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Live Selling and Affiliate Marketing

Live selling was on its way to being a genuine phenomenon before 2020. And then COVID hit, and it exploded. According to Statista, live selling sales in the US will total $11B in 2021, up 83%. And we thought affiliate grew rapidly! Live "shoppertainment" seems tailor-made for the US market. We Yanks love to shop. And live selling makes shopping even more engaging and entertaining. But China was where web-based live selling was popularized first. According to McKinsey, China sales through live selling reached $171B in gross merchandise value in 2020, with a 280% compound growth rate over the previous three years. By 2023, McKinsey says sales will reach $423B. Good God, y'all! But North Americans have been "live selling" since 1977 when a small radio station sold 119 can openers because the client failed to pay in cash. HSN debuted in 1982 as "Home Shopping Club," and QVC debuted in 1986.

Retailers Embrace Live Selling

Today leading pureplay and omnichannel retailers have embraced live selling to drive sales, increase differentiation, and boost appeal to high potential market segments. Youtube is the most popular platform for live selling at the moment, but other social networks are aggressively pursuing the category for a piece of the action. One of the most popular initiatives was social platform Facebook's May launch of live selling tools and has signed leading brands Sephora, Abercrombie, Walmart, and Macy's, among others. Facebook Live and Instagram Live have rapidly attracted engaged followings.

Many start-ups promote live video platforms to make live streaming video easier to deliver and monetize. They typically provide some or all of the following key services: equipment bundles to make production easy, ways to highlight items so users can click to add items to cart, live chat tools, easy SDK- and link-based site integration, and reporting modules to understand "what works." All these elements make livestream shopping straightforward to execute.

Naturally, Amazon is also aggressively promoting its homegrown Amazon live selling platform to brands and publishers. But according to Digiday, Amazon Live brand adoption has been modest. One might say it stands to reason, given the trepidation that many brands and affiliate publishers have regarding Amazon's prominent role in their digital commerce. However, it would be a mistake to write off the Amazon affiliate platform, as the company is working diligently to enhance its value to brands and Amazon affiliate program participants.

So what is it about live selling that is so electrifying to people? A lot of it is about the following:

  • Anywhere Access: We may not be going to the mall as much anymore given the pandemic, and live selling h=gives us anywhere access.

  • Entertainment: Good live selling content is engaging, thoughtfully produced, and fundamentally interesting.

  • Indulging Our Passions: When you are into something, it's fun to be able to revel in your passion for minutes and hours.

  • Expert Advice: Whether it's an employee spokesperson, a Vogue editor, or your favorite influencer, being able to watch and even participate in an experience with them can be a fulfilling way to get great ideas, advice, and tips

  • Access to What's New: Learning about new items can be an excellent way for people to tune in. Across all categories, an average of 16% are so-called innovators and early adopters, and the figures are likely higher for discretionary fashion and beauty categories like apparel, cosmetics, gaming, and tech gadgets.

  • Thrills and Urgency: live selling is addicting when the spokespeople have the gift. People get a sense of a personal relationship with the live talent.

  • Community and Virality: Great live selling publishers leverage social media to grow traffic and sales. Many live selling platforms allow viewers to participate in text-based conversations with companies and on-air talent.

For brands, the value of live selling is obvious:

  • Replace Store Visits: Way to reach and persuade people that are no longer visiting their stores as frequently

  • Speed Up Transactions: Method of shortening sales cycles due to the immediacy and urgency of the live streaming format

  • Attract Heavy Buyers: Way to appeal to the most passionate buyers within a category, who are the most likely to want live content.

  • Brand Awareness: Live streaming video is a great way to quickly gain high-quality awareness for new items and to keep existing offerings top-of-mind and part of customer consideration sets.

  • New Audiences: Approach to reach out to a young audience that relies on digital influencers to guide and shape purchase decisions. Data suggest that live stream selling helps streamers attract many new brand and influencer marketing followers.

  • More Shopping Occasions: Opportunity to drive up purchase frequency.

  • Great Content: Live stream shopping can also provide a great source of quality video content that can be recorded, re-edited, and repackaged for additional use.

  • Increased Share of Requirements: Means to establish their authoritative role in a category and creating the sense that they should be the first place to shop

Live Selling and Affiliate Marketing for Publishers

Given how many leading brands are rushing to leverage live selling to grow sales and brand differentiation, there's an enormous opportunity for affiliates of all sizes to engage visitors and drive sales. Just as different kinds of affiliate publishers attract massive and passionate audiences, so too can they with live selling content.

Many of affiliate's most popular categories are already popular with live selling audiences. Apparel, cosmetics, electronics, travel, and jewelry are high involvement arenas where many customers are passionately involved and interested in knowing more about the latest and best products. Like everyone else, live selling audiences also love a deal.

Publishers already offering video know the various ways you can attract an audience and drive affiliate link clicks. Links in video descriptions, clickable end cards, and the like can ensure that purchases you drive are credited to you. Publisher affiliate marketers also have various purpose-built tools in the various live selling platforms now available to them.

Ideas for Publishers

Almost any publisher can get creative and develop a live selling program that appeals to its fans.

Deals-focused publishers can use live selling to announce new, hot offers periodically. Imagine the appeal, for example, of an hourly or daily deals live stream shown on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or throughout Cyber week. Cashback and savings communities can flag new deals and exclusive promotions available only to their users.

Review and comparison sites can generate affiliate commissions and extend the reach and authority of their content with live reviews. They can also promote temporary discounts. Content publishers can implement live selling as a cost-effective way to provide powerful content to attract and engage visitors and meet their direct marketing revenue targets. Who can imagine better content about a category than live video hosted by popular and knowledgeable editors?

Bloggers, social influencers, and other content creators can leverage their authority and celebrity to create more urgent content that drives higher conversion rates. Some publishers in Southeast Asia, for example, have reported conversion rates as high as 35%! Search affiliates can promote live programming to increase click and conversion rates by making their results stand out positively and engagingly in a positive and engaging way. That could be a great way of generating incremental affiliate income.

Live Selling and Affiliate Marketing for Advertisers

To fully capitalize on the live selling phenomenon, advertisers should encourage partners to try live selling and make it as easy as possible to promote via live video. Brands should ensure publishers collect great commission income from live video and deploy offers like short links to enable easier inclusion in video descriptions. Their affiliate marketing strategy can also ensure that their links deliver a great customer experience when integrated into the content. Whether

Whether mainstream publishers or influencers, existing live seller publishers -- could also make great new potential affiliates with the right recruitment. They can also work with their live selling platforms to develop affiliate products for their partners that facilitate native linking to maximize the likelihood of an affiliate sale.

Finally, brands could try to license rights reserved live seller content to quickly build out their video assortment for ongoing merchandising initiatives. That, in turn, enhances the revenue of each affiliate partner that participates.


It won't be long before live selling is an integral element of many leading brands' affiliate marketing program strategies. As with many other affiliate marketing tactics, the biggest profits will likely go to the early movers who learn what works and stay ahead of the brands that follow. It makes sense to make live selling a key area of focus for affiliate marketing in 2022.

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