The creator economy is booming, powered by the rise of content creators across platforms such as blogs, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. Fuelled by the pandemic, the industry is set to be worth an estimated $104 billion in 2022 and shows no signs of slowing.
With legions of fans, these creators are now making their own products that can be sold directly to their audience. With a growing desire from consumers to connect to and buy from people who share their values and interests, is fandom the new brand loyalty?
Content and Commerce Coming Together
“Creators are the new brands,” states Chris Lamontagne, CEO of Spring, a leading creator-commerce platform, speaking via video. Spring, which is home to over 9 million creators, allows its users to design products and sell them through social integrations. The platform takes care of the “complicated stuff” such as shipping, payments and returns, leaving creators free to generate content and connect with fans.
“Legacy brands have got a big challenge to stay culturally relevant, because creatives are going to be the real powerhouses of commerce in the future,” he elaborates.
Supported by a global network of production and logistics partners, Spring allows creators to service a global network of fans. They see the creators as “almost borderless”. For example, “they can be US based, but have an audience in Mexico or India.” This gives them worldwide reach, and access to a huge customer base.
Totally at home in their digital worlds, creators are perfectly placed to sell products. Blending videos about their upcoming launch with their typical content, they are experts at ramping up excitement for the potential customer. Add to that their ability to create communities with their own inside jokes and to imagine which products will make their fans feel like they belong , the potential for creators to generate demand for their products is impressive.
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At ease in front of the camera, charismatic and articulate, creators are perfectly placed to take advantage of other technological shifts such as the growth in livestreaming. Some even create exclusive products just for livestream events to add to the feeling of exclusivity – signalling that “I was there” on the day. Lamontagne likens this phenomenon of fans wanting to get exclusive merchandise to the kudos that previously might have come from going to a gig and having the t-shirt to prove it.
Beyond Brand Loyalty
The ability of the creators to harness the technology now available to blend content and commerce is one of the factors driving the growth of creators as sellers. But above all, is this in fact more about their ability to create communities and “true fans”?
Lamontagne cites the example of Matthew Meagher, a creator who made $600 thousand in 60 days from the sale of a red hoodie. “He really captured his community with this particular hoodie. It was an in joke. It wasn’t people just buying the red hoodie, they were buying the person behind it and a sense of community that comes with that.”
“That sense of community goes beyond brand loyalty. It’s so much stronger. There’s such a big differentiation between a brand and customer, in a way that there isn’t between a creator and a fan.”
With 2022 set to be the year that “the line between shopping and entertainment blurs” according to Shopify’s director of product Amir Kabbara, and technological advances making shoppable content more prevalent than ever, the creator economy looks poised to make it’s mark on the retail industry.
Leaving legacy brands with the question – how do they harness, or compete with, this growth in creator commerce?
Lamontagne sums up their condundrum: “I’m not sure you follow a brand on social media because you want to hear what the brand has got to say. Whereas you follow a creator because you are either pulled towards that person’s content or who they are and what they represent.”
As the creator economy continues to grow, legacy brands would do well to consider if, or how they can translate existing brand loyalty into a deeper and more enduring fandom that many consumers crave.