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How social media live streaming, videos helped brands stay afloat in the pandemic

From sarees, kurtis and other pieces of clothing, to accessories, home-decor pieces and even books -- the videos get good traction, allowing people to select a product, as opposed to actually going to the store and buying them

social media, social media brand promotion, brand promotion on social media, social media live videos, pandemic trends, marketing strategies, indian express newsSocial media interactions have been a great incentive for emerging businesses. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

It is no secret that the pandemic has upended lives, forcing many to improvise. As means of survival in the last year-and-a-half, people have turned to social media. It has allowed them to find a thread of normalcy amid all the chaos that has unfurled these past several months.

In that sense, social media has been a boon: from people finding Covid relief support online, to content creators staying relevant by making use of the platform. In fact, many trends have also emerged from different parts of the world — beyond Dalgona coffee, strange foods and virtual dates.

The one trend that we are particularly talking about is that of clothing stores and boutiques selling their products online by means of interacting with prospective buyers real-time, through Facebook and Instagram ‘lives’.

If you are a social media user, you must have stumbled upon these videos. A presenter comes on screen, then patiently waits for viewers (those that follow their page) to join in, before introducing the product.

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From saris, kurtis and other pieces of clothing, to accessories, home-decor pieces and even books — the videos get good traction and interaction, piquing people’s interest and allowing them a window with which to peek and select a product, as opposed to actually going to the store and buying them.

What has led to this sudden mushrooming of such videos, and is it some kind of business model? More importantly, is it bringing decent sales? We reached out to some entrepreneurs and proprietors to learn more.

Vichitra, the proprietor for Coimbatore-based Nirjeri Fashions told this outlet that it is a “new kind of thing that has popped up during the pandemic”. “We have a person who does promotions for our page [in the form of these videos]. Ours is essentially a sari brand and we have our own looms of soft/pure silk saris and weightless Kanjivaram silk saris. We make sales all over the world. This platform allows us to connect with people overseas also. That is the main reason [why we are doing this].”

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For Vichitra, stepping into the social media space was a decision she made when the pandemic hit and people were confined to their homes. “Initially, I carried on with my business on a WhatsApp group comprising a few members.”

But when she did a ‘live’ with a fellow entrepreneur and it garnered good ‘views’, she decided to open her own store and do more of these social media activities. “People living overseas, who have their own boutiques, have seen our lives and connected with us, and it has brought us business,” Vichitra said, adding that she intends to continue this, hoping for more engagement.

Most of these brands and businesses, before they go live, let followers know on WhatsApp groups, on Instagram and Facebook. Sometimes, it is an unplanned live session, too.

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Debjani Sarkar of Kolkata-based Shree Collection, a women’s clothing store, said she got started with her business when she lost her job. Calling this trend a “pandemic model”, Sarkar said during a telephonic interaction: “The pandemic rendered many people jobless, including myself. As such, this has been a win-win situation for everyone, especially for housewives who now have a platform that can help them grow.”

According to her, social media is the best platform for budding businesses. Her own store is a little over a year old and she runs it with her husband. “There is direct customer interaction. Ever since I started doing the live, the sales have surged. After the first lockdown, people have become digital and prefer it that way.”

Sarkar’s store sells saris, jewelry, etc., and she mostly does the live herself.

While it has been understood that social media interactions have been a great incentive for emerging businesses, it has also catapulted those that were already well-established. Among them is Ethnic Boutique, another Kolkata-based clothing store. Its owner, Gargi Sonkar, told indianexpress.com that they had been doing such live sessions pre-pandemic also, but post-lockdown, it was the only way for them to reach out to customers — so they started doing more of it.

“Customer interaction increased online and so did their demand for products, because there was no other channel open. Previously, people wanted to visit the shop in person and hold the product in their hand to assess its quality. But now, they buy everything online, including everyday household items. There is a lot of demand for our products; people tell me to send them saris and they check the quality from the comfort of their homes,” she said.

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Sonkar — who conducts live sessions herself — said 60 per cent of her Bengal sari collection has takers from different parts of the world.

Beyond apparel

But, these videos and social media interactions encompass many things, not just items of clothing.

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Bharat Sharma, the director of Souvenir Publishers, weighed in on this trend, saying, “As a continuous part of educational reforms awareness and spreading the importance of fundamental education, we have conducted many workshops online, including various Instagram and Facebook live streams for parents, students and teachers.”

According to him, the brand understands and knows the “awe-worthy reach of social media”. “Reaching to a stage where parents and teachers look up to you to provide not only solutions for problems in the education of a young child, but to actively find new and enhanced ways to open their cognitive abilities, is always a humbling experience. When the pandemic hit, this experience became the only source of actually delivering education in its most primal form: ideas. And with over 20K followers on all platforms over social media, Souvenir Publishers has delivered ideas and education in abundance,” Sharma said.

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While we anticipate more trends in the coming year, it will be interesting to find out if these virtual engagements spill over and continue for some more time before they phase out, which seems unlikely. What do you feel?

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First published on: 23-12-2021 at 12:30 IST
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