LONDON — Fashion influencer and personal shopper Bettina Looney is stepping out of the mobile screen and into her customers’ lives with a fashion concierge company that’s all about personalization — and transparency.
With a background in online personal shopping and 28,000 Instagram followers, Looney is looking to fill what she sees as a market niche: face-to-face services. She also wants to respond personally to an increasing number of followers who contact her via Instagram message to request to buy the products she features.
“As retail begins to take a more digital approach, the market is still missing that personal touch,” said Looney, whose company, Bettina Looney Ltd., caters to a diverse group of women on a global scale.
She communicates with her clients via WhatsApp chats and also travels on a regular basis to visit them — and their wardrobes — for one-on-one appointments. Looney is also leveraging her status on Instagram, giving her clients early access to the latest new brands, trends and products she works with as an influencer.
Looney is not alone: She represents a new crop of microinfluencers who can speak to targeted demographics and offer additional services to their followers beyond the usual aspirational imagery flooding their feeds. Her following consists of style-savvy women living in London or New York.
“By being involved in the industry as an influencer, I am able to preview product well in advance of its expected launch and see how I can work these pieces into my own wardrobe and those of others,” Looney said. “In regards to collaborations, it’s fun to experiment with new looks from brands that I am working with, as it allows me to be a little more proactive in spotting ‘cult’ pieces that will also reflect the style of my clientele.”
Unlike other digital-first, young businesses, Looney does not only target social media-savvy Millennials. Instead, she believes this is a service that can lend itself to any woman “who wants it, appreciates it and needs it.”
Looney’s platform also offers a big opportunity for brands and retailers to connect with the right audience. Up-and-coming designers who work with Looney in her influencer capacity can simultaneously create an alternative route to gaining visibility in different markets and client bases.
“If it’s a product that I believe in 100 percent, that I also think my clients would enjoy, then why not work with these new labels?” she added. “It offers a more organic way to introduce pieces that I love to the women I look after,” while creating content around them.
This week she will be debuting a collaboration collection with the up-and-coming British jewelry brand By Alona, promoted via Instagram content as well as private selling events.
Looney also works alongside the personal shopping teams of some retailers. She recently teamed with Matchesfashion.com on two separate projects. She promoted the retailer’s latest collection of Stella McCartney opticals via sponsored posts on Instagram. At the same time, she joined forces with the retailer’s personal shoppers during a client trip to Dubai, and curated a series of pieces from their summer edit for her own Dubai-based customers.
Looney makes a point to meet regular clients in person, in order to get a better sense of their style and be able to offer them product recommendations tailored to their needs. Without those personal visits, “you just become this name behind a WhatsApp chat,” she said.
Her pitch is also about quality over quantity — and transparency.
“The difference with other concierge companies is that often shoppers have a quota to reach to break into the next level and make their bonus. It’s a really aggressive way to make personal shoppers sell, and you are forgetting that the people shopping on the other end of the phone are not robots. The needs and goals of clients and their wardrobe should not be treated equally, for some it’s just a matter of a few pieces to complete or refine their personal collection. The idea is to curate pieces that satisfy them individually,” Looney said. “There are always other ways both the client and myself as a company can grow without having to over-saturate their closets or overwhelm the overall experience.”
Looney said she’s not afraid of advising customers against buying products they don’t need, offering discounts for high-priced fine jewelry pieces, or reselling unwanted items on platforms such as Vestiaire Collective, The Real Real or 1st Dibs, among others, so that customers can build up credit for future purchases. The company doesn’t impose any price limits and can source anything for clients, from high-street pieces to fine watches and beauty products that are only available in the U.S.
“You want to create a safe space when it comes to shopping, because that’s what e-commerce is missing,” Looney added. “I have some clients that have up to 15,000 pounds worth of credit that they can use. That could be a beautiful, exotic Chanel bag, or even a piece of fine jewelry.”