Luxury fashion is surging on TikTok, but turning Gen-Z viewers into customers is a complicated task for brands

  • Brittany Xavier is a fashion and lifestyle influencer with over 3 million followers on TikTok where, with the help of her 13-year-old daughter, she has found a new way to reach younger audiences.
  • In general, luxury fashion content has begun to take off on TikTok, but brands still face challenges in navigating the app's Gen-Z audience and converting views to sales.
  • For brands like Revolve and Hugo Boss, short-form video is a way to increase brand awareness among younger consumers, especially Gen Z. 
  • Business Insider spoke with Xavier about how she's been using TikTok as a creator and how fashion brands can best use the platform and short-form video more broadly.
  • Subscribe to Business Insider's influencer newsletter: Insider Influencers.

Fashion and lifestyle creator Brittany Xavier was one of the earliest adopters of TikTok among Instagram-native influencers when she joined last November.

"I originally got on TikTok … because of my daughter's screen time," Xavier told Business Insider. "And she actually got in trouble for this, but she had such high screen time on TikTok and no other social-media apps that I was actually confused."

"I realized that there was no fashion on there, from what she was showing me," Xavier continued. "And afterward, my husband and I were like, okay, we need to brainstorm this."

Xavier saw the potential audience growth and the opportunity to reach Gen Z. She now has 3 million followers on TikTok compared to 1.6 million on Instagram.

And Xavier isn't alone in the luxury and fashion space in turning to TikTok to reach new audiences.

In September, TikTok took its first major stride toward becoming a new destination for fashion brands by hosting fashion month events and campaigns on the app, including with Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent. And brands like Gucci and JW Anderson have seen organic success on TikTok with trends like the "Gucci model challenge."

In fact, while luxury fashion content on social media has dwindled overall during the pandemic, it has surged on TikTok. In the third quarter of 2020, luxury fashion saw a 200% year-over-year increase in engagement and a 190% increase in active influencers on TikTok, according to data from the influencer-marketing platform Traackr.

But there are challenges for brands in both appealing to the Gen-Z audience that dominates TikTok and in leveraging that into increased sales.

To understand how to succeed on the app, Xavier tapped a new creative partner: her 13-year-old daughter, Jaydn. 

"I literally scroll through to make sure I am in tune with what's going on with Jaydn's age group," Xavier added.

Xavier's TikTok account took off in part because she paid close attention to the trends, according to CeCe Vu, TikTok's lead for fashion and beauty partnerships.

"She listened to the advice and best practices we shared and started experimenting with different types of fashion transitions, handbag ASMR, and other trend-centric content," Vu said of Xavier.

Brands have to be attuned to those trends, too, if they want to succeed on TikTok, said Evy Lyons, Traackr's vice president of marketing.

"Luxury fashion performs best through organic videos, where the creators are leading and making the trends," she said.

Vu said she encourages brands to rely on the creativity of the creators who know their audiences and how the app's trends work.

Some luxury brands, like Hugo Boss, have taken that advice.

"We are currently jumping on trends, and working closely with creators in order to develop a loyal community base for our brand," said Lüder Fromm, the director of global marketing and brand communications for Hugo Boss, who has worked with Xavier on TikTok content.

But even if brands partner with savvy creators like Xavier, and understand trends, they must confront the reality that a platform dominated by a younger audience might not be an immediate driver of sales.

wish picking a look was always this simple @revolve##fashion ##outfitideas

For brands, working with aspirational influencers drives brand awareness — while conversion is still an afterthought

For luxury fashion brands, turning TikTok views into sales isn't as easy as it is for more affordable, fast fashion brands, which have reported recent increases in sales and are popular among Gen-Z consumers.

"We're really still approaching [TikTok and Instagram] as a way to first and foremost, increase our brand awareness, really get that inspiration and that vibe about what Revolve is about," said Raissa Gerona, the chief brand officer for Revolve.

The clothing retailer is known for its partnerships with celebs like the Kardashians, hosting glamorous events, and having a robust Instagram influencer strategy. But Revolve's average shopping cart is about $200, the company said, which is a price point that doesn't necessarily invite younger shoppers on TikTok.

For Revolve, influencers like Xavier can help drive awareness of the brand, even if the viewer can't yet afford to buy a dress from the retailer. It's the fostering of a future customer, rather than a direct purchase.

"Brands have a chance to tell their stories to the consumers of tomorrow," said Vu, the TikTok exec.

"She's very aspirational," Gerona said of Xavier. Xavier posts outfits with luxury brands like Dior and items that her younger followers on TikTok (including her daughter) cannot realistically buy. At the same time, she also works with brands like H&M and Amazon, which offer more affordable options for consumers.

And while TikTok is still testing its e-commerce features (like launching a partnership with Shopify), the direct conversion to sales is not yet there, compared to Instagram, which has more capabilities like in-app shopping and swipe-up links. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

"I think most social media platforms, you always start off as a way to connect and inspire, and then the commerce comes in a little bit after," Gerona said.

With the rise of short-form video, fashion influencers now have a new way to create content

Some content creators including Xavier said that the rise of short-form video came at just the right time, when Instagram posts weren't feeling creative enough and they needed something new. 

"It is exciting for me, on the creator side, because this industry can feel so stale sometimes, especially if you're doing the same thing every day and you're just on autopilot," Xavier said. 

Through TikTok, she's been able to expand her content style, which now includes a lot more of her personality and family, she said. And her fashion transitions — a short-form staple where she switches between outfits — are some her most popular videos.

"Even though they're fashion … they're not as much just the outfit, it's more of the experience," Xavier said. 

Short-form video has also helped a surge in styling videos or "how-to's," Gerona said. She said that short-form video content like Xavier's recent collaboration with Dior, where she styled a belt in eight different ways, are exactly what fashion brands want.

Gerona compared these "how-to's" to magazines that show how to style a piece of clothing in several ways.

"I think the how-to's is just a really easy, digestible way to do that," she said. "Like how to do something quickly and efficiently and something that feels really achievable to someone that may not be necessarily a fashion influencer."

And now with both TikTok and its new competitor Reels, Instagram's short-form video feature, Xavier only sees short form growing. 

"If you're a creator that isn't familiar with doing short-form video or you're not comfortable with it, I think to stay relevant and to be able to be competitive with the brand deals that are going to come from these video campaigns, you really have to be practicing or getting your foot in the door," Xavier said.

"Brands love the short-form video," Xavier continued. "Just the way my audience consumes and [the] Gen Z audience, it's just going more for short form in general." 

Exclusive FREE Report: The Stories Slide Deck by Business Insider Intelligence

Exclusive FREE Report: The Stories Slide Deck by Insider Intelligence

Source: Read Full Article