Having micro-influencers diversifies a brand’s identity and appeals to a much wider community, and consumers are proactively willing to create content for brands for free, according to executives from fashion retailers Pomelo and Senreve.
Last week, Helsinki-based marketing platform Smartly.io hosted its second social advertising conference virtually. Thought leaders ranging from infamous social media gurus to CMOs of leading brands such as Gymshark, Daniel Wellington and Hello Fresh shared their expertise and marketing tips to more than 10,000 creative professionals around the world. As part of the event, Inside Retail Asia hosted a panel joined by Jean Thomas, CMO of Pomelo, and Coral Chung, CEO of Senreve.
The two brands are exemplary case studies of successful direct-to-consumer brands that have gone beyond online, not just by simply building out a few brick-and-mortar stores, but by achieving constant growth and converting their online engagements into offline sales.
Be where your customers are
Silicon Valley-based luxury leather goods label Senreve started in the US, but during the pandemic swiftly scaled across the Pacific and entered China. The Asian market is vastly different to the US, as many industry insiders would have encountered, but as a digitally native brand, Senreve was quick to pivot from Instagram to Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) and the like.
“What’s interesting is as we’ve grown in Asia, we found that our audience is quite a bit younger,” shared Chung, noting the contrast with its typical mid-30’s career woman audience in the US.
“In China, for example, our primary buyer is in her mid-to-late 20s, a much younger woman in her career and life. Somebody who is very fashionable and loves luxury, but is quite adventurous in terms of exploring new brands and new forms of social media,” said Chung, citing Xiaohongshu and Weibo as their biggest platforms.
While it may seem the vast majority of social-media platforms are very much alike, with large visual images and short-form videos, online content in China is created to be informative and lengthy. What a foreigner might almost deem ‘information overload’, works for the Chinese market, especially in the act of product and brand discovery.
For Pomelo, where the Thai-based fashion brand has established a a widespread presence in neighbouring markets, the brand is also acutely aware of where its digitally-savvy customers browse.
“Southeast Asia as a region is extremely active on social media and everyone is mobile-first,” said Thomas. According to eMarketer, over 1.89 billion people in Asia are on social networks, backed by a previous research reports from Econsultancy, Magento and Hootsuite indicating two in five people make three or more online purchases in a month because of social media posts or ads.
With its customers typically millennials aged 18 to 34 years old, Pomelo focuses on mobile content across Instagram and TikTok. Thomas said that Pomelo divides up to 70 per cent of its effort on Instagram, 20 per cent on TikTok, and the remaining 10 per cent on Facebook.
“Facebook is still a pretty strong platform even more than Instagram. But for organic content, I would say Instagram and TikTok are really key in the Southeast Asian region, without any big differences between markets,” he said.
Lockdown live streaming – fad or future?
By now there are few major brands that have not experimented with live streaming after recognising its success and the quick conversions it can generate, as a substitute for the real life shopping experience. Naturally, the two brands have also dabbled with live streaming, though Senreve, being the meticulous and analytical brand that it is, is still actively experimenting with the most suitable content and platform for the brand to engage with.
“We have very much an innovative kind of test and iterate model with a variety of things. And live streaming definitely has come on our radar obviously with physical retail not being available to us,” said Chung.
So far, live streaming content by Senreve has featured meaningful conversations with other female-founded business individuals along with shoppable live streams led by influencers in China.
Pomelo is proud of its success since it began live streaming, having now hosted almost 300 shows during the past year already. During the pandemic, Pomelo enabled shoppable live streams within its app natively, with regular content streamed weekly to continuously engage fans. That saw the conversion rate expand four to 15 times over the average day.
Pomelo had to shutter its physical stores’ doors for eight weeks due to circuit breakers, shutting off about 30 per cent of its sales. But its e-commerce turnover surged 250 per cent.
Under the influence
Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) used to be highly regarded and although they remain so, they more often than not now come with a high price tag, prompting brands to poach micro-influencers for more ‘authentic’ content. Smaller-scale influencers are favoured to boost user-generated content and are believed to have a much higher influence than before.
Where Senreve has religiously used influencers across many of its various social-media platforms to generate a word-of-mouth buzz for its products (and effectively so), the brand has also formed a community to recognise its consumers as well as building up other female-led brands in partnership. This method helps elevate its brand story to become much more aspirational and personable.
“I think it’s really important for us to provide content to our community that contextualises our products.” shared Chung.
Having various types of KOLs and influencers showcase its products to followers can define a more personal aspect, allowing consumers to resonate with their style and lives. Senreve also upgrades its influencers into brand ambassadors, in order to build a wider range of channels and represent differently in geography and race – unlike where traditional luxury brands typically lack diversity in models and in the types of people they have showcasing their products.
Pomelo also uses KOLs regularly as the brand is prominent on social media – especially in its Thai domestic market where it is typically celebrity-driven. Thomas added that the cost of KOLs in Southeast Asia is much lower than in the US and China. Even so, Pomelo has free, user-generated content by its consumers who proactively share and post the brand’s goods themselves, owing to their stylish products, but also driven by how involved consumers can be by being featured on their feed.
“People are really willing to create that content for brands, and participate, whether it’s a competition or some cool campaign… Southeast Asians are very reward driven,” revealed Thomas.
Data-driven decision making
Social-media networks have advanced rapidly in becoming more than just visually engaging platforms, but a minefield of data beneficial to businesses seeking to understand their customers, as well as their behaviours. Pomelo and Senreve, as digitally native brands, are strong advocates of using data and analytics to back their strategies and decision making.
Being in the fast fashion space, Pomelo considers social media as a powerful tool to tap into for future forecasting.
“Social media is not just for chatting, or Instagram, Facebook… we use a lot of social media for customer feedback and also in trying to find new trends and what people want to have in the coming months,” explained Thomas.
He also mentioned that working with influencers of all scales also contributes to defining the next trends. “The advantage of having our own brand with a quick supply chain is we can actually make things happen quite quickly from social trends,” said Thomas.
Senreve, which is well known to regularly use data to back its strategies, surprisingly shared the importance of looking at the bigger picture and the organic progression of how a customer discovers the brand instead.
“We think about the entire ecosystem of a woman. For example, seeing us on Instagram, potentially styled by an influencer, and then coming to our website to do more in-depth research. And then reading some reviews or watching a YouTube video, reading some editorial articles, where we are featured in Vogue, InStyle, and so forth. She signs up to our email list, receives some emails from us, and then sees the perfect colour of the bag and the style that she wants and pulls the trigger,” concluded Chung.