Throughout history, commerce has taken on different shapes and sizes to accommodate the constantly shifting and growing consumer market. From the establishment of the first mall in the 1950s, to the establishment of QVC in the 1980s, to enhanced UX on brand websites, the way consumers experience shopping continues to grow every time the marketplace seems to reach a status quo. With each development, there seems to be an evolution of ideas, all of which come to define that particular era of commerce.
The era in which we live today is not only marked by influencers, social media, and DTC, but also a pandemic, working from home, and uncertainty. As a result, and as we are very aware of, eCommerce is experiencing a boom like no other. Given the modern commerce tools we live with today, i.e. shopping malls, subscription boxes, Instagram shopping, and pop-up shops, consumers today have more shopping experiences to choose from than there were available 100 years ago.
Well, as we like to say here at Yaguara, it gets funkier. There’s a new platform in town, one that’s particularly notable due to its conglomeration of multiple different aspects of commerce, all in one space.
Introducing: the “QVC meets TikTok” of commerce, The Lobby.
A Pandemic Brainchild
Walk into a hotel lobby pre-pandemic, and you’ll see a diverse array of people bustling around: some are checking in, some are drinking coffee in the sitting area, and there always seems to be one guest wearing sunglasses with an oversized hat standing next to a ridiculous amount of bags. In the same way a hotel lobby is the locus for all interesting things travel, comfort, and prime people-watching, The Lobby is the locus for all things clothes, influencers, and commerce. A mega-commerce creation peppered with influencers bustling around the website with their product reviews: welcome to Influencer Hotel.
Founder and CEO Abigail Holtz explains how The Lobby came to fruition for a few reasons, one of which being a direct result of brick and mortar shopping habits changing. While brick and mortar serves as a medium for commerce, it also serves as a medium for social interaction. With competitively immersive DTC design coming as a result of recently increased online shopping and social media use, creating a new platform is not the easiest task. As a result of consumers itching for normalcy and connectivity, Holtz describes racking her brain for ways to emulate the social side of shopping. What I assume to be a quick look at Instagram and a few TikTok scrolls later, Holtz thinks of the perfect secret ingredient: online influencers and content creators.
Social media platforms like Instagram have exploded with shopping features, and it seems like there’s a new DTC company every day. However, the Lobby has a competitive edge. The platform has successfully implemented what TikTok has been slow to accomplish, which is incorporating a streamlined video shopping feature. While TikTok launched TikTok for Business in June 2020, peak summer quarantine, the platform is for marketers to advertise and spread brand awareness, not to actually shop on the app. TikTok recently partnered with Shopify, which enables merchants and sellers to connect in-feed shoppable video ads directly to their Shopify stores. This feature is only available through Shopify’s TikTok channel, and merchants must have a TikTok Business account.
While TikTok has one account solely dedicated to video commerce, The Lobby hosts many clothing brands and influencer accounts to choose from. The Lobby has about 30 clothing brand partners, including Girlfriend Collective, Aday, Paloma Wool, and Lunya. To sell the clothes, The Lobby partners with influencers, such as Claire Most and Kim Seidensticker, who create 30-90 second videos wearing clothing products that viewers can then buy. Content creators like Lexie Lombard pose and model the clothing while describing its feel, fit, and functionality. Each influencer has their own aesthetic, so as one browses through videos with certain clothes, they’re also browsing through influencer brand images. It’s a win win: influencers get to spread their image through commerce, while The Lobby harnesses influencer reach and personability with the clothes they are selling to gain a customer base.
How it Started vs How it’s Going
The original video commerce we have all heard of (except for maybe Gen Z) is QVC. Since its beginning in 1986, the shopping channel surged into a multimedia company by the 90s and integrated into social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram by 2012. The auctioneer meets at-home-commerce network slaps on smiles and sells products real time to customers at home. The success behind QVC is not only its discounted prices, but it’s also the direct conversation happening between the host and the customer. The host pitching a pair of sandals will look a customer in the eye through the television and convince them that a pair of pewter sandals with a slight 3-inch wedge is exactly what they need to buy on a Tuesday afternoon. However, QVC is not a modern invention. With the modern popularity of social media and the development of other avenues for online shopping, there is room for a modern alternative to the show that is now often played in the background of household chores.
While apps such as Instagram and Pinterest have successfully integrated shopping features for their users, neither are primarily video platforms like QVC. And, with no other video platform to heed the call during the long months of a summer pandemic quarantine, there was an opportunistic gap between QVC and social media consumption. We’ve discussed before how TikTok’s main caveat with incorporating shopping integrations was the unsuspecting specificness of its primary purpose: entertainment. Finding a way to incorporate a shopping experience on the app without sacrificing the entertainment factor has proven to be quite the feat. Holtz remarks:
“We landed on short form videos because we felt especially with how TikTok has ushered in video, we really liked how it was bite-size and quick...TikTok is not shoppable and it’s not really optimized for a shopping experience.”
The main reason The Lobby has been able to seamlessly launch into a platform that poses no threat to user experience is due to the fact that The Lobby is only focused on commerce, whereas platforms like Instagram and TikTok also have entertainment value. For this reason, similar to Instagram’s success with integrating shopping features in its highly aesthetic and influencer heavy platform, The Lobby provides a space for fashion brands to sell to consumers unobstructed by other content and supported with short videos. Unlike Instagram, however, The Lobby is solely dedicated to fashion commerce content.
By combining elements of TikTok and influencer culture, The Lobby is joining the movement many major fashion houses are making to online mediums. For instance, Dior, Net-A-Porter, and Chanel have active Youtube channels that promote new collections and how-to-style videos. Additionally, Prada, Saint Laurent, and Louis Vuitton are a few of the brands that took part in #TikTokFashionMonth in September and early October. Also this year, Moschino recently released the spring/summer 2021 collection via a puppet show film, taking notes from post-war fashion shows that utilized miniature marionettes to give people hope in times of uncertainty and separation.
The Recipe for Influence
Every recipe combines a few ingredients to make a delicious whole– likewise, The Lobby is a whole made of seemingly independent parts that synthesize into a unique platform. In addition to the rise of online shopping and TikTok videos, The Lobby is the product of multiple eCommerce moves; a full course commerce meal:
A Generous Scoop of…
Social media. Two behaviors consumers indulge in are shopping and social media, and The Lobby expertly incorporates both into its platform. Influencers are the foundation of The Lobby. It’s a win-win: the videos, shorter versions of sponsored content ads, garner attention from customers because of the attractive or recognized image of a particular influencer. At the same time a consumer is attracted to a piece of clothing, the influencer also gets a chance at more followers and an enhancement of aesthetic image with the clothes they review.
A Dash of…
Honest reviews. With video form being the primary medium in which The Lobby sells their clothing from their partner brands, the emphasis on real-time reviews and quality check is apparent. Many consumers Google reviews and watch Youtube review videos to help guide shopping decisions, especially for online shopping since the product is not tangible. In order to bridge the gap between people and product, the influencers on The Lobby describe the clothing they wear in depth and model the fit.
This is especially important for style preference as well as body type diversity. With brands increasingly emphasizing the fluidity and diversity of the human form, especially womenswear, watching influencers of all shapes, colors, and sizes trying on clothes and show their fit makes the consumer not only feel as if they are shopping with them in person, but it also displays a level of honesty and emotion that is hard to emulate through still photos on most online websites. Additionally, the honest, Yelp-esque videos act in the same way as going to the mall with a friend and dishing out opinions on different clothes– your friend would tell you if something looked fabulous on you, and so do these videos.
With Notes of…
High-end department store. The Lobby isn’t called the front desk for a reason. The lobby of a hotel connotes a nice, large open floor with plants, columns, maybe a fountain, a check-in desk with a bell, a restaurant on the side, the faint sound of champagne glasses clinking, and the smell of a really luxe candle. Think: Eloise at the Plaza.
The Lobby brings together a slew of clothing companies and influencers to present nice clothes to customers in a streamlined and easy to navigate page. It’s organized just like any department store, with clothing grouped together by brand, season, and highlights. Except, in The Lobby, the influencers play the part of live mannequins, showing the clothes in real time on real people. The Lobby brings the department store to the customer, with the same, high-end exclusive and destination feel and without intimidation and bombardment by sales associates. With the click of a button, customers can enter into a virtual lobby of trendy brands and verified influencers that speak to them directly– a democratized department store.
The Best of Many Worlds
Mix it all together, and you have The Lobby: part TikTok, part Instagram, part Yelp, part QVC, and part Eloise at the Plaza. ECommerce platforms are becoming multifaceted, one-stop shopping tools that combine different branches of commerce, all into one. Just like a shopping mall has food, clothes, and experience, The Lobby has clothes, accessories, influencers, and reviews all in one place. This streamlined shopping is accessible and visual, which makes a customer’s shopping experience easy and experiential, even if it is through a computer screen. Additionally, the live videos relay a sense of human connectivity and honesty that make online shopping a more personable experience, surpassing QVC hosts’ intense eye contact and convincing sales pitches and aligning with what most DTC brands strive to accomplish through branding.
Consumers crave connectivity, whether it be in person or through a screen, and emulating an immersive and face-to-face experience on a platform drives success with this market mission. As a result, The Lobby has taken inspiration from social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram to create a platform that meets the consumer where they already are, aka, consuming social media. Except, instead of searching for likes and getting lost in the rabbit holes of TikTok marathons, customers enter into a democratized online department store of influencers modeling clothes in short videos organized by sections and relatable through popular influencer brands. Social media genius.
The Lobby is another experience to be had where brands and companies are trying to break the fourth wall of eCommerce. Brick and mortar will continue to thrive in different ways, but DTC and video commerce are other experiences to be had that are easy, modern, and an impressive tech design of the times.