The Psychology of Live Sales: The Formula for Addictive Shopping Experiences

May 2, 2019 · 5 min read

Every Thursday at 6pm c, Mindy Switzer Mass stands behind her smartphone to greet her loyal customers via Facebook Live. As the viewer ticker starts, you can watch it rise from one to hundreds in a matter of seconds. Comments start to pour in almost as quickly as the ticker numbers rise. What sparks this incredible amount of engagement?

Live selling.

Mindy is one of the thousands of boutique owners using Live Sales to sell, and customers are loving it. All they have to do is comment “Sold” for items they want as they appear on the screen. Live Sales have been described as “entertaining”, “addictive”, and even “dangerous to bank accounts”.

So what about Live Sales that make drive customers wild? It all has to do with the traits of a Live Sale and how it triggers some powerful human behaviors.


Live Sales can be leveraged to do all sorts of things — liquidate old stock, show off and sell new arrivals, and generate hype through flash sales. A live broadcast gives customers a limited time to view and buy these items. It’s very different than leisurely scrolling through a website. In a Live Sale you can’t view all the products at once. Customers rely on hosts and models to show off goods one product at a time.

In many instances of live selling, we see quick checkout tied timed incentives such as free shipping when checked out within the hour. Cart expirations are also paired with live selling. Cart expirations dump carts into the next willing shopper’s hands if they decide not to pay within a certain amount of time. With this tactic, no sale is lost.

Related Reading: Why Top Brands Use Facebook Live

Low Quantity

While urgency leave less time for window shopping and allows for faster conversions, low quantities drives up demand. Pair them together and you get scarcity. Scarcity is when there is more demand than there are resources.

Scarcity gives us FOMO so compelling that we cannot miss out and we impulse buy. That’s because scarce goods are perceived as rare and more desirable.

It’s also the reason why out of stock items drives us bonkers. Somehow it makes us want it even more. Businesses can leverage this effect to make more sales with waitlists.

Waitlists escalate a customer’s commitment to purchase an item even when it is sold out. This list is a queue for customers willing to pay for an item if a sale falls through or the item gets restocked. Many brands that run Live Sales use this method.


You’ll often hear Live Sales hosts instruct their audience to “get your fast fingers ready”. Customers watch with baited breath as they wait for hosts to reveal the next item. They know it’s a race to comment faster than the many others watching.

Competitive buying has parallels to auction fever. It takes root in the psychological bias called “endowment effect”. Once a person has seen an item and fantasized about winning or owning it, they see it as their own. Anyone who threatens to take our item away by limiting stock is seen as competition. Competition makes us highly emotional buyers, and we’ll do all it takes to obtain what we feel is ours.

Even those that don’t feel immediately compelled to buy a product can be influenced by the competition. This effect is called “social proof”. Social proof is the influence that the actions and attitudes of the people around us have on our own behavior. Every comment “Sold” influences other people’s purchasing decisions. One comment can quickly turn into a flurry of comments because of this.

It doesn’t end when the items are sold out either. Even trying to obtain those feels like a high stakes game. Customers pre-authorize their cardsin order to jump the waitlist. It’s a bit like trying to win the lotto. They’ll continue placing their bets even after the item is gone.


Live video facilitates real-time conversations between owners and customers. Live Sales are not just sales. If done right, they’re more meaningful than that.

Mindy does it right. She is an excellent salesperson, but her videos never fail to bring value even outside of a deal. She’s warm and funny and entertaining. You can tell she loves her customers because she works hard to make them feel included. On every live, you will see her giving shout outs, making conversation, and answering questions.

Related Reading: 4 Steps to Building an Engaged Social Following

She’s also built a community around her brand. Regulars recognize one another. They share a love for her clothing, her humor, and have conversations with each other on her posts and within her lives. When busy women can’t break away from a hectic day, Live Sales are an easy escape. It’s just as satisfying as shopping with gal pals. Plus, it offers the convenience to do so without leaving the house.

The Takeaway

Successful Live Sales can more than double your orders in a short amount of time. Urgency, low quantity, competition, and inclusion are a killer formula for an addictive shopping experience and Live Sales possess them all. Make them a consistent part of your sales strategy for more engagement, more return shoppers, and boosted revenue.

Trendy woman models in front of a rack of clothing for a boutique live sale
Trendy woman models in front of a rack of clothing for a boutique live sale

Get the latest tips and best practices for conducting the perfect Live Sales. Get your free copy of The Complete Guide to Live Sales!


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CommentSold lets you sell through Facebook and Instagram, automatically send invoices, and sync inventory with your webstore and mobile app.

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