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Holition Talks: The Future of Social Commerce

holition talks 2021 the future of social commerce event slides

“Brands need to meet consumers exactly where they are.”


Instagram @shop. Facebook Marketplace. #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt. Livestream shopping by appointment. These are only a fraction of the recent developments by social media companies that signal social commerce is a serious business. 


The fifth instalment of Holition Talks gathered experts in the field of social, content, fashion & beauty to discuss all of this and more. Here are some of the key takeaways that our panel - Delanie Gulino (Account Director, OK COOL), Carrie Esser (Award-winning make-up artist and content creators), and Geraldine Wharry (Fashion futurist) - shared.


First up, who are brands marketing to on social? Increasingly, this is Gen Z - or the first fully digital generation. “Gen Z, more than any other generation, cares more about impact causes - from climate change, sustainability, to social justice to racial inequality,” began Delanie. “They really look to brands to have a voice on these topics. Companies need to follow that and lead by this generation’s example to get their attention. This generation doesn’t know a time before social media. I think luxury brands have to work a little harder to meet them halfway.” Delanie mentioned Balenciaga’s recent team up with The Simpsons (where the brand commissioned an episode of the hit cartoon show) and Gucci’s activation within gaming platform Roblox as examples of luxury brands that get it right. 


Naturally, these examples are miles away from how luxury fashion & beauty brands have traditionally been used to market their products. So how are social platforms changing the aesthetics and the content we respond to? “This is such a creative generation, I’m really interested in the aesthetics they like because they take influences from different generations before them and mash them together,” said Geraldine. “In terms of how content and aesthetics are changing, what I find interesting on platforms such as TikTok is the parody of some brands by TikTok users. It’s fascinating because instead of brands coming in and shutting them down, they actually play along with them. It also forces you to be more authentic. This was a trend that started on Instagram - where people got tired of perfectly curated feeds - but TikTok takes it to another level.” 


Capturing attention feels like the holy grail of social right now. And there isn’t a better way than creating engaging content. “The beauty of TikTok is that anyone can go viral. It’s not about brand awareness or influencers, it’s about creating entertaining content,” Delanie said. “TikTok has come and said it themselves that they are not a social media platform, they are a content platform. They have definitely shown that by the way their algorithm works - it serves you content based on your interests, not who you follow necessarily. One thing that brands should be doing is putting creators in the centre. People don’t want to see glossy videos, they want to see real people using their products that feel authentic. Leading with people, not product is perhaps the best approach.” 


Carrie, who has built a following of over half a million followers across social platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat, agreed.”Brands that want to partner with me know that I have an engaged audience that listens to me so I think it’s really important to use creators to tell your story in an authentic way but in order for these partnerships to work you really need to give the creator freedom. They know their audience and they know their content. The second you put restrictions on the creator, it takes away from who they are and why people love them. I also think it’s about listening to the people you want to reach. This can give you a very good idea of the trends, creators, sounds, aesthetics that are about to take off,” she added. 


Beyond connecting with a young audience, social apps offer more commerce capabilities than ever before and live-streamed shopping is one of the hottest features. Facebook launched Facebook Shop and Instagram Shop in May 2020, adding live shopping capabilities to its apps, and TikTok is planning features that include storefronts, tagged products and live shopping events. So what is the opportunity of live-streamed shopping? 


“The live functionality is really interesting because instead of going into a store and asking questions to the stylists, you can do this right there, at the moment. From the comfort of your home or wherever you are,” said Delanie. But even though live-streamed shopping provides great convenience, it’s important to keep the entertainment value. “It might be a good idea to partner with a creator for this type of experience. If it’s just brands taking over people lose interest. Gen Z questions everything, including your marketing tactics. So keeping the creators there is really important,” added Geraldine. 


Next up, we looked at emerging platforms such as OnlyFans and Twitch and the possibilities for fashion & beauty brands there. In February, Rebecca Minkoff became the first fashion company to launch its own OnlyFans account (a platform usually reserved for sex workers) and showcase behind the scenes and content from her upcoming collection. And in 2020, Burberry became the first brand to stream its fashion show on Twitch. What are the opportunities for brands on these emerging platforms? 


“Working with creators on platforms like OnlyFans is a great way to tap into channels like this and connect with new audiences but I don’t necessarily think brands should invest in developing their channels on Onlyfans. Rebecca Minkoff’s activation was absolutely a PR moment and it was fun and sexy and mysterious to talk about but I think the creator partnerships are the way to go,” commented Delanie. “Burberry & Twitch… Burberry knew where the audience was, they knew they wanted to target Gen Z and jumped on it. Them acknowledging the Twitch community in that way was saying “We want you”. If they had chosen YouTube, which was probably more expected, they wouldn’t get the same attention. It was very much a strategic move that delivered a message: “Hello Twitch streamers, we see you and we want you to see us too. Let’s be friends.”


Platforms like Twitch offer yet another avenue for brands to act as entertainers, argued Geraldine. “The concept of fashion as media is fascinating. Platforms like Twitch show us that fashion brands can also function as media and entertainment companies.”


To wrap up, we asked the panellists to share a piece of advice with the audience. Here’s what they had to say: 


“Be quick, it’s all about timing and risk-taking. The idea that you have about creating a video might be the next viral thing but you won’t know until you do it. So just go on and try.” - Carrie 


“I would encourage brands to rethink and consider their values. Yes, brands need to succeed but it can’t be just about selling, selling, selling. It has to be also about education, tutorials, and empowering people to have a different relationship with your products.” - Geraldine 


“Have a vested interest in understanding these platforms as a consumer. A big mistake that marketers make is trying to strategise around platforms that they don’t fully understand or haven’t used themselves. Understand how people receive content, how they engage with others. Invest in creators and influencers who can be your portal to your audience and these platforms. Ask them for advice and their experiences. Allow them to help tell the story of the brand. Don’t chase the money, chase the people. Because where the people are, the money follows.” - Delanie 


Holition and INTERLACED would like to thank our wonderful panel and everyone who joined live. Stay tuned for announcements about our next webinar. In the meantime, follow Holition and INTERLACED on social media for the latest updates on the future of fashion.