From Aerie to Zara, retailers are turning viral TikTok movies into gross sales

A TikTok logo that appears on a smartphone.

Filip Radwanski | SOPA pictures | LightRakete | Getty Images

When a Lululemon skort went viral on TikTok earlier this summer, 16-year-old Kylie knew she needed to get her hands on it.

But when she searched for her size on Lululemon’s website, it was already sold out. The coveted skort – part skirt, part shorts with a two-inch inseam – was also completely bought up at a nearby store in Boulder, Colorado, according to Kylie’s mother.

The teen then relied on her favorite TikTok influencers, who often post #fashionhauls and #OOTD (Outfit of the Day), to warn them when the skort would be back on sale. She also kept a close eye on other hashtags on the social platform such as “#preppy” and “#closettour” during her school days. Ultimately, Kylie snapped it up at a larger size and resized it for changes.

“My kids now come to me all the time and show me TikTok videos, point to them and say, ‘I want to buy this’ or ‘I think this is cute for autumn’,” said Nicole Leinbach, a resident of Boulder, who is the mother of Kylie and 13 year old Claire. “They are definitely leaning on TikTok to help them do what they want.”

It used to be a trip to the mall with friends, but today, many teenagers scour TikTok for inspiration. Connected to their phones, this generation spends an average of 12 hours a week using social media apps. They want authenticity and individualism, with clothing serving as a key form of self-expression, but Gen Z social habits show that they seek advice from others they trust before deciding on a dress or pair of trainers.

Thanks to TikTok’s easily searchable hashtags and the power of influencer accounts with a few thousand to millions of followers, viral sensations for products like the Lululemon Skort keep popping up. For Zara, it was wide-leg jeans, while Aerie sold out leggings with a unique cross-over waist. Before Valentine’s Day, Kate Spade sold a heart-shaped bag thanks to a popular TikTok video. As retailers have a bigger opportunity in their sights, they are looking for ways to capitalize on those viral moments. And it is likely to become an even bigger part of business strategies this back to school season.

“TikTok has the ability to go viral faster than anything we see on Instagram,” said Jessica Ramirez, retail research analyst at Jane Hali & Associates. “This is a huge advantage for dealers.”

Gap’s hoodie moment

In January, TikTok star Barbara Kristoffersen posted a video in which she wears the iconic Gap logo hoodie in dark brown. It was a vintage find. Gap hadn’t made this style in more than a decade.

Fueled by the power of TikTok influencers and their devout followers, brown hoodies hit resale sites for up to $ 300. People with the hoodie tucked away in the back of their closets shared videos pairing it with Louis Vuitton bags and other luxury brands in neutral tones.

After going viral on TikTok, Gap is relaunching its logo hoodie in a brown color. It is currently available for pre-sale.

Source: Gap PR

Kristoffersen’s post has garnered nearly 2 million views since then. And the hashtag “#gaphoodie” has more than 6.6 million views – and the trend is rising – on TikTok.

Gap noticed the momentum shortly after Kristoffersen’s post and started sending her more logo hoodies in different colors. The company also sent out hoodies to a handful of other TikTok users. The retailer’s strategy has been to rely heavily on the influencer community, Gap Chief Marketing Officer Mary Alderete explained in an interview.

“We started [a TikTok] Account, but we didn’t rush to post a lot of posts, “she said.” These creators are getting ahead there … and they are literally influencing what the trends are. “

To open up even greater sales opportunities, Gap decided to make a new batch of brown logo hoodies. The product is available in advance and will be shipped this autumn. The company has also partnered with TikTok to crowdsource its next color based on user votes.

“I don’t think we ever expected the arch logo [hoodie] – It’s a classic of ours – but I don’t think we really expected it to take off like this, ”said Alderete. “The most important thing is that you can’t really force it. You have to drive it. “

After a winning color is selected, the new hoodies will appear just in time for shopping in the Gap stores and their website, Alderete said. Holidays aside, it’s one of the busiest sales times of the year.

Gap also expects the renewed dynamic of its bold logo to benefit Gap Teen, a clothing industry launched for tween and teen girls in early 2020.

“We have a back-to-school campaign for our children, but we wanted to do something disruptive for teens back to school,” Alderete said. “And that crowdsourcing job was our teenage approach.”

Teens love #tinytops

Teenage retailer Aeropostale is borrowing from a similar viral experience it had with its crop tops.

The hashtag “#tinytops” started to explode on TikTok in early April, and some of Aeropostale’s merchandise was in the mix, along with American Eagle and Abercrombie & Fitch. The trend is related to crop tops, which have grown in popularity in recent months, especially among tweens and teens who combine the skin-bare shirts with high-waisted and looser bottoms.

“It’s very 90s, year 2000 – as the bulkier bottoms get bigger, the tops get smaller and smaller,” said Natalie Levy, president and chief merchandise officer at Aeropostale parent company SPARC.

Aeropostale found itself trending on TikTok when the hashtag “#tinytops” went viral among fashion influencers.

Source: SPARC PR

After some TikTok posts went viral, including one from Lexi Hidalgo who has more than 1.6 million followers, people not only visited the Aeropostale website looking for the crop tops, but also came into stores and asked employees specifically for “TikTok articles,” said Levy.

Aeropostale was quick to respond. There are now sections of his stores dedicated to clothing that went viral on TikTok: crop tops, baggy denim, and oversized sweatpants. These are retained throughout the entire school period.

“The great thing is that we don’t pay for celebrity influencers or talent … it just happened organically,” added Levy. “We are really authentic.”

However, some retailers have taken the approach of directly tapping into well-known talent. The Hollister brand from Abercrombie & Fitch has launched a new clothing line called Social Tourist in collaboration with TikTok superstars Dixie and Charli D’Amelio. The terms of the deal were never disclosed, but Abercrombie said it had a multi-year deal with the sisters, who collectively have more than 170 million followers.

Share ideas with a stranger

Growing content organically to reach consumers under the age of 24 might be the best approach, according to a Gen Z expert.

Hana Ben-Shabat, founder of the consulting and research company Gen Z Planet, said that many younger TikTok users prefer to see posts from so-called micro or nano influencers who may only have a few hundred or thousand followers. You feel that unlike the D’Amelio sisters, these people are much more relatable, she said.

“This is a generation that seeks authenticity in everything they do,” said Ben-Shabat, who is also the author of the upcoming book “Gen Z 360: Preparing for the Inevitable Change in Culture, Work and Commerce”. “Tiktok is a platform that enables you to go there and be yourself. ‘Be yourself’ is the mantra of Generation Z. There is no doubt about that. “

“And how do you best express individuality? Beauty and fashion, ”she said.

However, across generations, there is clearly a growing consensus among people to shop directly through social media apps.

According to eMarketer, US social commerce revenue is expected to grow 35.8% this year to $ 36.62 billion. That would mean a slight slowdown from 2020’s 38.9% growth in 2020, eMarketer said as the Covid pandemic left more people shopping at home and from their phones. EMarketer defines social commerce as products or services that are ordered through social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok.

The US is lagging behind China, where, according to eMarketer data, social commerce revenue is expected to eclipse $ 351.65 billion in 2021.

EMarketer does not break down social commerce spending by generation. However, it is worth noting that TikTok usage among teens is still increasing compared to other social platforms. According to a survey by Piper Sandler of 7,000 teenagers from February 19 to March 24, TikTok is now the second favorite social media app among teenagers. It steals shares from Instagram and Snapchat.

And earlier this month, TikTok announced that it would be giving all users the ability to create 3-minute videos in the coming weeks. The postponement could make the app even more attractive for influencers and makers who hope to share longer content such as longer fashion spreads or beauty tutorials.

According to a Deloitte survey of 1,200 consumers, 41 percent of school beginners plan to use social media platforms to help them make purchasing decisions before heading back to the classroom. This is the highest percentage that Deloitte has recorded in the six years in which this question was asked.

“People are attracted to the idea of ​​another stranger sharing ideas, be it their fashion style or just their thoughts,” said 43-year-old Leinbach about her daughters who spend time with TikTok.

“TikTok users don’t want brands to try to push them. They are looking for influencers to get inspiration, ”she added. “They also feel like their own influencers in their smaller networks in many ways.”

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