Influencers know what their followers like — and now, they’re starting to make it for them.
MagicLinks, an agency that links influencers and brand partners and tracks subsequent sales conversions, is launching a new program where it links influencers to manufacturers. Using product and price data MagicLinks has on an individual influencer’s sales, it can help guide in terms of what products he or she will be able to sell. Armed with that information, influencers can speak to MagicLinks’ manufacturing partners to design and sell nearly anything — from mugs to handbags.
“We can manufacture products across the board for them, but really where we’re specializing is identifying the products the influencer is selling now and that the audience is already buying from outside retailers and [allowing them to manufacture and sell it],” said Lisa Goldstone Herman, head of talent relations at MagicLinks.
The new program is called Iconic Style. The first influencer collection, from Stephanie Macedo, a micro-influencer with around 87,000 YouTube subscribers and 24,700 Instagram followers, launches mid July. It will include three iPhone cases, and two different styles of T-shirts.
“Stephanie is more of a fast-fashion creator, so her style is very different from someone who might be luxury or makeup,” Herman said. The product will be sold on Macedo’s own landing page, and she’ll promote the items on social media.
Macedo will post about the collection on social media. Then, her manufacturing partners will spring into action, making sure there are enough products to fill all the orders. Being sold out is not the goal, according to Herman.
“It’s essentially a drop where an influencer sets it live and notifies their fans, and a collection could be available for an hour or up to two weeks, and then it’s closed,” Herman said. “It’s not necessarily going to sell out because the idea is that quantity isn’t what’s limited, but the time to purchase is what’s limited.”
Influencers have the freedom to bring back designs that their fans want — but followers never know if they will.
“What might be cool and trendy now might not be trendy in two or three weeks, and influencers want to capitalize on that. Maybe they’re selling biker shorts today and neon sweaters tomorrow,” Herman said.
The Iconic Style program is only available to top MagicLinks users — the influencers who convert the most — and the company is hoping to scale across those ranks quickly.
“They have to be MagicLinks users because the differentiator is that we’re using the data,” Herman said. “Other people have tried, but the missing piece is when they look at the influencer they base [things] on subscriber size…you don’t actually know what that audience is going to purchase.”
MagicLinks isn’t the only company out there helping content creators launch their own products. There’s also TeeSpring, which powers YouTube’s merch shelf, and HipDot Studios, which is working on a Spongebob beauty collection (and calling the character an “animated influencer”). There’s also Iconery, which handles jewelry production for influencers, and Seed, which manufactures the makeup collections of Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian, as well as owned brand Colourpop.
“[Influencers] get dismissed frequently as not an important group, but they understand their base very well and they often have great taste and style, and they understand how those things meet,” said Lynsey Thornton, vice president of user experience and general manager for core product at Shopify, which has created social-media shopping integrations across platforms. That position puts influencers in an “ideal position” to help drive the social media shopping conversation forward, she said.
“The way forward at the moment is to continue to experiment,” she said. “It’s still so early in social shopping.”
With TeeSpring, which has a partnership with YouTube, creators can design and sell their own merch. For YouTube creators who are part of the platform’s partner program, meaning they meet minimum requirements for subscribers and watch time hours, they can load TeeSpring merchandise onto their merch shelf and fans can shop from just under their YouTube videos.
Orders are fulfilled after they are received, meaning there is no excess inventory, and TeeSpring handles manufacturing and shipping.
TeeSpring works by setting a base price for creators — $10 for a T-shirt, for example — and then letting them decide design and end pricing. The business works with more than 130,000 creators to design all kinds of apparel items that it makes in its owned manufacturing facility. If TeeSpring can’t make the item, it’ll partner with a company that can to produce the product.
This was the case for a Lucas the Spider stuffed animal, related to the cartoon YouTube channel about the everyday adventures of a spider.
“That was a YouTube channel that went viral, and they wanted to create a plushy toy, and we helped him find a manufacturer and we sourced all the product into the fulfillment center, and we ended up selling 85,000 of those plushy toys,” said Chris Lamontagne, chief executive officer of TeeSpring.
At $20 each, that’s $1.7 million worth of stuffed spiders.
“What works really well is when people create merch linked to their content,” said Lamontagne. “We see successful people, if they’ve got a character or an inside joke, they’ll create merchandise around that to create tribe status.”
TeeSpring’s services also work on other social media platforms, including Instagram and Facebook and video game streaming platform Twitch. Right now, the business only manufactures apparel — but beauty is not out of the question, Lamontagne said.
“I’d love to get to a place where we could do branded makeup brushes or branded makeup even…we’d have to add it, but that’s the beauty of having your own fulfillment infrastructure…it’s a question of what makes the most sense in terms of what categories sell.”
HipDot, the agency behind the Spongebob concept, aims to provide an end-to-end offering for influencers and celebrities that are looking to launch their own beauty lines.
The group, launched in its current iteration in March by beauty veteran Samantha Lim and tech entrepreneurs Jeff Sellinger and Mo Winter, creates capsule collections and co-branded beauty products. Co-branded products are sold on HipDot’s site, and the business plans to build out brand sites and Shopify shops for capsule collections, Lim said.
On the back end, HipDot partners with a slew of outside manufacturers to create the actual beauty products, Lim said. While right now the business is direct-to-consumer, it is open to partnering with retailers, she noted. Aside from the Spongebob project, HipDot also launched an eyeshadow palette with HeyRooney, an illustrator and micro-influencer with 55,000 Instagram followers.
That collaboration sold out in four days, and continued “to sell through really well all the way through Pride month,” Lim said. “Glitter and Pride is year-round.”
The Spongebob collection, which HipDot is doing in collaboration with Nickelodeon, is in celebration of the character’s 20th anniversary, Lim said. It also comes on the heels of “a lot of edgy Spongebob news,” she said, ticking off the Jeremy Scott Spongebob collection, Kith Spongebob collection, and sale of the Kaws Spongebob painting at Phillips for $6 million as relevant cultural moments.
“I’m not looking for a specific type of influencer,” Lim said. “When it comes to developing and being ready for your own beauty brand, there are a few considerations,” she noted, like if the person has a beauty audience and if they genuinely have a tie into the beauty world.
“I’m never going to say, ‘that’s a great person to do a brand with because they have x number of followers.’ A lot more personality goes into it. Are they ready to split their focus and devote the marketing time to having a beauty brand? Are they going to be excited about product development?” Lim said.
HipDot expects to push out several collections a year going forward, Lim said, and is in talks with music artists at the moment. Lim suspects influencer brands are going to pop in “in every vertical of shopping,” she said.
“Social media has really changed the game of influencing our purchase behavior,” she said. Years ago, people trusted product reviews—now, they trust influencers. “You feel so connected to people through their social media, through their profiles, that when they recommend a product you feel it’s that trusted consumer review. It’s not that big corporate giant with no face that’s telling you what to buy and what you should like. Regardless of how true it is that Kim Kardashian is your friend, you feel like you are friends with her and you trust her opinion. That is a whole new generation of consumers that are coming up that are really native to social media and having that be part of their education and exposure to shopping.”
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