Key takeaways

Consumers watch beauty content but don’t necessarily buy via social platforms.

New apps like Trendio, Flip, Supergreat, and Agora strive to replicate the engagement generated by TikTok through live and short video, whilst offering beauty consumers a fun and easy way to find and buy beauty products.

Amazon is betting on social commerce with its Inspire feature, a Tik-Tok style feed with multiple categories represented.

Beauty content on social no longer extends to just product reviews. From ‘get ready with me’ videos to the trend of ‘de-influencing’ overly-hyped products – social media is awash with health and beauty video content that influences and aids the discovery of new brands and products.

According to RetailX and ChannelAdvisor’s ‘Health & Beauty Marketplaces’ report, 45% of beauty buyers say they are “somewhat likely” to buy a product recommended by a content creator, compared to 41% of general online shoppers. Often, however, consumers are still reluctant to buy beauty from social channels directly, with ecommerce marketplaces like Sephora and Amazon still generating the most market share.

A new set of social shopping platforms are hoping to change this. By combining social video with ecommerce capabilities, examples such as Trendio, Agora, Flip, and Supergreat are encouraging consumers to consume content and buy beauty on dedicated apps, using a mix of live and pre-recorded video. But will these new social platforms tempt users away from TikTok, and could they steal shoppers from Amazon and Sephora?

Capitalising on the popularity of short video content

TikTok has changed the way that beauty brands market to consumers, with the platform popularising a more authentic and less polished style of advertising. The platform’s algorithm also means that anyone can become an influencer and products can go viral without brands investing in large-scale marketing campaigns. But while TikTok’s ecommerce capabilities are growing – with its partnership with Shopify now enabling business accounts to showcase their products – consumers do not typically use the app for the purpose of shopping, with entertainment being the platform’s main USP. Matt Moorut, senior principal analyst at Gartner, told Vogue Business that just 10 to 11% of US consumers are actually purchasing through social platforms.

“People go to social sites with a different mindset than Sephora,” co-founder of Trendio, Alex Perez-Tenessa, told RetailX. However, Perez-Tenessa – who is the former vice president of Prime Video US – thinks that apps like Trendio can fill a gap in the market, where customers can fulfil their desire for both entertainment and education, and crucially, arrive in the mindset to buy.

Replicating the in-store beauty experience

Video shopping apps like Trendio aim to replicate the traditional in-store experience, where employees at beauty counters offer customers help and advice on what products are best suited to them. The idea is to counteract the overwhelming feeling that consumers might feel on social, which can make it harder for customers to buy the right products.

“Beauty products are complex,” Perez-Tenessa told TechCrunch. “They need to be demoed in order for customers to truly understand their value. And the way that the digital retail environment has evolved has not gone in the direction of making that easier, for both brands and consumers.”

Earlier this year, Trendio also introduced AI capabilities to the platform to automatically edit videos to suit each user’s unique preferences based on their previous viewing habits and interactions.

Ensuring honesty and authenticity with vetted creators

TikTok is known for ‘authenticity’ – encouraging peer-to-peer conversations and community-driven content – but it is also a hotbed for brand sponsorship or ‘spon-con’, making it difficult to determine whether creators might be offering a biased opinion. The ‘de-influencing’ trend has recently exposed this, with creators calling out popular products that aren’t actually worth the hype.

With a stricter vetting process, apps like Trendio and Flip aim to foster real authenticity. Flip, for instance, only allows users who have bought a product through its app to create video reviews, and prohibits both brands and creators from posting sponsored content. Trendio auditions content creators to ensure they meet a high standard and partners with brands who only meet a strict criteria.

The desire to create a community of real and honest beauty consumers is also the mission behind Supergreat, which uses gamification elements to keep users engaged. When users create a review or refer a friend, they can earn ‘Supercoins’ which can be exchanged for products. “We don’t expect our users to have massive followings or be influencers,” co-founders Tyler Faux and Daniel Blackman explained to L’Officiel USA.  “Anyone can show up at Supergreat just to talk about products they like, and they can actually make friends, and connect with other people who are super beauty fans also.”

For the influencers involved, monetisation outside of brand sponsorship is a growing incentive. Creators on Agora receive a share of any sale placed during live events, while Supergreat creators also share in the proceeds of any sales they help generate on the app. Riccardo Basile, co-founder and CEO of Agora says that companies like it “will empower a new category of entrepreneur,” by creating opportunities for creators outside of traditional brand sponsorship. This could draw creators away from the TikTok or YouTube Shorts, where earnings (for smaller creators) can be limited.

Promoting livestreaming to western audiences

Another key feature of new social commerce platforms is livestreaming. On Supergreat, there are multiple live events held each day, hosted by brand founders and influencers. Ulta Beauty partnered with the platform for a series of live events in 2021, during which over a third of participants reportedly added products to their wishlists and tuned in for an average of 35 minutes. While Supergreat is reportedly testing in-app checkout, it’s partnership with Ulta Beauty involved directing users to Ulta’s website to checkout.

Agora and Trendio are also betting on livestreaming, with Riccardo Basile, co-founder of Agora, telling RetailX, “Some livestreams have a conversion rate as much as 10%.”

It could be argued that livestreaming is perhaps better suited to commerce-focused, category-specific platforms such as these new entrants. However, it’s notable that livestreaming as a whole has not yet taken off in western countries, with a recent Wired headline referring to the livestream ecommerce model as a ‘dud’. Facebook and Instagram this year shuttered their live shopping functions. Amazon Live launched in 2019 and the tech giant increased its investment last year as it lured more influencers to the platform. TikTok is investing, too.

For beauty marketplaces like Ulta Beauty, which has previously invested in its own livestreaming events, the potential benefits of Supergreat lie in reaching an already highly engaged community.

Enid Hwang, head of community and marketing at Supergreat, explained to Glossy that live events are exposed to the entire community. “You don’t have to follow these creators, necessarily, to see the livestreams and see that carousel promoted to you at the top of everybody’s homescreen.”

Live commerce latest – Digital Shift Q1 2023

Amazon isn’t giving up on social commerce…

With new platforms aiming to generate sales, leading ecommerce marketplaces are also persisting with social commerce. Last December, Amazon announced the launch of Inspire – a TikTok-style feed that enables users to purchase products featured in short video and photo content. While Inspire will focus on more than just beauty – extending to categories including pets, sports, and interior design – the feature is designed to hone in on consumer preferences over time, offering them an inspiring way to shop for products in a social media-style environment.

Of course, Amazon has cloned a number of popular social formats over the years, including the Instagram-style Amazon Spark and Pinterest-like Interesting Finds. Whether Amazon will find success with Inspire remains to be seen, however, with the likes of Trendio and Flip hoping to change the way that consumers shop and use social – Amazon is unsurprisingly keen to keep its hat in the ring.

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