Digital Marketing Redux   //   February 14, 2024

How Educational Insights uses livestreams to drive sales through TikTok

When the clock strikes 8 p.m. on Monday, Thursday and Friday — the content team at Educational Insights’ live studio hits the “Go Live” button on TikTok.

Educational Insights, a toy brand that developed toys like puzzle game Kanoodle and sensory-stimulating toy Playfoam, has held 45 livestreams on TikTok just in the past 90 days. The live shows feature TikTok influencers like Danny Padilla and Arlene Resendiz playing puzzle games and interacting with the audience. The company’s live shows, on average, have 5,000 to 7,000 viewers. 

The livestreams have been critical to driving sales on TikTok Shop, which Educational Insights is also active on. The company adds a link to its TikTok Shop whenever it goes live. Since Educational Insights started doing live shows in 2022, it has grown its viewership from a couple of hundred people to over 32,000 at its peak. Every time the company goes live, sales for the featured product jumps three to five times the typical amount across its various retail partners. And the company sees its livestream shows not just as a sales driver, but also as a community-building tool.

“We’ve seen instant sales through the TikTok Shop automatically. But what we’ve started to do is also start to track the halo effect,” said Lee Parkhurst, senior brand manager for Educational Insights. “We see a correlation every single time we go live with our sales lift across the Amazon, Target and Walmart channels.”

Founded in 1962, Educational Insights has developed several toy brands, including Design & Drill, GeoSafari and Hot Dots. The Educational Insights account made 250 of its SKUs available on TikTok Shop for Black Friday and Cyber Monday a few months ago. 

TikTok has been an instrumental part of Educational Insights’ growth trajectory. TikTok Shop indicates that the company has sold well over 45,000 toys on the app. The company has also collaborated with more than 8,000 affiliates. 

And livestreams are beginning to be a key part of Educational Insights’ success on TikTok Shop. Parkhurst said TikTok users are drawn to watching live shows because it makes creators seem accessible. “Getting that instant interaction and the link between brand and fan is so strong through this type of content,” he said. “As much as I yell at my television, it’ll never talk back.”

Educational Insights has four accounts on TikTok dedicated to different product lines but mainly does live shows on its Kanoodle Official and Playfoam Official accounts. It also has an in-house studio at its office dedicated for livestreaming. 

From October to December, the company started testing a weekly live show on its Playfoam channel called The Playfoam Show with Brady Smith. The show has its own set and a dedicated host much like a typical children’s show.

The live shows on the Kanoodle channel began in November and is still ongoing. It typically lasts an hour and the hosts often feature one or two puzzles, which they play with and try to solve. Parkhurst said audience members interact with hosts through gifts, comments and hearts. 

TikTok has been attempting to make livestreaming mainstream by encouraging brands to start these live shows — and some are seeing early signs of success. Beauty brand Trio Beauty told Glossy that it held livestreams shows twice for Black Friday, and 28% of its sales that time came from the live shows. 

“Consumers really need a lot more justification in order to make a buying decision than they once did. And oftentimes, it’s really hard to get that from a company that is digitally native,” said Ali Fazal, vp of marketing at Grin. “I think live shopping has opened another dimension where people are able to, in real time, ask questions, get information that they need to get before coming to a purchase decision.”

Over the last four years, brands, social media platforms and tech startups have all made various investments in livestreaming. But many have scaled back or shut down their efforts. Unlike other platforms, however, TikTok has a built-in audience and influencer network, said Christopher Douglas, senior manager of strategy at influencer marketing agency Billion Dollar Boy. But a challenge for brands is to keep people from scrolling to the next video.  

“One of the challenges is making it entertaining and making it for a larger audience that’s used to an experience that’s much more individualistic and self tailored,” Douglas said. 

Educational Insights’ Parkhurst said that the company has made adjustments to the formats of its live shows and even camera angles to attract viewers. For example, the company learned that the live shows get more views if influencers’ faces are seen on camera, as opposed to a first person POV angle that showcases a person assembling a puzzle or other item. Parkhurst said that the company plans to do more regular live shows across its other channels.

“As a brand, we thought [our TikTok live] has to look perfect, we have to create this beautiful studio and have the best lighting and all this stuff,” Parkhurst said. “And actually, when we go that route, people are turned off and tune out because they want that real authenticity.”