This week, a recap of what Glossy Fashion & Luxury Summit speakers and attendees said this week about earning Gen Z’s business. Scroll down to use Glossy+ Comments, giving the Glossy+ community the opportunity to join discussions around industry topics.
Do we have Gen Z all wrong?
The question has often come up amid talk of Gen Z’s fast-fashion addiction. Despite the demo’s so-called values-driven shopping habits, inclusive of supporting sustainability-minded brands, the demo has fueled the multi-billion-dollar success of the fastest of the fast-fashion brands, namely Shein.
On the same note, according to attendees of Glossy’s Fashion & Luxury Summit this week, Gen Z’s reputation for prioritizing individuality and self-expression is overblown. Like every other generation before them, many of today’s teens and twenty-somethings just want in on what’s trending.
This can be owed, in part, to TikTok. There’s a common understanding that daily scrolling sessions on the platform keep one in the conversation. Taking a break means falling out of “the know,” including on the hashtags, sounds and references of the moment. On the flip side, tapping into TikTok trends results in popularity via likes, follows and other engagement.
During the event’s speaker sessions and a working group discussion on “The New Marketing Era,” marketers from fashion, luxury and beauty brands discussed what’s driving sales among young shoppers. References to TikTok trends and pop culture dominated the conversations, while products’ affordability and IRL shopping channels were also called out as top purchase drivers. In addition, they said, an early presence on emerging platforms is working to engage young demos.
“We’re using ‘as seen on TikTok’ to pull shoppers onto our site,” said a beauty brand’s head of integrated marketing, speaking off the record. “The product doesn’t have to be viral; you can fake it a bit. Someone who’s aspirationally wanting to be cool will see that on a rack or in an email and immediately want to know more about it.”
Meanwhile, according to the working group participants, seeing the number sold when viewing products in a brand’s TikTok Shop is influencing purchases. “Customer-facing conversions work,” said a brand marketer. “It’s engaging viewers. They’re commenting with questions like, ‘Why have you only sold one?’ And for items that sell, people are like, ‘I want in on that.”
Of course, young shoppers also want in on what their favorite TikTokers, including micro-influencers, are hyping. A global head of social media for a contemporary fashion brand noted that the company is investing in and seeing success with Kale Card, which is a UGC platform specific to TikTok. In short, the brand sets a budget and defines a challenge like, “Tell us about your favorite piece by the brand.” Brand fans who accept the challenge then create and post a video accordingly, and the budgeted payout gets divided based on the level of engagement driven by each video.
In a session on the future of resale, Sarah Davis, founder and president of Fashionphile, spoke about the power of TikTokers in setting today’s trends: “Some quirky 14-year-old can search Fashionphile by lowest price and find a beat-up old Fendi Spy bag for $300. … She’ll wear it on TikTok and it will pop, and because it’s affordable, a lot of people will want in on it.”
Traditional celebrities and channels are also driving Gen Z to purchase. However, that’s often boosted by posts on social media. For example, a summit executive said his brand’s tank top was worn on the show “Outerbanks,” which resulted in multiple TikToks talking about the style before it eventually sold out. Another attendee said the same of a pair of her brand’s earrings worn on “Love Island.” Some of this placement happened organically, with the pieces being selected by a reality show contestant or a show stylist. Meanwhile, others stemmed from relationships developed over multiple years. A beauty executive said her brand initiated its current relationship with Netflix by posting “in kind” content about a show.
The effort can pay off. A head of PR said a morning show segment including one of her brand’s products “saved the month,” based on resulting sales.
For its part, DTC luxury shoe brand M.Gemi is tapping into pop culture through pop-ups, said Rachel Sorkin, the brand’s creative director. For example, it ”met [its] customers where they are with the styles they want to see” in Sicily following Season 2 of “The White Lotus,” for example. It also popped up in Miami for F1.
Affordability is crucial to earning Gen-Z consumers, according to Glossy Summit speakers. When discussing Anthropologie’s strategies for “appealing to multigenerational consumers,” president Anu Narayanan pointed to the importance of offering products at a variety of price points, with the more affordable options working to draw young shoppers. Likewise, Cristina Ceresoli, vp of marketing at Pacsun, spoke about the retailer’s 14- to 26-year-old “self-shopper.” These young customers are buying for themselves, which informs the company’s attainable price points. Finally, Davis spoke to Gen Z’s habit of shopping Fashionphile’s website “by lowest price.”
“All they care about is that it’s authentic and they can afford it,” she said.
In addition, Ceresoli noted the importance of physical retail in clinching young shoppers. “What you hear about Gen Z is true: They like to shop in-store,” she said, adding that Pacsun has 400 store locations. “They come in a lot, and they’re highly engaged.” What’s more, young shoppers who don’t live near a Pacsun store are among the most active participants in the brand’s weekly, TikTok-based livestreams, which are hosted in a Pacsun store. “They use that [opportunity] to access our brand and often make requests to show what else is in the store,” she said.
Molly Langenstein, president and CEO of Chico’s FAS, also said her company is working to establish IRL connections with shoppers who don’t live near a store. Since the start of the pandemic, it has hired 100 regional Social Stylists, who host regular shopping events in their respective cities. Chico’s FAS has 1,300 stores and its shopper base is now 10 years younger than it was three years ago, at 45.
Regarding the value of stores, Narayanan spoke about Anthropologie’s signature “lifestyle” method of merchandising — with a travel-focused display, for example – which facilitates discovery, offers convenience and drives up AOV. To ensure success in stores, both Langenstein and Melinda Robertson, CEO of Scanlan Theodore Americas, stressed the importance of adequately investing in associates who reflect the brand’s values.
“Offering the best-in-class onboarding and ongoing training [for associates], every single week, is crucial,” said Robertson. “There’s nothing more distressing to me than hearing that someone had a bad experience in a Scanlan Theodore store. The stores are what we are. So, you need to throw a lot of resources into that.”
Finally, there were different schools of thought, in terms of the best approach to meeting Gen Z where they are — particularly when working with a small marketing team. Summit attendees agreed that “where they are” is on digital platforms. The contemporary brand marketer said his team focuses on one platform and “figures out what works” before extending their focus to a newer platform. Meanwhile, for Pacsun, the strategy is about quickly pouncing on emerging platforms, in an effort to keep up with — or even beat — the pace of Gen Z. Its dedicated world on Roblox now has 70,000 unique users a day, with the average user sticking around for 24-29 minutes.
“There is a first-mover advantage,” Ceresoli said. “It opens you up to a freer way of working, and you become known for taking risks, which earns you amazing opportunities. … The number of opportunities other companies are leaving on the table is staggering.”