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Video Is the X Factor for Reaching Gen Z

Gen Z isn’t interested in engaging with fashion on the terms of their parents’ by-gone era—and brands are responding by meeting young adults on their mobile-social turf.

If eyes are the window into the soul, then smartphones have become the pane through which modern companies can grab a few moments of a digital generation’s elusive attention.

And live streaming is proving its prowess as an increasingly popular method of capturing consumers constantly on the prowl for something worth pausing Fortnite, NBA 2K or whatever’s auto-playing on YouTube.

Capping off a year that introduced a rash of new video shopping entrants to digital retail, Hong Kong-based fast-fashion brand Zaful debuted a live streaming collab timed to the bustling holiday shopping season. The cheap and chic clothing brand, playing in a sandbox similar to Fashion Nova and Shein—which offers garments starting at $6—has teamed up with Live Me’s Fashion House to put its ultra-low-cost dresses, skirts, blouses and more in front of a coveted audience.

The video streaming initiative targets brands’ most-wanted cohort: Gen Z and millennial consumers ages 18 to 35 years old, merging the home shopping format popularized by the likes of QVC and HSN with influencers who can go toe to toe against bona fide celebrities in setting fashion’s agenda and persuading consumers to spend.

LiveMe’s Fashion House—which flows a partnership between LiveMe’s live broadcasting platform and iHeartRadio’s 102.7 KIIS FM station—gives the “mobile-first generation” access to holiday discounts on a range of outfitting essentials for the final two weeks of 2019. The partnership has a LiveMe broadcaster wearing and promoting a Zaful outfit during a three-hour span each evening from Dec. 16-31.

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Zaful richly rewards viewers for tuning in by offering the most dramatic markdowns on products modeled during the broadcast, though items are discounted via links and codes through the end of the month.

“Fashion is highly popular with our ever-fickle Gen Y-Z audience,” LiveMe said in a statement, “and Fashion House provides the perfect vertical to our users, combining the ease of e-commerce shopping with the influential power of persuasive content.

“We’re pleased Zaful recognizes the power of our livestreaming medium and excited we can help debut their brand towards becoming the next big thing in fast-fashion,” the company added, noting its strength in bridging “legacy formats in the 21st century.”

A look at the “trends in society in entertainment” reveals how quickly the world is moving in a shoppertainment direction, Klarna chief marketing officer David Sandstrom said at a Smoooth Sessions event the European fintech unicorn hosted in New York last month. Most of the App Store’s most popular downloads are games, he claimed, and China has taken first-mover status in sensing the lucrative opportunity that comes with putting influencers, dubbed key opinion leaders, in front of the camera.

“The shows that influencers are putting on when they’re selling things is just extremely incredible when it comes to that kind of live streaming,” Sandstrom said of China’s affinity for this new realm of engagement.

A generation born with smartphone in hand and Instagram, Snapchat and Tiktok accounts seemingly as a birthright is bored, by and large, with the retail status quo of years past. New startups and initiatives hope to convert this boredom into their own bonanza.

Built for the women of Gen Z, Dote similarly gives influencers a platform to sell fashion to style-conscious teens and college students. To inaugurate its April launch of mobile livestreaming parties, the venture-capital-backed digital native, which has raised $23 million to date, recruited brands like Dolls Kill and Honeybum to pull together shoppable outfits worn during live videos by Dote’s “creators.”

DuzyTV, meanwhile, offers patented plug-and-play tech giving clients a quick and easy way to make their video content shoppable without forcing consumers to click away from what they’re watching. COO Martin Bispels sees a “huge advantage” and opportunity for brands that sell apparel.

Dropp gets a gold star for stirring some of the year’s biggest buzzwords into a potent new platform. The company’s Dropp.TV platform wields shoppable videos (through patented “See It. Want It. Get it.” artificial intelligence-powered video tech, no less) to sell streetwear in limited editions to Gen Z and whoever else is interested.

Other new commerce offerings are betting on the streetwear angle, and power of urban youth culture, as well. Earlier this month, Complex debuted a new destination where consumers of its culture-focused content can purchase a curated assortment of products without leaving the site. Complex Shop hawks a range of goods, from candles and perfume to Maison Margiela sneakers and Off-White attire.

Foot Locker took a $3 million stake in NTWRK in September, an acknowledgment that the startup helmed by ComplexCon mastermind Aaron Levant can cater to urban-dwelling culture-savvy youth in a way the traditional retailer—even one set on innovating to evolve—cannot.

Simply put, NTWRK is helping to chart a new course for how “youth culture shops,” Foot Locker chairman and CEO Richard Johnson said when announcing the investment.

Even HSN and QVC parent Qurate Retail Group knows the home-shopping business it helped to pioneer needs a head-to-toe makeover if it wants to stick around for another generation or two. Launched in February, the Q Anytime app responds to a new reality in which 60 percent of the company’s orders stem from e-commerce—and two-thirds of those are borne from mobile devices.

Many consumers, especially young ones, discover new brands not in staid stores but through the social and video apps that live on their omnipresent smartphones, Alex Miller, Qurate’s senior vice president of digital commerce and marketing, said when the new app launched.

“Q Anytime represents our latest push into a video-first mobile experience, leveraging our unparalleled content production capacity with decades of experience in video shopping,” Miller added.