Teri’s take: Future of ecommerce, Sephora’s pledge to Black-owned brands, and micro-communities
As social media becomes increasingly oversaturated, marketers are having a harder time connecting with consumers. The solution for many fashion marketers is to think small and explore the potential of private groups and micro-communities in social media. Private messaging and communities have the potential to boost customers’ brand empathy, which has a direct impact on brand loyalty. Customers who feel more connection with a brand are more likely to spread positive sentiment about its products and services. And more importantly, devoted consumers also spend far more on average and exhibit high willingness to forgive mistakes.
Many brands tap into existing micro-communities by partnering with niche influencers, who have a clear vision or personality that is perceived as authentic and trustworthy — especially at a time when Instagram is flooded with manufactured fake followers. Some influencers are even using the “close friends” feature on Instagram as a tool to build stronger relationships with their followers.
Jared Watson, professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business, adds that this shift in marketing has intensified as many young adults have experienced loneliness due to Covid-19. He says, “This loneliness paradox gives brands an opportunity to develop extreme brand loyalty by being a resource for their fans to connect, either with the brand itself or with other fans.”
Social distancing has made consumers even more eager to find refuge in digital micro-communities. Increased popularity of Discord, Facebook groups, and Instagram’s “close friends” are clear examples of how niche communities enable their members to build genuine relationships. By investing in community, brands can do the same. Understanding your customers and meeting them where they are is the first step. Providing communities with digital forums to interact with one another and with your brand allows you to retain customers longer and acquire new customers cheaper. We’ve seen community-driven referrals lead to 3x the lifetime value (LTV) of users acquired through traditional Facebook ads.
Earlier this month, fashion designer Aurora James started a campaign called the 15 Percent Pledge, encouraging lifestyle retailers to stock more Black-owned brands on the shelves. James’ effort started with a petition saying that since Black people make up 15% of the US population, their businesses should make up 15% of the supply chain for major retailers. James explains, “One-time donations are extremely important, as they funnel immediate funds into the communities and help businesses get back on their feet in the short term. The [15 Percent] Pledge is looking to secure financial longevity and economic equality in the long term.” Now, Sephora is committing to the pledge and dedicating at least 15% of shelf space in its stores to Black-owned brands. As part of the pledge, Sephora will assess the current percentage of Black-owned brands it carries, publish its findings and offer a concrete plan for bringing the number up to 15%, including investing in helping Black entrepreneurs through connections with venture capital and launch support.
Shoppers are using social media to sing the praises of brands, like Sephora, that are making actual change to fight against racial injustice and support Black businesses. However, consumers are also using their voices to call out disingenuous statements made by brands who have no intentions of taking any action to back up their claims. The Black Lives Matter movement is not a marketing strategy. And consumers are actively boycotting brands who are using it as such. We’re excited to see more brands follow in Sephora’s footsteps and step up to make actual change.
Forrester analyst Allen Bonde says that prior to Covid-19, search and social media were already “dominating” digital ad spend. But social distancing has forced years of digital commerce transformation into just a few months. Sellers are boosting investments in online channels, starting with their own website and mobile apps, but also on third-party social media platforms and marketplace sites like Instagram and Amazon. Customers are also adapting, with 50% saying they are shopping on digital channels for products they’ve never bought online before. 70% are purchasing more than usual and over 90% of customers say their behaviors are different as they avoid physical stores, put discretionary shopping on hold, and buy exclusively online, or as much as possible online. Although lockdowns are easing around the globe and people are visiting physical stores again, brands would be foolish to put e-commerce on the backburner.
Despite most stores being closed, consumers are still ready to swipe their credits cards. With no clear end date for stay in place orders, it’s even more important for brands to bulk up their ecommerce marketing strategies and continue to provide value to consumers online. The future of commerce is community. By giving consumers the opportunity to interact with each other and with your brand through digital experiences such as virtual try-ons’ and community forums, you will keep people coming back to your website long after the pandemic is over.