The Marketplace Boom   //   May 28, 2024

‘Definitely not on my bingo card’: Plants are the latest live shopping trend

Live-shopping sellers are branching out into a new category: plants.

While live shopping is typically associated with fashion or beauty, plant aficionados are flocking to livestream platforms to buy and sell everything from monsteras to succulents to flowers. There, they can chat with other plant lovers, give or get advice on how to take care of a particular plant and set up plant delivery.

All types of businesses — from The Sill to Lively Root to Amazon — sell plants online. But independent sellers and nurseries are increasingly setting up livestreams to show off plants and offer them up for sale. Live selling plants is an easy way to get through a lot of plant inventory, sellers told Modern Retail, as well as reach audiences outside of their immediate market. What’s more, plants can grow quickly, and livestreaming can provide buyers with a more accurate idea of a plant’s size, shape and coloring than a thumbnail on a website can.

“Because we have a ton of products on our website, we don’t get to update [pictures of] each product monthly,” Breann Hall, who oversees live shopping for Steve’s Leaves, a tropical plant nursery in Lewisville, Texas, told Modern Retail. “So a lot of our products get overgrown or they’re way bigger than what the stock photo shows. [Livestreaming] gives customers a better idea of the item they’ll be getting.”

Steve’s Leaves began hosting weekly lives on its social channels several weeks ago and has already found the method lucrative. The livestreams typically last an hour, Hall said, but in that time, Steve’s Leaves can sell anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 worth of plants. About 100 people have tuned into each of Steve’s Leaves’ three livestreams, the most recent of which took place on May 22.

During each show, Hall and her greenhouse manager hold up groups of plants at a time, and viewers can snap them up by commenting with the plant’s lot number and the word “sold.” Then, that plant goes to their cart, and they can check out from there. If there is only one of a particular plant, then whoever purchases the plant first gets it. Steve’s Leaves uses a platform called Videeo that has an integration with Shopify to host the lives. “We’re getting good feedback, and everybody really likes it,” Hall said of the livestreams.

Palmstreet, an app that began as a marketplace for plants in October 2022, expanded into livestreams in April 2023. The app has 500 live sellers total, about 200 of whom are active sellers, meaning they go live once a month, Angalena Malavenda, Palmstreet’s operations and marketing lead, told Modern Retail. On average, between 500 and 700 people are watching a livestream on Palmstreet at any given moment. The most popular sellers typically have 100 to 200 people tune in, while the smaller sellers tend to have an audience of 50 to 70.

Palmstreet operates on a tiered selling system. According to Palmstreet’s seller guide, the first level is free to join, covers four lives a month and charges a 5.9% selling fee that goes to Palmstreet. The second and most popular level is $99 a month, covers eight lives a month and brings the fee down to 4.9%. The third level is $399 a month, covers 14 lives a month and lowers the fee to 3.9%. Sellers set their own shipping rates.

Since Palmstreet started offering live selling a year ago, business has taken off, Malavenda said. “Between the time that we launched [April 2023] and the end of that year, compared to our beginning-of-the-year growth [for 2024], I would say revenue has doubled,” she said.

Malavenda credits this to the public’s interest in livestreams and the way that Palmstreet sellers make their shows interactive. Hosts often play trivia games or bingo with their audiences, she said, and one shakes a Magic 8 ball to decide if a shopper gets free shipping.

“They are really entertainers, too,” Malavenda said. “A lot of them have cracked the code on that. And it makes live shopping more or less like a TV program. You tune in to watch your favorite seller go live at a certain time.”

Anastasiia Karlova, head of marketing at the plant-identification app PlantIn, told Modern Retail that she believes the market for live selling plants online is only going to grow. “While it might seem unusual to purchase a plant without seeing it first [in person], many people are already doing this through… online plant shops,” she said via email. “When Amazon entered the garden and plants niche, it helped normalize this type of shopping for their customers and then for a broader audience.” Amazon launched an online plant sales program in 2018.

Meanwhile, Whatnot, a live-shopping platform that recently built out its fashion offerings, launched a home and garden category last year and has since seen sales of plants spike 8x, the company told Modern Retail. There’s also been a 3x increase in Whatnot sellers offering plants.

When it comes to growth, “our large launch team is thinking about plants amongst a handful of other categories,” Armand Wilson, vp of categories and expansion at Whatnot, told Modern Retail. “But if you asked us a year ago, I don’t think any of us would have guessed plants would have popped up… Nothing really surprises me anymore, because I have been here for so long, but [plants] was definitely not on my bingo card.”