Share the Week - October 27, 2017

Jonathan Gardner

A weekly wrap-up of valuable insights from the world of visual content, social media, and influencer marketing.

The Unbranded-Rebranding

The shifting tides in retail have buffeted all commerce boats, with department stores and malls experimenting with everything to spas to bespoke services to lure in ecommerce-fixated millennials. It’s a sure bet that the way for retail to thrive is to offer something new and different, even if it’s simply a re-focusing of an old chestnut. Now, comes word, thanks to Bloomberg’s Sarah Halzack, that what were old generic store brands are now sexy retail “private labels” (oh, what panache).

From bricks-and-mortar Target to Amazon, there seems to be a revitalized store-brand scene, with a growing slice of sales coming from new food and fashion brands sellers have launched. Whether the sales are online or in-store, it seems logical that the big companies would want to keep a bigger portion of profits, directing buyer dollars toward their version of a product vs. a “name brand.” And, what matters: the brands seem to be putting budgets behind creating trendy, engaging products and willing to allocate marketing resources, something that would normally be pretty rare for traditional generic product lines. According to Halzack, in recent days, -- the millennial-friendly e-commerce site owned by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. -- debuted Uniquely J, a private brand that includes everything from paper towels to coffee to bulgogi sauce.

Kroger Co. recently unveiled a turnaround plan that, among other things, calls for aggressively growing three private brands. And Inc. has also been turning up the private-label heat. Since it acquired Whole Foods Market, it has begun selling the 365 by Whole Foods Brand on Amazon's website, potentially bringing new customers to that line.

And consider the impressive debut of Target Corp.'s new private-label kids' clothing brand, Cat & Jack. In roughly its first year on store shelves, it has surpassed $2 billion in sales. For context on just how huge that is, that means its annual sales are already about as large as those of Lululemon Athletica Inc.

Meanwhile, companies such as P&G and Unilever NV should take these retailer forays into private labels seriously. This could change retailers' willingness to give them prime shelf space or digital real estate for certain items, and they need to make sure they can play effective defense.

Laundering Jeans Money

Speaking of traditional vs. newfangled, the all-consuming drive for retailers to differentiate made another turn this week, with American Eagle Outfitters announcing a new experiment set to debut in New York. The AE Studio stores will feature custom-fitting for the brand’s jeans, along with features such as a laundry room, where, apparently, students will go to wash their clothes.

In a CNBC story by Lauren Thomas, the brand outlined its prototype for a shopping experience that -- in keeping with what other major retailers and brands are experimenting with -- will offer something unique for the offline world.

However, as Thomas describes, this experience seems to interestingly blend in tres-millennial-focused features: Other additions include iPads in the dressing rooms to serve as "digital concierges." American Eagle said its own social media team will also operate an office in the store to be closer to shoppers and "keep their finger on the pulse of the brand."

So, we should expect to soon see Instagram stories of happy young people washing their clothes in a store in Union Square.

Cosmetic Social Makeover

Maybe you’re still not convinced the world is changing for retail and brands? This week, we released research on the massive beauty space, and boy have we got news for you. We looked at a key group of companies -- Maybelline, Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, Revlon and Lime Crime -- which eat up a lot of cosmetic sales. The hot take: established brands like Maybelline are doing really well on social media, getting high engagement and building an audience; however, challengers such as Lime Crime are increasing how much content they’re posting on channels such as Instagram, becoming a credible threat.

Visual content has become the critical commerce-driving currency for brands on social media, and there’s a long list of challenger brands that are prepared to take advantage. Companies such as Lime Crime, Kylie Cosmetics and Glossier are coming of age in a new era of greater marketing emphasis on new channels such as social and earned media, with less reliance on costly, nebulous vehicles like ad tech and paid media. As David Kirkpatrick said in industry publication Mobile Marketer: The ShareIQ study emphasized the importance of a visual content strategy for cosmetics brands and highlighted Maybelline's as a "smart" model designed to bolster interactions with beauty consumers through social media and influencers.

As more consumers look to online beauty bloggers and visual-based social platforms like Pinterest, Instagram and Youtube for makeup tips, cosmetics brands are following suit and beefing up their digital strategies in response, especially as younger audiences grow more willing to experiment with digital and social beauty innovations that were never previously available.

Leveraging social media to drive engagement and sales -- both online and in brick-and-mortar stores -- will only become more essential as the beauty and retail landscapes continue to be disrupted by e-commerce sites like Amazon. It's logical that cosmetics brands -- particularly established ones with greater bandwidth like Maybelline -- are beefing up their social presence to attract tech-savvy and young consumers.

The Best of the Rest

MarTech Advisor - How to Make Your Earned Media More Accountable

VentureBeat - How Pinterest uses AI to learn (and sell) your style

Luxury Society - Feeding China's Value-Obsessed, Data-Hungry Shopping Travellers

Mobile Payments Today - Contextual commerce still finding its way

A weekly wrap-up of valuable insights from the world of visual content, social media, and influencer marketing
Jonathan Gardner

Jonathan is vice president of marketing for ShareIQ, based in New York City.