Ashley Bellino knew the potential crystals held for her the moment she stepped inside one – a giant crystal cave in China, to be exact.
“Instantly we were like, ‘Oh gosh there’s some vibration feeling,’ all of our hairs going on end sort of thing,” she told news.com.au.
Ms Bellino went on to found Stoned Crystals in Melbourne in 2015, first as an online shop and then a bricks and mortar store.
But like all businesses, the coronavirus pandemic forced her to pivot – and fast. So the 32-year-old has turned the closure of her Melbourne store into sales. Lots of them.
Through popular Instagram live sales sessions, Stoned Crystals has managed to increase its web revenue by more than 134 per cent compared to this time last year, making a whopping $185,000 in online sales during July.
‘PEOPLE WERE AFRAID TO CONNECT’
Ms Bellino had her crystals epiphany during a materials sourcing trip to China in August 2014, just a few months after she decided to quit her full-time job in the corporate world.
While she’d never come from a spiritual home she had always loved “anything that glittered” and began researching crystals and their use after her cave experience.
“It took me a week just to get through pages of copy – there was a lot of hippy jargon around it – it wasn’t modern, it wasn’t fresh,” she said.
Soon Ms Bellino was using crystals as “a tool” in her own life, before opening Stoned Crystals five years ago.
“People were afraid to connect with them; they were afraid if they had a crystal it meant they were going to be a witch or a dragon or bring some sort of mystical thing into their life,” she said.
“When really they’re just Mother Earth’s natural sculptures.”
The vast majority of Stoned Crystals’ sales are from people who have never bought crystals and Ms Bellino said their popularity is growing.
“People want to put things in their home that remind them of the Earth,” she said.
“There’s a lot more modern spirituality these days and I think crystals have come under that theme as well.”
‘PEOPLE FEEL LIKE THEY’RE IN A SHOP’
In July, Ms Bellino closed her Melbourne store but decided to ramp up sales in a different direction.
Stoned Crystals had been having Instagram Live sales event since 2017 when the idea “came out of necessity”.
“We needed money to buy products,” Jeremy Lebard, Stoned Crystals co-director and Ms Bellino’s partner told news.com.au.
“We contacted (customers) when we were on an overseas sourcing trip and we sent them videos via text message and email and so on, and then that evolved.”
During lockdown, Stoned Crystals began having Instagram Live sale events six times a week.
Each event is themed and promoted on the social media platform beforehand, with customers tuning in to ask questions and learn about a product the same way they would in a physical store.
Once the showing is over, customers can reserve crystals they want to buy and are then sent a link to purchase it on Stoned Crystals’ website.
“It’s very different from buying from a website, because when you buy from a website it’s very dry,” Ms Bellino said.
“You see a product, you might see a description, and then you might have some questions, and then you may or may not try to get in a live chat if you’ve got questions about that product.
“A live show is really like being in a retail atmosphere, people feel like they’re in a shop.”
The Instagram sales have been so successful they have increased Stoned Crystal’s web revenue by 134 per cent compared to this time last year and helped the company make $185,000 in gross online sales during July.
Despite the success, Ms Bellino admits selling on Instagram is “imperfect” and Stoned Crystals are developing an app with an in-built live sales feature.
They’re encouraging other businesses to follow their lead and make the pivot to live sales using social media.
“The future of retail, it’s quite difficult to see what it’s going to be like, but I think this is going to be a very strong part of how people do continue to sell,” Ms Bellino said.
“Bricks and mortar is becoming such an expensive operation and so many of them are going out of business. You can do a lot with live sales software.”