Not all miners these days do their digging for finds in caves. Some do it on the internet.
They’re the netizens who shop online in live selling sessions over at Facebook. They’re called miners because they Mine in the Comments section when they want to buy an item after a seller shows it off.
This mining industry is booming. In fact, an e-commerce study conducted in several Southeast Asian countries in the first half of 2020 found that live selling increased by 95% in the Philippines. Only Vietnam, with 98%, had a higher record.
The Philippines also posted the second highest growth in gross merchandise value or GMV, the monetary value of goods or services sold through online marketplaces (including live selling). During the survey period, the country’s GMV increased by 309%, which is slightly higher than the 307% average growth of the four markets studied (the two others are Singapore and Thailand).
These surges were no doubt due to the pandemic lockdowns that have forced most everyone to shop online. Not that live selling wasn’t lucrative prior to 2020. It’s been quite a hit among Pinoy shoppers that some sellers have eked out comfortable living solely off of it.
One such online merchant is Madel delos Santos who went into live selling on Facebook sometime in 2016, the year the platform launched Facebook Live, after seeing someone else try it. She had already been dabbling in online selling since 2014 while working in Japan, but only with static photo posts.
Livestreaming quickly sent her sales soaring and allowed her to level up her products from Divisoria stuff that she used to have shipped to her for selling to Pinoys in Japan to Grade-A branded bags, jewelry, and accessories that she sources directly in Japan for selling to shoppers in the Philippines.
“Seven digits a month,” she tells Atom Araullo in a TV documentary that aired in September 2019 when asked how much she makes from live selling. Her biggest one-day total? A whopping P1 million!
At the time of the TV feature, Madel, who calls herself Madam Ledam online, had already built a big two-storey house in Bulacan. Construction had also started on an apartment building that would be her and her husband’s new enterprise.
Not bad for a then four-year-old business that started with a capital of just P4,000.
Home shopping ver. 2.0
Live selling traces its roots to home TV shopping, which sold products to audiences via professionally produced live or pre-taped shows. The difference is there are no studio set-ups, no big cameras and lights, no well made-up and -styled professional hosts.
It’s all DIY at home using only a phone camera and, for some, a ring light, with practically no extra set-up. Most crucially, it’s interactive. Viewers can directly message the seller via the comments section while the session is ongoing and the seller can respond instantly.
A “Mine” comment can get a “Sayo na (It’s yours)” reaction right away, with the seller reading out the name of the buyer. The sale is made right then and there and everyone moves on to the next item.
This is why live selling is emerging as king of e-commerce especially under lockdown. It enables shoppers to view products up close in 3D and converse with sellers, as though in a physical store. It’s most convenient and safe.
Speed is key
It’s also quite exciting for shoppers. Going by the first-come, first-served framework, live selling pits viewers against each other in a race to make the first “Mine!” comment that sets each transaction.
Viewers need to decide right away and be quick with their fingers on the keyboard. Dilly dallying often leads to losing chances at purchasing items, most of which are either one-of-a-kind or have very limited stocks.
This is especially crucial in livestreams by popular sellers who have hundreds, even thousands of viewers. Items get snapped up within a breath after the seller says the magic words “Pa-Mine na lang (Just say Mine).” Sometimes even before.
Competition is tight not just among shoppers. The live selling space is also a crowded field for merchants. It is, after all, a marketing activity for business. Reach is key. The bigger the audience, the more chances there are of selling well, if not selling out.
To get more eyeballs for their livestreams, some sellers have resorted to rather eye-popping, eyebrow-raising tactics.
One of them is 18-year-old Steffania Alvarez who sells men’s shoes and watches. Her live videos have breached 1 million views, a milestone even the more seasoned and popular online sellers can only dream of.
But then they can also only dream of having Stef’s physical attributes—a pretty face and a sexy body highlighted by a pair of ample boobs that are often amply exposed through the outfits she chooses to wear.
“Ganito lang po talaga ako manamit kasi mas sanay ako at mas na-e-embrace ko ang sarili ko (This is really how I dress up. It’s what I’m used to wearing and how I embrace myself),” Steff explains in a feature story on Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho. But she also admits that it’s a ploy to attract more viewers.
“Asset ko kumbaga ‘yung boobs ko kaya fi-ne-flex ko na lang din siya. Sinasabi nila na parang kasama sa marketing strategy ko ‘to, siguro yes po, pero hindi ‘yun ang pinaka-goal ko. Ganito lang talaga ang pananamit ko. (I embrace my boobs as an asset and that’s why I flex it. People say it’s part of my marketing strategy and in a way it is, but it’s not my main goal. It’s just really my style of dressing.)”
Every seller’s main goal is to sell as much as they can. And one of the most effective ways to do that is through product demonstration. In this area there may be very few who can beat one particular Thai seller.
Steff has absolutely nothing on him when it comes to showing skin. He is practically naked from head to toe throughout his livestream. The only piece of clothing he has on is a G-string that covers his crotch. He puts on a different design after about two minutes of dancing and talking about available sizes and colors and prompting them to make their orders.
Yes, the G-strings he puts on are the very products he is selling. (Click here to watch one of his hilarious—and a little shocking—live selling sessions.)
His dance moves are very basic and his body isn’t exactly that flexible. But he sure looks like he is enjoying himself. And he does look good wearing the products. Most importantly, the products look good on his well-sculpted body.
And there you have the ingredients for good live selling—entertaining, with a good product demo, and a fun host seller that makes it very easy to be a miner.
Live selling often looks like an easy enough job. But there’s actually a lot of work that goes into it especially when the streaming ends, as newbie live seller Jad dela Cruz has found out.
“I do all things on my own,” he notes. “From the live-selling and the invoices, to entertaining tons of inquiries and messages, to packing the merchandise and booking the riders. It is not an easy job.”
Jad, who sells plants, started live selling just two months ago but he has already experienced both the highs and the lows of the enterprise. He loves it that the platform allows him to do more than selling.
He says, “Facebook live-selling has been a great platform to spread awareness when it comes to social issues that you are campaigning for. As for me, since I sell plants, I would always make sure to inform people how plant poaching shouldn't be supported.”
The downside? Joy miners, viewers who enjoy saying Mine but don’t make the actual purchase—live selling’s version of trippers and pranksters. Ironic name for people who don’t spark joy among sellers. “Para kang nagpapagod sa wala (All your efforts go to waste),” Jad says.
The real effort that pays off for entrepreneurs in the live selling field is in establishing and maintaining good relationships with clients. It’s about building credibility with good quality products and trust with good service to keep them around and consistently engaged and buying products.
It’s what turns ordinary shoppers into gold miners.