January 7, 2020: Instagram launches Brand Collabs Manager; Amazon leans into fashion and integrates Alexa into cars; L’Oréal launches influencer-led AI gadget; TikTok collab houses emerge
Happy New Year! Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:
Facebook Expands Brand Collabs Manager to Instagram
At the end of December, Instagram began testing Facebook’s Brand Collabs Manager with roughly 40 creators in the U.S.
Remind me, what’s Facebook’s Brand Collabs Manager?
The tool, which has been in use on Facebook since 2018, is part of Facebook’s effort to help facilitate the relationships between brands and influencers for branded content partnerships. The tool itself is essentially an influencer marketplace (i.e., search engine) that allows brands to find relevant, on-platform influencers to activate based on influencers’ descriptions, follower counts, content categories, and audience demographics. Brands have the opportunity to contact influencers who fit the criteria to apply to a project brief, and once they’ve begun working together, the Brand Collabs Manager provides insights on sponsored posts — like the age, gender, and location of a post’s audience.
So how does the tool work on Instagram?
On Instagram, the tool works in the same capacity; brands can search for influencers based on influencer and audience demographic information, and once a brand and influencer have begun working together, the tool provides the same insights on sponsored posts. Using the tool, brands on Instagram can now see insights when they’re tagged in branded content in the Brand Collabs Manager, the Instagram app, and, of course, via the Instagram Graph API (which we’re integrated).
We’ve always believed that the platform that invests the most in the creator experience and creator monetization will maintain creators’ preference and market share. As the majority of creators’ primary platform, Instagram continues to make moves to remain creators’ platform of choice, in turn, vying for a larger slice of the $8 billion influencer marketing economy. With the expansion of tools such as the Brand Collabs Manager and various shopping features such as “Checkout on Instagram,” and “Shop from Creators,” Instagram is making it easier for creators to monetize their influence on the platform.
Amazon, but Make it Fashion
Over the last year, Amazon has been launching new fashion-focused services and fashion brands, and it looks like the best is yet to come.
Bring me up to speed on all things Amazon fashion.
Amazon’s fashion roots can be traced back to early 2006, when it acquired Shopbop, bringing designer brands such as Veja, Theory, and Alice + Olivia onto the platform. Over the last few years, Amazon has expanded its fashion footprint and reached more consumers, specifically by launching various private-label clothing brands set at more affordable price points, a StitchFix-style subscription box, a Rent The Runway-style Prime Wardrobe box (setting the foundation for sustainable offerings through clothing rentals), and, most recently, venturing into the world of influencer-to-consumer (ITC) brands as seen with The Drop.
Although it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Amazon in the world of fashion (see: Nike’s plans to pull inventory), Amazon has seen promising results with some of its most recent influencer-led fashion initiatives. Case in point: the infamous “Amazon Coat,” which, largely as a result of influencer adoption, drove virality and became the top selling fashion item on Amazon last year, racking up more than 7,000 reviews, an average star rating of 4.5, and resulting in leading fashion brands duplicating the coat – highlighting Amazon’s role in contributing to cult fashion culture.
Similarly, The Drop has proven to be a widely successful fashion venture for Amazon and, although the e-commerce giant hasn’t released sales figures, six months in and 13 Drops later, it is preparing for drops every two to three weeks in 2020. Notably paramount to The Drop’s success has been influencers’ abilities to provide insight into what works via exclusive and short-lived collabs.
Amazon already has so much data on consumer preferences and buying habits, and moving forward, it has the opportunity to expand more into personalized recommendations for consumers’ fashion experiences on and off the platform (think: influencer fashion tips via Alexa, curated influencer subscription boxes, etc.). Additionally, Amazon can also apply this same logic to influencers by equipping them with the resources needed to prove their influence and expand/diversify their own brands.
Instagram, for instance, has leveraged personalization to influence consumers’ and influencers’ shopping experiences, and is predicted to emerge as an Amazon competitor in the world of fashion this year – provided it can secure the right partnerships (like Shopify). The platform has leveraged the mass of content on its platform to equip brands to deliver personalized and relevant shopping experiences to consumers and, as mentioned in the story above, has built tools to enable seamless, in-feed shopping experiences. This has not only led to a new generation of brands (DTC), but has also driven sales for legacy brands that are now able to drive sales at the point of discovery.
Not Unrelated: Amazon’s Alexa Goes for a Ride
Ahead of CES 2020, Amazon made several announcements that target the auto industry, including partnerships with Lamborghini and Rivian, new auto-specific skills for Alexa, a market expansion for its Echo Auto device, and a plan to bring its Fire TV edition into future BMW and Fiat Chrysler vehicles.
Alexa, give me the deets.
While Alexa is already available in Audi, BMW, Ford, and Toyota vehicles, starting this year, Lamborghini will bring the assistant to its Hurricane EVO range. Additionally, Amazon-backed Rivian will integrate Alexa into its first two all-electric vehicles, as well as its 100,000 new, all-electric Amazon delivery vans. When the integration is complete at the end of 2020, Rivian owners will be able to ask Alexa to control in-car features (i.e., windows, opening and closing trunk, seat heaters) and they’ll be able to check on gear remotely by accessing the vehicle’s bed camera from screen-based devices such as Echo Show and Fire TV.
Amazon has also developed new, auto-specific skills for the voice-assistant, like the ability for drivers to pay for gas at all Exxon and Mobil stations by saying “Alexa, pay for gas.” Notably, Amazon is also looking to target other voice-driven experiences in the car and announced new integrations with companies that offer navigation services, like Bosch, HERE, and TomTom.
Alexa, tell me about yourself.
It was a big year for Alexa. More than 100,000 third-party voice apps are now available from the Alexa Skills Store, up from 80,000 last February. Customers now interact with Alexa billions of times each week across hundreds of millions of devices, up from 100 million devices last January. Alexa also now supports more than 100,000 smart home products from more than 9,500 brands.
With Amazon’s new car integrations, it is continuing to expand the level of consumer data that it has with GPS and localization data. As a result, these new integrations have the potential to give rise to a new in-car experience, with in-car entertainment becoming more integrated and, of course, self-driving cars becoming the new reality.
Additionally, with the integration of GPS, consumers may have the ability to start commands like, “Alexa, take me to this influencer’s favorite restaurants,” or “Upload influencer itineraries,” as part of a travel experience. Ratings and reviews also could come into play here, as passengers would be able to say, “Alexa, take me to the top rated XYZ restaurant/experience in XYZ destination.”
Creator Collab Houses: A Deep Dive
A new generation of Gen Z stars, who have gained virality and fame through TikTok, have begun flocking to “collab houses” in Los Angeles, like HypeHouse, to join a network of like-minded individuals and create content.
WTF are collab houses?
Collab houses, also known as content houses, are an established tradition in the influencer world. Over the past five years, influencers have formed a network of hubs across LA. With a purpose of aiding in influencers’ productivity around content creation, collab houses are usually beautiful mansions with lots of natural light, open space, and minimal furniture – ideal for content creation. Often times, these houses are located within gated communities and away from neighbors to keep fans away from interrupting the content creation process. While some influencers live permanently in the houses, others just stay while they are in town. In a way, collab houses serve as modern day artist collectives, equal parts WeWork and Airbnb for creators.
Sounds like the perfect storm for parties? Think again.
Most of these houses maintain strict rules and don’t allow parties, underage drinking/drugs, or reckless behavior since this would place creators in jeopardy of losing the house (most are rentals). As a member of the collab house HypeHouse put it, “If someone slips up constantly, they’ll not be part of this team anymore… This whole house is designed for productivity. If you want to party, there’s hundreds of houses that throw parties in L.A. every weekend. We don’t want to be that. It’s not in line with anyone in this house’s brand. This house is creating something big, and you can’t do that if you’re going out on the weekends.”
What are the benefits for influencers?
For influencers, the benefits of being part of a collab house center around teamwork, which can often lead to faster career growth, in addition to being exposed to new ways of thinking, verticals, and content formats. Collab houses also offer influencers a network of peers who can provide emotional support surrounding the stress, attention, and anxiety that can come with internet fame.
Although these houses aim to be drama-free, they aren’t entirely utopian for creators. Inevitably, when decisions around money (and the distribution of it) come up, they have the potential to tear the house apart. As MaiLinh Nguyen, a former videographer for YouTuber Jake Paul put it, “At some point, if they want to do a pop-up shop or release merch, they need to figure out how to divvy things up financially and they’re going to have to legitimize it as a business.”
Since the dawn of time, artists have come together in communal culture, as seen with salons, houses, and collectives, and collab houses are an evolution of that. While the concept of a collab house isn’t entirely new (YouTubers and Viners have been doing this for awhile), it’s interesting to note the rate at which this type of behavior is transcending generations and being somewhat remixed for the current state of culture, with Gen Z’ers now partaking in TikTok houses.
Where these houses largely exist for content creation purposes, it doesn’t seem unlikely that provided the business savvy and leadership, they could evolve into legitimate studios or production companies – after all, tech companies like Apple and Microsoft started in a garage, what’s to say collab houses couldn’t be the next proverbial garage?
L’Oréal Leans into Influencer-Led AI for Launch of Perso
At CES 2020, L’Oréal announced the release of its Bluetooth-connected Perso, a gadget that mixes lipstick, foundation, or a skincare regimen that’s customized to whoever owns it. The coolest part? The device’s companion app can pull trending images from social media to re-create a specific look from your favorite influencer. You can see the whole video for the device here.
L’Oreal has become a leader in all things beauty innovation – specifically leveraging AR and AI to let shoppers virtually try on products before buying, which has shown to make customers 3 times as likely to ultimately make a purchase.
As seen with Perso, the future of beauty is tech-enabled and influencer-led. We’re likely to continue to see innovative beauty brands leverage AI to deliver not just personalized experiences, but personalized products, based on influencer looks and recommendations. While the tech plays a role in accelerating the buying experience, in order to deliver these experiences, influencers are crucial since it is their content that is actually driving sales – both on and offline.