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Insight Four: Social gets serious

In the final instalment of our four insights for 2020, we look at the growing expectation that retailers will have a fully-realised and fully shoppable presence on all the digital platforms their customers use.

That ‘always-on’ lifestyle we referred to in Insight Two refers to retailers, too. Social shopping, the professionalisation of influencers and the growing maturity of social media marketing has brought a data-driven and more transactional rigour to established platforms. Brands are now expected to maintain coherent, values-driven, shoppable expressions of their identity everywhere relevant.

“Global brands are embarking on unconventional partnerships that blend worlds to create innovative retail discovery experiences for a young cohort
of mobile-first and digital-native shoppers. Successful retailers will meet Gen Zers and Millennials wherever they are, whether it’s in a virtual game or on new streaming platforms.” – Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, The Future 100.

When social media first burst onto the scene, it was a medium for consumers’ self-expression, but as it’s matured, commercial interests and awareness of such have become more entrenched. 

Social shopping is in full flight as consumers increasingly expect retailers to meet them where they are, but they’re also more and more interested in ‘real’ content that fits their personally-held values. This has created a tension between professionalism and authenticity – even as consumers flock to social media influencers for their unvarnished perspective, those with larger followings quickly find they must adopt a more professional, brand-led style. Micro influencers with smaller, more niche audiences are on the rise.

TheMarket is a market-style ecommerce platform backed by The Warehouse Group which launched in August 2019. It’s leaned heavily into social shopping, with a section on its site allowing consumers to browse through shoppable social media content.

Chief executive Justus Wilde says he expects that user-generated content will continue to be an important way to create authentic content and advocacy for brands in the future. 

“Influencers in the past were about content development. They’d create unique content and they gave you reach. Today they’re still helping great content and they give you great reach, but increasingly you have to pay for that reach.”

Wilde highlights that tension between professionalisation and authenticity. 

“I think consumers are smart, and social media’s not something new anymore. I don’t think people mind being sold to as long as you’re transparent about that.”

Wilde expects that as social media continues to evolve, consumers’ preference for authentic content will continue to develop.

“I think brands will continue working with small micro-influencers to keep authenticity. Consumers are getting smarter and, to me, the winning format is more genuine, authentic content rather than large, mass-produced advertorial content. Tailored content that really speaks to micro-audiences.”

Palmerston North-based influencer Shannon Harris, aka shaaanxo, started her YouTube channel in 2009 while still in high school. She is one of the most influential beauty vloggers in the world, and currently has an audience of around 9.4 million followers across various channels. She also has a beauty product business, xoBeauty.

Harris says that, to get the best out of influencers, there needs to be “give and take” regarding expectations around professionalism.

“Us influencers are just ‘normal’ people, and have grown a following by being ourselves and presenting our likes and dislikes in a certain way. For a brand campaign to be successful, it needs to come from an authentic place from the influencer. 

“Of course, the influencer needs to be professional in terms of keeping to agreed briefs, producing work in a timely manner etc, but a brand needs to work with an influencer to make sure that the content being created is in their style and true to themselves if they want it to succeed.”

Brands need to realise that the reason consumers trust influencers is because they have their own voice, Harris says. Not every influencer will be a fit for your brand, so choose wisely and then work on creating an harmonious partnership where both parties have creative input.

“Don’t try to take their voice away – let them give you feedback on your campaign ideas, be flexible, and let them tell you how they think they can angle it for their own audience,” she says. “Come to agreements where you are both confident. Make sure they have a voice when creating their captions, and don’t force them to say certain things if they really don’t believe it. 

“Let them focus on the things they love about your products, because that is the voice their followers trust.”

This series was compiled with resources from:

  • TrendWatching, ‘5 Trends for 2020’.
  • JWT, ‘The Future 100’.
  • Euromonitor, ‘Top 10 Global Consumer Trends 2020’.
  • Vend, ‘Retail Trends and Predictions 2020’.
  • Shannon Harris’ Instagram account is @shaaanxo.

Read The rules are changing: Four trends shaping 2020

Read Insight One: Values-based retail evolves

Read Insight Two: URL balanced against IRL

Read Insight Three: Instant gratification

This story originally appeared in NZ Retail issue 766 February / March 2020

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