How retailers should respond when media turns social

Coach is bringing influencer Lil Nas X to the metaverse.

A strong social media presence is no longer optional for omnichannel retailers.

In many respects and especially for younger consumers, "social media" has replaced "media" as the channel where they receive information and entertainment. As engagement with traditional forms of media like TV and periodicals plummets, social media usage continues climbing. 

Social media is also increasingly becoming a channel for consumers to learn about, and even purchase, products. A recent survey from Nfinite shows 84% of Gen Z consumers have made multiple purchases through social media ads and content, and a recent Adobe Express survey reveals 98% of Gen Z respondents and 91% of millennial respondents prefer video for digital marketing content.

So what should retailers do in the face of the socialization of consumer media habits? Following are three specific social media strategies retailers should investigate.


In a recent example of a holistic social influencer strategy, specialty jewelry and accessories brand Claire’s Holdings LLC, which focuses on what it calls "Gen Zalpha" customers (Gen Z and Gen Alpha tweens and teens), is launching a new brand platform known as “The Collab.” The platform is designed to enable Claire’s customers and global young consumers to provide content and engage in social dialogue.

The Collab will launch with a select group of Gen Zalpha influencers for spring and add more influencers throughout the year. The influencers will advise Claire’s in its creative direction across content, communications and activations, including in-store experiences. 

Teen apparel and accessories retailer Pacsun is rolling out a similar initiative called the Pacsun Collective, a community of Gen Z creative influencers that will take part in its creative process and help shape future campaigns and merchandise. 

Meanwhile, specialty retailer Coach is unveiling "Find Your Courage," a metaverse campaign featuring virtual human, model and digital creator Imma along with computer generated imagery (CGI)-created versions of musical artists Lil Nas X and Youngii Lee, actresses Camila Mendes and Wu Jinyan, and model Kōki. 

Social partnerships

Retailers can also directly partner with popular social media platforms to ensure their presence in the digital spaces where consumers are spending time. In one such effort, Peloton is looking to broaden its appeal by collaborating with TikTok

The partnership will create a co-branded fitness hub — called #TikTokFitness Powered by Peloton — that will be available on the popular social media platform in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. For the first time, Peloton will produce original social content for a partner outside of its owned channels. 

The programming will include select live Peloton classes (with and without equipment required), original instructor series, ongoing creator partnerships, Peloton class clips and celebrity collaborations. All content will be accessible via the #TikTokFitness hashtag, curated on the Peloton hub.  

In addition, Peloton's recent "Anyone. Anytime. Anywhere." brand initiative will prominently feature in the look and feel of the Peloton hub and be integrated into curated content. 

TikTok, which solidified its presence in the U.S. digital retail space by launching the TikTok Shop e-commerce storefront in September 2023, has also partnered in the past several months with retailers as diverse as Walmart, Newegg and Marshalls. Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), Instagram and YouTube all have some type of digital commerce capability.

Immersive games

Retailers can also find ways to insert themselves into the rapidly growing medium of immersive games. Forever 21 recently teamed up with Mattel to offer an exclusive Barbie-themed collection — in the metaverse and the "real world."

The fast-fashion retailer offered the "Forever 21 x Barbie" capsule on its mobile app and e-commerce site, as well as at select stores, and virtually on the Roblox immersive gaming platform. Co-developed with Mattel, the collection features 76 pieces across a range of apparel categories.

Additionally, Forever 21, in partnership with Virtual Brand Group (VBG), has created an artificial intelligence (AI)-designed virtual Forever 21 x Barbie fashion collection available exclusively on its Shop City metaverse experience on Roblox, which allows users to build and operate their own fashion store.

The virtual collection will mirror the in-store assortment and offer metaverse-exclusive Forever 21 x Barbie designs. A portion of the virtual collection will only be available as a limited edition, and all visitors to the Shop City Barbie experience on Roblox will have an opportunity to obtain free Forever 21 x Barbie fashion items.

Forever 21 initially partnered with Mattel to release a special assortment of vintage style apparel items, swim, sleepwear, beauty, accessories, and home décor, inspired by the Mattel Barbie DreamHouse line of toys, both physically and in the metaverse, in June 2022.

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