There are some items people prefer to buy in person--those with a high sensory factor, like yarn, have fallen into that category in the past. When it comes to picking out yarn, there is something about being able to see the vibrancy of the colors in person, and to feel the strands in your hands to know if it is worth using for a project or going to be a scratchy nightmare. 

When coronavirus led to the closing of non-essential businesses, it would have been easy for a yarn company to say, "People don't want to buy yarn online--we should take this time to ramp up for when the stores open again." Instead, Lion Brand Yarn doubled down on its social media efforts and has seen great success. 

According to Shira Blumenthal, brand ambassador and fifth-generation employee of the 143-year-old company, Lion Brand's online sales have been up 80 percent since coronavirus lockdowns began.

How did the company do it, and what can your business learn from Lion Brands' experience?

Know your audience and their pain points

Touching an item increases the likelihood that you will buy it, because it triggers perceived ownership in the brain and humans are very loss averse. This is one reason it is easier to sell things like yarn in a store, where customers can hold the items in their hands and become attached. Online is a different experience, and while it was not preferred before the pandemic (making it unnecessary for most crafters), it isn't impossible. 

The perceived pain of the online shopping experience was dwarfed by the fear of boredom many worried would consume them while stuck inside. People around the world looked for opportunities beyond binge-watching video, including: baking, puzzles, reading, and crafts like knitting. 

For any business, understanding the pain your customer is trying to alleviate and how your products can solve those problems are key. And, it is important to know that as the environment changes, their top pain points might as well. Ask yourself questions like, "How might we help solve that problem?"

Consistent, increased content

Lion Brand Yarn already had a large social following with over half a million Facebook followers and 90,000 subscribers to its YouTube Channel. Understanding the pain points for many of those individuals meant an opportunity to ramp up the content. 

During this time, it increased from weekly to daily content and launched The Shi Show (hosted by Shira, hence the name)--a Facebook Live series with conversation and an opportunity to take a break, work on your yarn project, and interact with like-minded fans. 

The Shi Show has had the benefit of guests like Vanna White (who has a popular line of yarn with Lion Brand) and Melissa Villlaseñor (avid crafter and Saturday Night Live personality) to help spread the word, but that isn't necessary to create a following--and doesn't necessarily translate to sales. 

An important aspect of the show--regardless of the guest--is to talk about what project you are working on. That means showing the yarn, touching it, and talking about it during the conversation. While our brains love the power of touch, seeing someone else experience the product can trigger mirror neurons in the viewer; it's essentially like a virtual touch. And other studies show that our eyes can almost feel the texture of a product when we see a high quality image or video. 

For any business, showing potential customers how to interact with you and your business will increase sales because it triggers mirror neurons and perceived ownership. Ever thought videos that have a closing screen of "click here to subscribe" with an image of the mouse clicking the button were dumb? They work, and this brain science is a big reason why. 

Remember why they are there

The series and content from Lion Brand Yarn is so smart because it mentions and shows its product, but it isn't the main focus of every single video. Let's revisit the pain point of the viewers: curing boredom and replacing physical interactions. If the daily content were showing a different skein of yarn each day and talking about it for half an hour, no one would watch. 

That model is all about the company and not about the audience. 

Creating a fun and educational escape is something people were looking for during this pandemic--Lion Brand delivered. 

Social content that drives sales is a delicate balance between:

  • understanding the pain point of the customer
  • showcasing the benefits of the product, but not overdoing it
  • and being consistent in whatever you do so people can make engaging with your brand into a habit

As we go into these next phases of the pandemic, what pain points can your brand solve?