous faces to help kick off or promote your live shopping offering. Let customers know if they log on for a live shopping call during a promotional period, they may have their calls answered by a well-known influencer, cookbook author, chef, or sommelier. The excitement of getting pro advice from the pros is too scrumptious for most shoppers to pass up.
Shop a curated selection
Food and beverage live shopping associates can function like personal tastemakers over time. Just as consumers like to follow their favorite food and beverage influencers and creators, they can start to seek out recommendations and reviews from your live shopping team (or even a specific individual). A customer may actually link up with a specific live shopping host just to get the lowdown on what’s new or trending, as a form of clienteling for food and beverage customers.
Talk through tasting notes and flavors
You may not be able to taste pixels and bytes (yet), but a professional live shopper can speak to the flavors a customer might expect when purchasing an item. Of course, this type of experience works extremely well for the wine and spirits category, but it can be just as useful for any food product. For example, a customer may wonder how spicy is ‘spicy’ when selecting a hot sauce or salsa. Live shopping associates can share their personal tasting notes to steer shoppers in the right direction.
Ask for pairing recommendations
It’s easy to build up an overstocked pantry, bar, or wine cellar if you don’t know what you’re doing. Offering live shopping can help customers build a meal or tasting experience, just as they might an outfit. For example, a shopper might mention a meal they’re planning to serve at an upcoming holiday party, and a professional sommelier could recommend some wine to go with it. Or a customer looking at a type of flavored vodka could be offered several different preparation options to entice them with the versatility of the product before they hit checkout.
Upsell a replenishable subscription or subscription box
Subscriptions are one of the primary motivators for food and beverage brands to double down on their ecommerce efforts. Recurring passive revenue is a boon for any business, and it’s particularly popular with consumable items like food and beverages. A live shopping associate can use a call to motivate a customer to upgrade to a subscription, even throwing in incentives like a free month or gift with purchase when they register.
Assist customers with technical support
Believe it or not, shopping for food and beverages online still feels like a novel concept for a lot of customers that are used to popping into their local grocery store or wine boutique. Live shopping can be the bridge between that in-store experience and customer service they’re used to, with the added convenience of shopping online from anywhere. A live shopping associate can walk customers through how to navigate a site, add products to cart, and even check out, ensuring they don’t hit any speed bumps that lead to cart abandonment along the way.
Experience an in-store or manufacturing environment without visiting
With the exception of grocery and convenience stores, most food and beverage brands have an extremely limited retail footprint, relegated to the shelves of other retailers or on occasion, operating a small outpost such as a tasting room or flagship store. This means the likelihood of most customers getting an experiential taste of your business is pretty limited - until now. Live video shopping lets customers look around and see a physical space your business may be operating out of. This goes for more than just retail. Manufacturers that produce products by hand or have their own distillery or brewery may want to host live shopping calls with their equipment close at hand. Customers love to see ‘how the sausage gets made’ (unless of course, it’s actual sausage) and brands can use this experience to talk through the craftsmanship behind their products.
Co-shop virtually while in-store
For brands that do have an in-store presence, whether it's one they own or a stockist, there’s a twist on live shopping you may want to try. Namely, let customers co-shop with a product expert while they’re in a physical location. For example, a vineyard that’s distributed through a chain of liquor stores may provide a QR code that’s added to their displays. Shoppers can scan the code to get connected with a live shopper who can provide bespoke wine advice, driving more sales virtually through in-store traffic.
Selecting a live shopping platform
Ready to get going with live video shopping? First things first. Check out our ebook on building a live shopping experience for a simple roadmap that breaks down six decisions you’ll need to make before hitting ‘go’.
Second, you may want to check out how GhostRetail works for yourself. We power live video shopping calls on demand between shopping associates and customers, and you can see exactly how it plays out in this ‘choose your own adventure’ style interactive demo.
If you’re looking for guidance on choosing the best live video shopping platform, we’ve got you covered there too. If it feels like GhostRetail is the one (which we certainly hope is the case) then go right on ahead and book a discovery call with us. We’ll discuss how we can elevate the customer experience and drive more sales for your food, beverage, or wine and spirits business.