Many assume webinars are just for “soft” or digital products like SaaS products, courses, or coaching services. And yes, the sales conversion rates for those kinds of products are incredible — as high as 20%. But webinars can be just as powerful for e-commerce.
Think of QVC.
Webinars are infomercials on steroids: targeted, interactive, and integral to comprehensive marketing and sales funnel. For years, infomercials have been moving merchandise with a simple “Show & Tell” format on TV. Imagine that kind of presentation, but with far more precise and effective tools.
If you think about it, webinars are the logical next step in the evolution of sales, especially for e-commerce.
We started with the traveling salesman, lugging vacuum cleaners and encyclopedia sets from house to house, personally pitching to everyone who’d let him in the door. We evolved to infomercials, broad pitches aimed at anyone flipping through the channels at the right time.
Then, the Internet happened.
Now almost every product has some kind of online video showcase or review — either from the company directly or from consumers. Webinars allow you to take it one giant step forward, going beyond the simple video to offer an interactive showcase for an audience made up of qualified leads.
Best of all, webinars aren’t limited to sales alone. E-commerce businesses can use webinars to raise awareness, generate leads, and retain existing customers for repeat business.
Webinar vs Plain Ol’ Video
To get real results from webinars, the first step is understanding what webinars can do that video can’t. A good webinar platform includes:
- Lead generation and nurturing tools that create audiences based on interest
Before the webinar even begins, your webinar platform can start laying the groundwork.
Whether you generate leads by blogging, YouTube-ing, or social media, your call-to-action links funnel right to a high-converting registration page (quality varies from platform to platform, but look for a webinar service that lets you customize a proven registration page format with your own branding).
The registration page nets you the email addresses. Next, it’s time to nurture. Some webinar software comes with email marketing built-in (very handy), otherwise, it’s possible to integrate with popular CRMs and email services using LeadsBridge. You can set up an automated series of primers, reminders, and instructions to increase attendance and get the crowd pre-pumped to buy.
- Interactivity tools to engage the audience
A live webinar is more than a presentation; it’s a conversation. By utilizing chat, polling, and Q&A features, you can directly address your audience’s questions and objections. You can engage just like one of those old traveling salesmen, without the risk of being attacked by over-enthused rottweilers.
Even automated (i.e. pre-recorded) webinars can include some level of this interactivity, though your end of the interaction comes later, outside the webinar.
For example, you can email direct responses to questions posted during the webinar, or tailor follow-up materials to polling data. You can even include content bonuses like infographics to more fully nurture the lead.
- Offer tools to close the sale
Every second count at the point of sale. Webinar “sales offers” are pre-packaged, strategically designed assets that you embed into the presentation for a smooth transaction. Integrated with a payment processor, your sales offer closes the deal in those crucial final moments.
- Follow-up tools to net sales post-webinar
As discussed above, good webinar platforms include (or at least integrate with) an email marketing system. This means that after the webinar, you can send targeted messages to different segments — like registrants who didn’t attend, attendees, people who clicked on your sales offer, and people who actually bought.
Now you have a way to keep nurturing those customers-to-be, and start turning your new customers into sources of long-term repeat business.
If you’re not measuring, you’re not marketing. Webinar platforms collect and aggregate data, so you can see a clear picture of what’s going well, what isn’t, and what’s possible.
For example, is a large percentage of your audience leaving around a certain minute mark? Maybe the webinar is too long, or you need to throw something more engaging into that portion of the presentation. Attendance low compared to the registration? Maybe more email reminders, or make a replay available to registrants who didn’t show.
With these tools at your disposal, the kinds of e-commerce webinars you host will depend on the kinds of products you’re selling, and where your leads are in the buyer’s journey. Broadly, we can break the different kinds of webinars down into three phases: lead generation, sales, and post-sale.
Lead Generation Webinars
Several types of webinars help you create brand awareness, grow your following, and establish credibility.
This is where the trust-building potential of webinars is most powerful. You’re not necessarily asking anyone to open their wallets yet — you’re just giving them a really good reason to, when the time comes. Utilize the following kinds of webinars to earn the trust that ultimately drives sales. It might seem like you’re laying a lot of groundwork, but you’ll get out what you put in:
Automated Educational Webinars
Record a 30-45 minute lesson that teaches how to address a pain point common to your target audience. If you’re selling kitchen gear, shoot a cooking lesson. Gym gear, a workout. Clothing, a style guide. You get the idea: find something your buyer persona struggles with, and give them a little win. Then package the video into an “evergreen” automated webinar.
The beauty of an automated webinar is that it has a much greater reach, even though it lacks the intimacy and interaction of a live webinar.
That’s why it’s best for lead generation; you won’t necessarily make a ton of sales from this (though you can always include a sales offer), but you’ll gather leads, establish authority, and have a chance to invite people to targeted sales webinars down the road. Promote these webinars via your usual channels: your blog, social media, paid ads, etc.
Most webinar platforms let you make automated webinars “on-demand,” so people can watch them whenever they like — which means schedule and time zone are no obstacles, hence the incredible potential to create leads.
Live Educational Webinars
These are just like the automated lesson discussed above, but with the added benefit of real-time interaction.
Again, you can include a sales offer, but the point at this stage is for you to give value, not get sales. It’s a first date, so don’t get too frisky. Just give the audience a win, establish a rapport, and take it from there.
Hybrid Educational Webinars
Some platforms let you record an automated presentation but schedule it so that you can interact live with attendees via chat, polling, and Q&A. This is a super-convenient way to combine the benefits of live and pre-recorded content.
This kind of webinar is excellent for the early stages, including the first webinar.
Rather than planning a whole presentation, you simply invite interested people to “AMA” (Ask Me Anything). Besides establishing rapport, it’s one of the best forms of market research; you can use the questions people ask to determine pain points and refine your offerings and products to the needs they express.
For some of you in the retail and e-commerce world, “teaching” might seem like a foreign concept, or a strange way to market physical goods. But consumers buy first and foremost based on personal trust, even more than on the strength of the product itself.
No one is more trusted than a great teacher who empowers people to solve their problems.
So identify the problems of your potential customers, and figure out a way to help. The return on that investment will come. Include in every lead generation webinar an invitation to a sales webinar, where you’ll leverage the trust you’ve built into actual purchases.
With the foundation built, it’s time to start selling to your loyal audience of mostly-already-convinced leads. Again, there are different kinds of webinars to achieve this:
Lesson + Sales Offer
This “lesson” is different from lead-generating lessons in a few ways. First, it can be more in-depth or complex, especially the live version. Secondly, the lesson should teach attendees how to do something that would be even easier to do if they had your product.
In other words, there are two assets that empower the audience here: the information alone, and the product.
For example, when I teach a lesson on how to create and host a webinar, attendees can theoretically take that knowledge and run with it…to another platform. My first priority is still giving them the knowledge they need to succeed, whether they make a purchase or not.
But when I then present WebinarNinja as the best tool to apply that knowledge, I’ve earned enough trust by that point for them to hear me out. “Now you have the information; here’s how you’d host it on our platform, and how our platform makes it easier than using Zoom or something.”
The lesson + sales offer model can be live or automated, but live will statistically result in more sales. That’s just the nature of the beast.
Above all else, be upfront about what this webinar is. People will show up for a lesson, but If you’re also going to give them a sales pitch, say so right off the bat.
When I host this kind of webinar, I begin with a quick “table of contents” so attendees know what to expect. Included in that, towards the end, is a sales offer. I state explicitly that once I’ve given the knowledge everyone came for, I’m going to present a special discount/bonus offer of some kind for my product.
I make it clear that the lesson will come first. I also make sure to put the sales offer portion before the Q&A at the end. This way, I earn trust with the lesson, but everyone doesn’t run off when the lesson’s over. Never, ever, ambush people with a sales offer. Webinars build trust, and surprise pitches destroy it.
This is the “QVC-style” presentation. It’s 100% about your product, and the audience knows it going in.
This kind of webinar is for qualified leads with a capital “Q,” as in people who are definitely in the consideration stage. Most often, these will be people you’ve given webinars to before; we’ve gained some of our best long-term users with the highest lifetime value after 5, 6, or 7 webinars. Trust takes time!
This is what makes the earlier webinars so valuable. It might seem weird to host webinars where you’re not really trying to sell anything, but the credibility you gained from doing so is what lets you go nuts here. You can finally sell, sell, sell to a crowd who’s already most of the way there.
That’s not to say every face will be familiar; some people get to the consideration stage based on their own research, testimonials from others, or enjoying your other content. But however people came to be there, this is where you get to show off your product with abandon, so enjoy it.
Sales aren’t really the art of persuasion; it’s the art of confirmation. This crowd wants to buy your product. They just need confirmation that it’s the right decision.
And yes, you can create fully automated showcase webinars too. But remember the math: you’ll reach way more people, but a lower percentage will buy. That may work out just fine; 10% of the 100 who came to your live webinar is just as good as 5% of the 200 who watched your automated webinar.
As any good salesperson knows, forgetting about your customer after they buy is a cardinal sin. To create great word of mouth, earn repeat business, and build real brand loyalty, it’s always advisable to host webinars exclusively for existing customers.
The most common way to “onboard” your new customers is to host “How To” lessons that specifically teach people how to use what they just purchased.
You might have to get creative in terms of applying this to certain goods. The thought of someone needing a “lesson” on how to use a shirt or a blender might seem odd, but consider how many people are Googling how to dress or make a good smoothie, right now. Who better to ask than you?
Obviously this is easier when it comes to something like auto parts or anything requiring complex assembly. That said, you’d be surprised how much appreciation you’ll get when you show up for people whose money you’ve already taken.
And now we’ve come full circle. The “AMA” is just as important on the other side of the sale. Both ourselves and many of our users host monthly customer-only Q&A’s, just to be there for people and help them get the most out of the product. This helps us keep their business, and informs the next iterations of our products.
Webinars and the “New Normal” for e-Commerce
I don’t think business will ever go back to the pre-COVID “normal.
That’s awful in many ways, but it also represents a massive opportunity for e-commerce to thrive. As brick-and-mortar stores wither, the real question isn’t whether e-commerce will grow; the question is which e-commerce businesses will stand out and seize the moment.
Who will make genuine connections to consumers, locally or globally? Who will create digital stores that people treasure the way they treasured their favorite neighborhood shops?
I believe that webinars are the ultimate tool for digital marketing, and the best way to tap into an e-commerce market by showcasing the real heart of your business: you. Your personality, your unique expertise, and your unique experience are greater marketing assets than you might realize.
Combined with a great product, who can resist?