This 23-year-old used Facebook Live to help his father’s company during COVID-19
If you think vlogging is hard, imagine livestreaming in front of an online audience!
While most youths spend their Saturday nights going out, Bobby Lai spends them in front of three to four cameras, promoting mobility devices for his father’s business, Mobot, on Facebook Live.
“It feels very special to finally find something that I am good at and I enjoy,” Bobby said.
At the start of COVID-19, customers were unable to visit Mobot’s store to browse and purchase their items. As retail sales dipped, the 23-year-old Nanyang Technological University business student suggested trying a new approach to getting customers.
“I thought of an innovative way to bring out our products to our customers, in the comfort of their homes. Through livestreaming, namely Facebook Live, we connect to most of our target audience,” he said.
Since the circuit breaker last year, Bobby has hosted over 40 livestreams, with each stream lasting about an hour long. He promotes the latest electro mobility devices such as bicycles and electric scooters via Facebook Live, highlighting the key features of the devices and answering the audience’s questions.
Gaining confidence to host livestreams
While Bobby appears confident during his livestream, he shared that most of his friends and family would actually describe him as a shy person off camera. Prior to helping out the business, he did not have any experience with livestreaming and was unfamiliar with the practice.
In fact, he started off by creating pre-recorded videos featuring Mobot’s most popular electric bicycles on their YouTube channel to overcome his nervousness in front of the camera before hosting the livestreams.
Recalling his first livestream back in March last year, Bobby said: “I was very robotic, as if I was having a school presentation.
“During my very first livestream, I remembered I was quite nervous. I was very proper at all times, but that was not really what the audience wanted.”
His peers and family members also pitched in to support his livestreams, which helped him build his confidence.
“I still remembered during one of my first livestream, only my family and friends watched. They were very supportive by helping me to like [the video] and helping me to share it,” he said.
Fortunately, he began to see the results of his efforts when he made his first breakthrough during his second livestream.
“We sold close to $10,000 worth of products. I was still very amateurish at it but the results were good,” said Bobby, who even managed to sell off some of the pricier devices that day.
“I never thought that such expensive items can be sold during livestreaming, we are probably the first livestream [platform] in Singapore to sell items worth over $1,000,” Bobby said.
Collaborating with celebrities
To help boost Mobot’s sales, Bobby also sought collaborations with various local celebrities. In August last year, he managed to partner with Wang Lei, a popular getai singer and livestreamer in Singapore.
The collaboration was a success as Bobby noticed more viewers during their live streams. He even saw an increase in customers visiting and purchasing their devices in stores.
“You can see one of the reasons why celebrities are popular at livestream and it is because of the amount of focus they put into their work,” Bobby said.
Apart from Wang Lei, Mobot has also collaborated with Jack Neo and Particia Mok. These celebrities would join the livestreams as Mobot’s special guests to try out their new devices including their latest e-scooters or foldable bicycles.
When asked about who else he would like to see appear in his livestreams, Bobby shared his hopes of interviewing industry leaders such as the Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF) chairman to provide perspectives on the bicycle industry.
Juggling the responsibilities of a livestreamer and student
Being a livestreamer, however, also has its downsides.
Bobby is in-charge of Mobot’s weekly live videos as he has the most technological skills. He also shoulders most of the responsibilities including ideating for content, setting up his equipment and hosting each stream.
“For one single livestream, the amount of hours that I have to put into preparing the graphics and preparing the equipment can take up at least two to three days of my time. So adding that on top of school work is hard to hit deadlines but I still do my best,” Bobby said.
Despite the challenges and the sleep he has to sacrifice, Bobby is still willing to continue live streaming to support his father’s business.
“I just know that I have that sense of responsibility for the things I need to do and prepare weekly. Unlike other students, I have an added task that I have to fulfill to the best of my ability,” Bobby said.
Indeed Bobby has come a long way since his first awkward livestream, and is glad he could not just save his father’s business, but discover his passion for livestreaming too.
He said: “After doing live, I realised that you don’t have to be afraid of something just because it’s new. Even if you haven’t tried it before, always try out new things because it might be a new pathway for you.
“It might be something that you enjoy but you will never know if you don’t try it, so just go for it, don’t think too much.”