This chapter reveals the primary findings that are extracted from the respondents that belong form the industry along to gain a proper understanding of the theories that are previously discussed in the literature review along with other areas in which there is limited academic research. To analyze the aims and objectives of the study, the main areas that are focused on in the study include core values of the business, the role of social media channels for marketing as well as other operations, and the Taiwanese fashion market along with the trends. Different colors are allotted to every theme that is identified in the study. Below are the findings of the study that would help in understanding the way by which online celebrities shape the Taiwanese fashion industry. There were two respondents in the interviews that are Julia and Bonnie. The focused group interview sessions are also being conducted in which there are several respondents were involved. The following table shows the themes that have been color-coordinated for better interpretation:
Amount of money
By collaborating the businesses are allowed to find more ways to stay competitive.
The amount of money that company spends on its operations also serves to have an important role in establishing the business.
The development and positioning of the brand are considered the main concepts while developing core values in the business.
Marketing is regarded as the core value which helps in building the business and leads business to the progress.
It is evaluated that the core values of any business are its fundamental beliefs of the organization as they are considered the guiding principles which help in dictating behavior. It plays a major role in helping people to understand the difference between wrong and right. In the fashion industry, the core values are considered as the function which helps the company to select the right path which helps in fulfilling the goals with the help of creating an unwavering guide. On asking Bonnie regarding the core value when establishing the brand it is recorded that the core value of YUYU’s is to encourage all women to practice focusing on doing solely one thing that they are interested in. YUYU is the brand by Bonnie, further, she added that it is not only for sports but also for life, such as practicing dynamic or static meditation to connect with the universe; we are all free individuals and of course, focusing on the products themselves and the brand position in the market are important to consider (Appendix, line 22 to 25). Further, she also added that Passion is the main core value of establishing any business. She also shares her views that she has never really operated a company before. She does not even know how the interior of starting a brand works. “But my passion keeps me going” (Appendix, line 49), she further adds that “I love making clothes since I was little” (Appendix, line 52). It was Bonnie’s passion that helps her in taking her business to a better position. To be specific, the core values for the companies can be different as the core value for the company was finding a reliable partner and to pursue the goals and objectives which are set for marketing.
Julia was another respondent of the study who was also the owner of the brand, who responded about the different looks and values of the company, she responded that the core aim to build TATULA is to let customers know that they could rock all kinds of different looks, she also regards this as the core value for the company. Moreover, Julia considers all females should be encouraged to accept who they are and further expresses the positive messages through her core value in her collections. Brand positioning is considered one of the core values which helps in establishing the business. Julia has shared that her brand started off selling affordable clothes. Although she is aware that these type of clothes are certainly will become popularized, she attempts to produce custom-made clothing recently and it seems to be pretty difficult in the Taiwanese market (Appendix, line 382 to 385). The changing path ultimately would cause the loss of some original customers and uncertainty of brand positioning as Julia considered, however as an entrepreneur, she has learned the lesson of the importance of brand positioning and it would take a while to find new customers for the company. Julia understands that even though the influencer’s brand could be easy, to begin with, the essential of figuring out brand position could considerably affect the following decisions or strategies. Hence, Julia highlights as the brand’s decision-maker and representative image of the brand, the core value is not only focusing on the vision of the brand but also the significance of brand positioning. By asking about the core values of the business from the focus groups, different answers were recorded as some focused on the advertising methods whereas others focused on the trust that is developed from the end of the employees.
As per the interviews of the focus group, it is analyzed that most people rather trust branded products than some values in the business. “Because these SMIs are sponsored by other companies to advertise their products. Branded products seem more legitimate compared to those that are advertised by SMI” (Appendix, lines 798 to 800). So it is analyzed that brand development is considered to be very important as is discussed in line 3 of table 1 and further discussed in line 3 of Table 2.
Role of social media
Key Selling Point
Social media propaganda
Key selling points are considered to be very important to developing a positive brand image.
Social media channels are used to spread reputation.
Social media propaganda can be developed by Celebrity endorsements which is beneficial for the business.
Social media plays a major in society as well as in business, there are most businesses mainly rely upon social media. There are other options like celebrity endorsements which can also be carried out by the owners to merchandise the products. Today’s merchandising is densely cluttered due to the explosion of media and information technology, thus brands are finicky in choosing a celebrity as their endorser, as they prefer a celebrity that can resonate with their brand and goes with the brand persona. Bonnie, who was the founder of YUYU was asked regarding the use of social media, the response obtained stated: “I did not do it intentionally. I post pictures, people follow me if they like them.” (Appendix, lines 132 to 133) Further on asking regarding the recommendations over the propaganda of social media as it is considered a faster source of attracting the customers. It is recorded that customers are based on Bonnie’s fans and as long as fans love the products, the brand will not have any concerns in the long term. YUYU is all about quality products. Bonnie states that she delivers her message and values on social media. Since she believes the easiest way to covey the messages is through clothing (Appendix line 37).
Functions of Instagram are used by both influencers and customers
Upon asking about the most used social media platform, Instagram is considered the effective reference for range planning and resolving customer-related issues. Julia responded that she surfs on Instagram to check out other people’s posts or celebrities’ outfits or accounts from other brands on social media platforms. Also, she adds a twist to her styles that will be put into consideration for further use (Appendix, lines 472 to 474). Further, the response showed that compared to other clothing brands, it is easier to convince and build trust with the customers when fans are following your social media accounts presenting the videos, photos, and live-streaming that can be appealing. One essential issue regards the challenges that influencers might experience is the relevancy of their popularity and brand longevity. Both influencers demonstrate that they need to face to get feedback from social media. It is recorded that social media can be used to fix the questions and usually could easily get responses from followers. One of the respondents suggested the wrongdoings of the sales status and customer feedback, since the scale of an SMI store is small, it is easier and faster to make changes. On asking from the focused groups regarding social media’s role, the most important thing which is analyzed is that most people use social media 6 to 7 hours a day for entertainment and to be part of the social community (Appendix, lines 449 to 451). It is also analyzed that social media plays a major role in developing consumer behaviors as it helps in sharing the latest trend with just one click. Most people have discussed that they follow celebrities on social media to stay in touch with the fashion and other things they adopt. On asking one of the respondents the answer was gained regarding the use of social media for presenting the outfits and vlogs with other related people that can portray the brands and the products that are bought. The response was based on the emphasis on the content that is shared on social media for the direct audience (Appendix, lines 897 to 900).
Social media affects and motivates online shopping in Taiwan
As per the perception of the focus group, social media is regarded to be one of the famous tools in Taiwan to merchandise fashion brands. They have shared their views regarding online shopping and almost every Taiwanese prefers online shopping. As per the respondents from the focus group, Miao has emphasized preferring online shopping as compared to in-store shopping. The statement clearly shows that impulse buying behavior has a huge impact on the consumers and that online shopping can allow them to purchase the products and gain the products offerings with free returns policies that would be more suitable for the consumers (Appendlinesline 692 to 696). Additionally, the function on Instagram helps customers to shop more conveniently. The appendix (lines 633-660) presents the views regarding the role of hashtags in attracting people and making it easier for people to carry out searches using google. The users generally follow the brands of their interest and also can find it easier to reach them as Instagram has created it easier and more feasible for the users to implement the hashtags that can support these activities. Social media is easier for the users to deal with the purchasing decision as it has become their habit and presents a variety of options to the consumers to be purchased according to the appendix (line 669). Therefore, from the above view, it is also analyzed that people prefer convenience over other factors to perform online shopping. In addition to this, two brand owners mainly choose the social media platform to merchandise their products by viewing the perception of their customers as per line 3 of table 4.
The discussion from the respondents in the focused group has also highlighted that there is a major role of Instagram and other social media channels in attracting consumers and motivating them to buy the products that have been offered. According to Appendix (line 764-837), it has been observed that the consumers find it more attractive and persuasive through their observations on Instagram and words from their friends and family. An interesting point could be highlighted is that from the male respondents’ viewpoints, they tend to trust legitimate brands at their first glance of products’ advertisements on social media, however, they believe that the recommendations from their close friends who spread the comments of “SMIs’ useful contents and messages”, it could change their thought between the legitimate brands’ advertisements and SMIs’ suggestions. Whereas female respondents are likely to be more emotional toward SMIs contents and would be highly influenced by those messages. Therefore, people generally give a wide list of friends and family members or influencers, and the power of word of mouth may give a more positive impact on the products that are offered. Besides, the appendix (lines 729-73) has also presented the means of trustworthiness that is created with the help of social media comments and attributes for marketing and advertisement. The responses from both male and female interviewees demonstrate that the elements of authenticity and trustworthiness on social media have become vague in the recent online world. They believe that if the contents and messages from SMIs and their behaviors show consistency, it could create a higher demand for the products and also increases the intention of buying the products in this regard (Appendix line 834-837, 883). The respondents have also highlighted the photos and fashion and traveling that have been more attractive for the users to create the demand for certain products, especially clothing. The feature of clothing could be seen as more convincing when SMIs promote clothing that “seems more trustworthy while they wear it in their daily life” (Appendix line 809-814). Also, live-streaming, as advertised, is believed to be more effective, as one of the respondents reveals that “at that moment if you like it you will buy it”. Hence, people seem likely to attract friends or their favorite influencers through social media and connect as it gives more entertainment opportunities and the petiole gets to know about the activities and interests of their friends.
It has also been observed regarding the influencers on the internet who can generally attract people through their photos and their posts that are designed for marketing and attracting the people for sales of their products. The statements provided by the respondents have also provided the aspect that the celebrities intimate the people for having more sales and dealing with the good standard of living and for appealing the people for sales. These are the sponsors of the organizations that design the strategies for sales and marketing of the products. Consumer behavior is likely to be changed with the help of intimation with the help of the influencers it has been identified in the appendix (764-769) for dealing with the influencers and sales of the companies.
Most of the respondents are highly attracted to the offerings that are made by the influencer brands marketing through the photos and the videos that are posted by the influencers as referred to appendix (line 857-861), which reflects the means of marketing and attraction of the brands using the influencers’ popularity. Similarly, two influencers, Bonnie and Julia with ample experience, share similar viewpoints. While they rely heavily on social media, they are aware of the potential impact of building positive relationships is to posting and sharing online, “ I learn to listen to my customers… and give them what they want. I became someone who slowly guide my customers” (Appendix line 374-376), “I deliberately post pictures and stories to get more fans.. and people like it.” (Appendix line 113) However, customers are less likely to be attracted to the brands that are being attracted with the help of conventional marketing which can be observed in the differences in marketing of YUYU and TATULA. According to respondents, it clearly shows that they have a great understanding of how sponsorship works with influencers and the meaning of conventional brands using influencers as strategy, “There are more SMI advertisements not too convincing for me (Appendix line 787)”. The conflict between customers’ understanding of the rules of brands taking advantage of influencers’ impact and influencers utilizing social media to express a ‘true identity occurred.
Taiwanese fashion market
Word of mouth
It is very important to develop social relationships for marketing the brands globally
Fast fashion is the concept that is being adopted in the Taiwan fashion industry.
Social media has conquered the fashion industry of Taiwan as celebrities are mainly using this to create a positive brand image. A social identity is primarily based on the social media presence, where today influencers are connected with their fans and followers. Thus, influencers’ social identity must match with the brand personality especially in the Taiwanese market, specifically, there is a huge influx of global brands blended with local brands as referred to in line 1 of Table 5. Social identity is linked directly with social relationships. By asking Julia what is the main factor which is highlighted in the Taiwan fashion market and influenced her, it is recorded that “I was influenced a lot by the trending Bohemian style when I was building my brand” (Appendix, Line 456). The respondent has mentioned that her personal preference for style is reflected in the clothes she sells in her store. Moreover, it has been mentioned that she experienced with selling Bohemian-styled clothes however, they were not appreciated in the Taiwanese market. It is evident from the responses that fast fashion has become common in Taiwan reflected in line 460 of the Appendix.
By asking Bonnie, it is analyzed that in Taiwan, SMI brands are trending. “People tend to buy things from the SMIs they follow. Nowadays, everyone browses Instagram. As people go through the contents, they will very likely buy clothes when they see an SMI looks good in them. So it could consider a potential trend and development for influencer brand”. Bonnie also responded that the Taiwanese fashion market is slowly being taken over by online shopping. On asking from the members of the focus group, it is recorded that regards to celebrity endorsement in Taiwanese fashion brands, usually people would pick on social relationship context. The influencer relies heavily on how strong and deep its relationship is with the audience and has a strong association with its target audience because this relationship leads to the stronger influence of their words and opinion on the audience's purchase decision. Thus, the stronger the relationship the celebrity has with its audience, the more likely chances are that the brand would sign contracts with them as it is more likely to influence consumer behavior.
The different form of social community has imperceptibly happened in Taiwanese influencer brands while influencers begin to build their brand online. When discussing the start of an influencer brand, both influencers expressed that there is an invisible community that is based on their fans. In Bonnie’s case, it was pointed out that “since the concept of YUYU is based on my lifestyle, followers agree with my core value and buy our products. Gradually, YUYU family is shaped” (Appendix line 146-156). In addition to this, Julia emphasized that people who follow her feel relatable with her lifestyle and thoughts. She states, “My fans treat me as sister, friends, and family, so I care about them in the same way” (Appendix lines 366-369). Two influencers have presented the essence of a phenomenon in the Taiwanese market, which is the creation of ideology from influencers. Customers would be encouraged and feel intimated by the contents of ideology or positive images from influencers’ posts and videos of as per the views of another respondent of focused. Similarly, some respondents from the focused group demonstrate that to build trust with SMIs, creating the “ideology to intimate other potential users” is the key. Ultimately, it depends on whether their ideology and thoughts could connect with their audience (Appendix lines 971-986). Therefore, consumers have different perceptions of taking buying decisions and dealing with the word of mouth for getting attracted.
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Interview with Bonnie
S: Bonnie, could you please tell me how do you start to build your brand?
B: I started working out a few years ago, back then I didn't exercise at all. I bought a few sportswear and I realized there wasn’t stuff that I wanted in the market. Usually, it’s too expensive to just buy the whole set. But sportswear is just like ordinary clothes, you can’t just buy one set of them. That is why I started my brand.
S: So when it comes to buying sports brands like Nike and Adidas, is there anything else you consider before buying other than the price?
B: Well, they’re pretty affordable. But those kinds of sportswear are suited for professional sports use. They’re unlike the types of clothes girls would like to wear just for lifestyle or getting fit. So it’s not suitable for me, and I feel like these clothes are not fashionable enough for me as well.
S: So what is the core value when you’re establishing your brand? Or something that the brand could bring you…
B: YUYU’s core value is to encourage all women to practice focusing on doing solely one thing that they’re interested in. Not only for sports but also for life, such as practicing dynamic or static meditation to connect with the universe; we’re all free individuals. And of course, focusing on the products themselves and the brand position in the market are important to consider.
S: Which product would you claim to be YUYU’s key selling point (KPI) that makes YUYU’s products unique?
B: Ahhh…the reason I started building this brand is not just about the clothes. I used to learn a lot about meditation and I discovered that no matter if you’re doing dynamic or static exercise, you should focus on the process. Unlike Nike or Adidas, they have super professional athletes, what I start the brand wasn’t really about encouraging anyone. For me, I just feel like everyone could do something that they like and I do it because I love clothing. Also when you’re focused on doing something, you’ll be able to build and create a better self. It doesn’t have to be exercise, fitness, yoga, or mediation. I hope they can get their hands on whatever they like. However, I’m delivering this message myself on social media. So these products don’t represent what I’m trying to tell everyone. So the easiest way to let them know is to start by selling clothes. When you buy these clothes, you’ll want to hit the gym. And I’m hosting several events, there’re classes every Wednesday afternoon. Soon our website will be allowing reservations online. Events will be hosted soon and fans are welcome to attend these classes.
S: So your goal is to deliver a message. (B: Yes!) And through sportswear, since sportswear is the easiest way to convey the message. (B: Yes!) Then your customers will receive the message. (B: Yes! Yes!)
S: What is the most important thing to you when you’re building a brand?
B: Passion. I’ve never really operated a company before. I don't even know how the interior of starting a brand works. But my passion keeps me going, I love making clothes since I was little. I remember the first time I bought clothes when I was in middle school. I cried as I bought the clothes, thinking “Oh God! I finally bought it!” Because it’s the first time I bought clothes. I received a very tough and traditional education. My parents think I should study more, should go to get a master's degree, and become a professor or something. So I had pretty good grades in high school, I could’ve gone to a med school. But since I have a very traditional family, so I went to National Taiwan University. But I had no interest in NTU whatsoever. I graduated and went to an art school in San Francisco. I majored in fashion buying but didn’t finish my degree. What I learned in class didn't match my understanding of fashion. I started reselling when I was in college. I was a purchasing agent focusing on U.S. clothing. My business was doing well since people didn't have the access to all these U.S. products. I sold second-hand designer products in the U.S. too. What I learned in class is not helping me, so I opened my store. I sold a wide range of different products, like Korean products. Sold them for a few months and realized I wasn't interested. So I kept changing. Back then, there used to be no Zara, so I sold several Chinese Zara products too. After that, I wanted to switch to a selected shop and import designer products that go around TWD 12,000. But the market is rather small. Then I switched to…sharing economy was trending too, so I switched to clothing rental company, and rent out cheap clothes, pay a monthly fee and you can rent all kinds of clothes. But this rental system doesn't work in Taiwan. It’s difficult to keep the business going. After all of this journey, I was in various types of clothing industries and I realized I have to sell something that I love. This will make me happy. Just like at the very beginning of my business, my goal is to be happy and sell what I like.
S: So you were in different types of clothing industries and you found the pros and cons as you sell them, would you think these experiences contributed to the growth of your brand?
B: I think it depends on what people want. Since I’m at the head of the supply chain now. Rag sorting, designing, dressing, the most difficult part is the delivery time. This is something related to buying classes at university. I wasn't able to control anything else. Well-known brands could release clothes four times a year. They have a clear theme that people would be interested in buying. But now I have to keep interacting with my fans, satisfy fans’ needs, and maintain the company’s reputation. If you moved on to the next season, you might not know how to keep in touch with your fans. Since now I’m releasing weekly, we need to make the customer expect our next release. I think the Taiwanese market has changed since Zara opened shops here. People are getting used to releasing new items quickly. So I need to release stuff every week. I would think about the theme for the next release, ex. limited edition. Say I design a lot of limited edition clothes, but because I requested them from several different factories, I wouldn’t be able to receive all of them within the same week. This is why sometimes customers would probably see our brand releasing clothes with similar themes from last season. This is a problem that I can’t ignore. So it’s a bit hard to deliver why I wanted to design a specific type of clothes. I don't like that feeling. It feels like I’m only trying to make revenue. I already designed everything, but factories aren’t able to produce them at the time I wanted.
S: You mentioned the change that Zara brought to the Taiwanese market. Has it pressured you at any point?
B: Yea. Ever since Zara opened, our similar items need to be within the same price range. And our products should be able to clearly distinguish from theirs. This is pretty difficult. They’re a strong opponent, especially in fast fashion. This makes it hard for us to surpass them. I started exercising and want to maintain a healthy mentality, so it wasn’t like Zara’s pressuring me to design something completely different from their clothes. It’s simply that I fell in love with sports, and realized that sportswear costs a lot of money. It costs around 12,000 NTD to get a full set that I like.
S: Bonnie, since you have managed your brand, what’s the challenge from operating a personal brand to an actual sportswear brand?
B: Hmm… I operated a store before but never did any online business. I was busy operating an in-store business, then I realized it’s hard to attract more customers with only a physical store. Say if you have to make enough money to pay the rent, you might have to raise the price to around 3 to 4000 TWD to keep the business running. But if you’re selling online you could lower the price by a significant amount, more clothes too. So I was thinking about giving up the physical store and practicing becoming an SMI, very active on social media. I had to register an account on Instagram to do online business. Deliberately post pictures and stories to get more fans. Then it becomes very ordinary to do so. You don’t need to think much when you’re posting. Just post whenever you see something interesting, something pretty. It’s very fun.
S: So from registering an Instagram account to operating YUYU, any difference in your marketing strategy?
B: I didn't think too much about them. But I hope that people buying YUYU aren’t buying only because they’re my fans. I’m not too fond of the idea of the whole website is about me. I hope customers like our products because they love the products, not me. I don’t buy SMI brands. Even though I’m an SMI and I have my brand, I never wanted my brand feels like an SMI brand. It’s still a bit hard to do what I wanted. (S: You’re still trying to find out?) I’m not finding anything. It doesn’t matter if they consider my brand like that as long as they find my brand cool. I know very well that I’m not using my reputation to sell my products. So I often repost customers wearing my clothes as a way to do marketing. I prefer to use models other than myself. In YUYU, I’m the one in charge of clothes design.
S: How did you use social media to spread your reputation?
B: I didn’t do it intentionally. I post pictures, people follow me if they like them. I can’t do anything if they don’t like them.
S: How often do you post? Or how often do you do live streaming?
B: I stream after every YUYUA release at that week’s Sunday 9 P.M.
S: Would you keep track of how many percent of your followers became your customers?
B: Not really. If they like it, they’ll buy it. Friends sometimes do recommend each other to buy. It’s more effective than anything else.
S: Would you say recommending one another or social media propaganda is faster to attract customers?
B: Customers are based on my fans. To see if the company can continue running, fans need to love our products when they receive them. YUYU is all about quality products. As long as fans love our products, we won’t have any concerns. But it is more difficult to begin to have a basic customer base.
S: Would you say the core mentality of your customers following you and the core mentality of your customers buying your products matches?
B: I think they match. I started YUYU because it fits my lifestyle. So for those customers who follow me, I believe that my lifestyle could more or less influence my customers through YUYU since the concept of this brand is based on my lifestyle.
S: Many SMIs are operating their brands, so maintenance is rather important. Do you believe in brand loyalty? How do you maintain loyalty?
B: Not really. I only concentrate on having to do my best on designing the best clothes then customers will like them without a doubt. Passion is very crucial. Passion is what motivates me to make sure YUYU runs well. I like my fans and customers too. They’ll grow along with me. Interactions are also very important. For maintaining loyalty, through streaming and replying to customers’ DMs.
S: Have you ever looked into the connection between you and the customers?
B: Many of YUYU’s customers are foreigners, so over half of the customers aren’t my fans. So I only can interact with my fans, such as a reply to customers’ DMs on my account. But on YUYU’s fan page, it’s a little different than mine. The brand itself interacts with the customers, not me. The contentions are different as well.
S: How were you able to do your marketing and propaganda if half of the customers are from overseas?
B: Branding is like creating a concept and an image. A full team would help with brand development and brand book. YUYU’s Instagram follows the company’s concept to do the formatting and for texts, we use concise words to focus on how I feel about being a woman and the story and clothes about YUYU. So the two contexts between YUYU and my Instagram are completely different.
S: Do you design clothes for product development based on styles you like or do you reference other things?
B: I know what happens on-trend since I’m constantly watching fashion shows. I also go on Instagram to check out what people follow. Also, I like to go online and look for what’s new. I’ve started a clothing business few years ago, so I have a few concepts and thoughts on it. I combine these details along with what I like too. 80% of the products I released are similar to my style and the rest 20% are what people love. For example, I am not fond of pink clothes, but I know many people like them, so I will still release these kinds of products.
S: So you also researched consumers’ preferences for clothes and make changes to your products?
B: Actually, it's all by instinct. It is not like the conventional brand will do lots of research based on customers’ preferences or collect data on what customers want. Fashion is only a trend, so I just combine trendy elements and my idea into my collections.
S: Do you have your buying and merchandising team to help you out?
B: Oh totally not. I got all the duties. I know I could develop a whole buying and merchandising team just to design clothes, but that’s too slow for me. If I’m interested in something, I’ll discuss it with my partners and soon the design will be done. It’s easier for me in that way and feels happier if I want to wear something, I’ll just design it. But of course, there’ll be a theme in these weekly releases. We have weekly meetings to discuss the upcoming themes. But whether the customers could be able to get what we’re trying to convey is another question. Since the factories can’t produce all the things we desired, that is what we’re trying to work towards.
We’re trying to collaborate with a KOL to release a whole series of skateboarding fits. She knows how to skateboard. I feel like skateboard fits well in YUYU’s idea too. It’s like a mix of sports and lifestyle. For skateboard pants, it’s a bit oversized. So we’re still looking for the right material. But for now, I design clothes according to what I like. Something like women’s streetwear could be sexy and show a lot of swag.
S: Would you use marketing strategies to emphasize your theme?
B: It’s fairly difficult to set exact dates we could get the products from the factory, but of course, if we’re able to acquire them on time, we’d let the customers know.
S: Are there any memorable moments of facing obstacles or challenges?
B: I think it’s the part when we’re doing detail sewing. If we’re doing simple clothing, there won’t be many details required, it would finish within one or two months. However, We were once making jeans and it required different materials. I needed rubber and so many other basic materials. Also, I needed to look for other factories to get certain ropes and found a sewing machine which is ‘4 needle 6 thread feed off arm flat seaming’. These jeans took me almost one and a half to finish. Oh gosh. Took me a long time.
S: So when you’re looking for the supplier…
B: My suppliers are based in Taiwan and China. The location of the supplier wouldn’t determine if they’re good or bad. Most people think that if it’s made in China, then the quality is most likely really bad. But I think a lot of Chinese suppliers are even better than Taiwanese suppliers.
S: Are you facing any competition within the industry?
B: Not! I feel like I just need to do my best job. There’s a reason why SMIs could build their brands, it’s because they’re different in the eyes of their followers. Even though they wear the same clothes, they’re still different from their fans.
S: I’ve seen YUYU collaborate with Pazzo. Why would you consider a collaboration with Pazzo?
(PAZZO: an online clothing brand that has its factories and a deep connection with some Taiwanese suppliers)
B: It’s related to the funding issue. Our company started roughly a year, and the collaboration was during our early years. We needed a huge amount of money for brand development that’s why we need a proper partner to collaborate with. When we were launching our brand I needed to spend a lot of time interacting with fans. As the CEO of our company, I also had to take care of the company. So I couldn’t do both things at the same time. For example, lots of preliminary work like logistic systems, pattern cutting, and finding a suitable factory. My customers won’t know what I’m trying to convey if I do all of the preliminary stuff on my own, it would delay our progress. Because my core value is to post things that people want or things that I’d like to share, and that’s why I needed someone from the supply chain.
S: Have you evaluated the pros and cons of finding someone to collaborate with?
B: Yes! We've been evaluating for about a year. We concluded that we need a reliable partner. Our core values are different. They’re better at supplying side. And we’re better at marketing. This is more effective for both of us.
S: How about the cons?
B: We need to see if we work well with each other. We have to confirm that we got what we need. Same for them as well.
S: What would you say about a company like Pazzo? Pazzo works with several SMEs. They help promote and assist SMI brands.
B: Every SMI has his/her thoughts. They could ask the pattern maker what they want. Everyone has their own desired patterns. I think this is great! They help these SMIs to make what they want.
S: So Pazzo plays a role to help SMI brands find different factories?
S: What do you think about the fashion market in Taiwan?
B: SMI brands are trending. Buy things off of the SMIs they follow. Nowadays, everyone browses Instagram. As you go through the contents, you’ll very likely buy clothes when you see an SMI looks good in them. So I think it’s a trend here.
S: So you think SMI brands could survive in the Taiwanese fashion market?
S: Do you think there’s any change in Taiwanese consumers’ habits? Just like what you said, consumers use their phones to purchase things. But it takes a long period for customers to like SMI, trust him/her, and then purchase their products. There still have a gap between customers’ trust and purchasing behaviors.
B: I understand. But this is to build a bridge between SMI and the fans. For example, It’s how I interact with my fans. I mentioned posting pictures and live streaming YUYU’s products. Like me, who exercises daily, my friends, and YUYU’s customers all wear YUYU’s clothes. Our goal is to show that our brand can create connections. People surf the internet frequently, so they’ll see comments about YUYU’s merchandise on Instagram. This process will slowly build trust between the customers and YUYU but still works.
S: What are your perspectives on Taiwanese consumers shopping online and in a physical store?
B: The market is slowly being taken over by online shopping. Not many people are seen shopping in a physical store nowadays. But recently, several physical shops will have YUYU’s collection. This year around May and June a selected shop: Level six in Guangzhou. There’s also a store in Dongchu that sells our clothes too. Yoga Edition and Dynasty in Shilin also have YUYU’s sportswear too. There’re several physical stores still in progress. My showroom will also run in May.
S: Showroom is as in the one you let buyers choose what they want to buy?
B: Not like that kind of showroom, We allow customers in and they could come and make reservations for them.
S: What is the reason that makes you want to do a showroom?
B: Because I would work there every day. I want to create a very chill vibe. So I don’t want to have a legit physical store. They could come when they want. This seems fun for everyone. I don’t want to operate a store like how it normally should’ve done. I need a place where I can get inspiration all the time. Not a place just to sell merchandise. It could also be a place where I can host events for yoga classes and find instructors to come to teach them. It should be a location of many usages.
S: It sounded like a place where you’re able to let your customers come and experience different things and also a space for interactions.
B: Yes. Something like that. I want to do whatever I feel like doing.
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S: Could you talk about how you started to become an influencer?
J: I feel like I’m lucky to become an influencer because I was able to follow up with the trend in the beginning. It’s when Instagram was trending. I started managing my Instagram because I was trying to satisfy my vanity. It took me a while to start to change myself a little bit. Since it’ll only take you to a certain level when your vanity is gratified. It’s more about how to resonate among your followers. I think if you show more and just go out there, be out there it’ll help a lot.
S: Did you feel like it is you who drew your audience’s attention or is there a special way you that you’ve managed to do so?
J: Initially, I satisfied my vanity. Step 1. That’s me (hahaha) Step 1 is to dress very hotly and pretty. Hahaha. And then step 2, start to provide useful information, for me it’s exercise. It’s different for everyone. People follow Instagram users to get info, like my friends who do sports. But like your friends who post about workouts and food. I follow them if I am interested. I seldom post a lot of random and weird stuff. My followers would think it’s interesting. You’ll realize that a lot of people actually…they…I don't know how our community turned into this. But a lot of people in the world …I didn't even realize about this. I found out when I was chatting with my fans. Some people don’t have friends in life. They’d feel like their connection with me is way more and better than that with their friends in real life! It’s a strange phenomenon. I didn't know about this. But then I realized. So I always encourage them when I was chatting with them.
S: Do you think they like you because you’re unique? Or is it because you like to share your life?
J: I think because it’s unique.
S: Could you talk about the process of building your brand as an ordinary influencer?
J: At first I did it for fun. And then I dress in the hot outfit. I don't usually put myself in a sexy dress. But I knew how to since I went to the club when I was young. I wanted to dress sexy but I was a little afraid to. I realized my customer base is generally pretty young. I also live stream as I’m selling the clothes. Because you have to communicate with them about how to dress up and also to convince them to care not what others think of you. They need to try out new outfit styles. I think live streaming is just trying to encourage them. The first step in building your own SMI brand is to make them feel that you really care about them and also stay connected. When they’re talking to you make them feel like you’re their friend or sister or even someone who can be trusted. Then they would follow you.
S: How long did this process take you?
J: I feel like I’ve grown a lot. This step took around 2 to 3 years. Fan-based is slowly built. I need to be a good listener. Learn not to be self-centered. This was my biggest change. I learned to listen to my customers and know what they want. For real! I learned not to be so egotistic and give them what they wanted. I became someone who slowly guide my customers.
S: What’s the core value for establishing TATULA? No matter if it’s the mentality as a founder or your strength to attract your customers…
J: I feel like my purpose to build TATULA is to let my customers know that they could rock all kinds of different looks. They don't need to be someone else. I started this brand with three people on my team. It was me and the other two people and we had different personalities. But at the same time, we are the same. I feel like all girls are the same. Which girl doesn't want to look pretty? But everyone has a different standard of being pretty. Some think they look pretty with a just t-shirt and jeans. Some would want to wear revealing clothes to show their good figures. So my core value is to make all girls think that they’re pretty no matter what. I don't think they have to play safe. A lot of people try to play safe because they’re not brave enough to show what they are. So I want to encourage them to just be themselves.
S: What is the most important thing to building your brand?
J: I think the most important thing is to be able to communicate with customers and give them what they want.
S: When you’re communicating with your customers, do you think that you’ve successfully used your way to deliver your core value to them?
J: I didn’t know if I succeeded at first, but I feel happy when I heard their feedback. I’ve heard them say, “after watching your live stream, I’ve decided to try. Even though my boyfriend thinks my clothes are too revealing, I still want to wear them.” Or like, “this encouraged me that it doesn’t matter that much to wear something sexy.” I think it’s nice to let them know it’s ok to dress what they want. S: From building your brand to establishing your fashion brand, have you ever encountered anything difficult or obstacles?
J: I think it’s the brand positioning. We started off selling affordable clothes. I knew that there must be a certain customer base for this. But now I’m trying to sell custom-made clothing. It’s pretty difficult. So it’s the brand positioning. Since if you’ve decided to change what you used to sell, you would lose your original customers. And it takes a while to find new customers. You should figure out your position then you slowly change to things you want to do. And don’t give up too easily, just keep doing what you’re doing.
S: How about marketing? What are the challenges from “Me” as a personal brand to “Actual Product”?
J: As an influencer, I had to be personal for others to relate when I built “Me”. My fans like me because we’re able to link. I wasn’t trying to create an image intentionally for them to like me. The greatest advantage as an influencer compare to first-tier KOL or celebrity is that you’re able to have close connections with your audience. No distance. To make them feel that you’re being intimate with them as a sister or a friend.
it’s different if you’re selling clothes. The company can sell products after careful discussions on how to operate the business. So you need to constantly connect with your fans and customers. Reply to their DMs. I ask questions on my Instagram story to look for feedback on how to link with my customers and their needs. I think this is the advantage of being an influencer. I saved a lot of time doing market research. It’s easier to gather my customer base as an influencer. This is the major difference in our marketing strategies.
S: Have anything ever upset you when you’re doing your fashion brand?
J: I wasn’t able to sell my customized clothes is probably the most challenging thing. Because the whole collection is high-quality custom-made. It cost a lot and it was very expensive. Which is also why it’s hard to sell.
S: What do you think is the reason behind it?
J: I think I had the wrong brand positioning. TULA was growing and making profits because we sell sexy dresses at first. Clothes that are sexy and American “Fuck the World” kind of style. I wanted to up a level (Price-wise and position-wise). But it didn't work out. My customers are wild kinds of girls. I thought to myself, it doesn’t matter, I’ll just fix it later. The consequences are serious if you have the wrong brand positioning. Like Forever 21.
S: When you faced this sort of challenge, have you ever tried using social media to get feedback or figure out a way to make changes?
J: Oh I think this is the best part about SMIs’ brands, you can use social media to fix your questions. You can immediately know what part you’ve done wrong or the sales status. We’re able to fix our problems given our customer's feedback. And since the scale of an SMI store is small, it’s easier and faster to make changes.
S: Which fashion trends do you consider for your collection? Do you plan the product development in a more personal twist or fashion trend?
J: I was influenced a lot by the trending Bohemian style when I was building my brand. There weren’t a lot of people in Taiwan that were doing this kind of style. Plus, I love this style of clothes. So I’ve decided to sell Bohemian-style clothing. It didn’t go well. Taiwanese people aren’t really into this type of clothes. So I had a rather small customer base. So for the rest of one and a half years, I followed the current trend: do fast fashion. Even though we’re merely a niche brand, but we’ve managed to keep it fresh and maintain our customers’ attention. We bring our clothes up on shelves fast just like fast fashion nowadays. From now on to the future I’ve started to try making handmade customized clothes. I wasn’t really happy about doing the fast-fashion type of clothes. Because it felt like I’m selling the clothes for the sake of selling them. Now I’ve changed to doing custom-made clothes, and it’s a challenge for us. Since fast fashion attracts a lot of young customers, the price and the position would be rather low. Custom-made clothing itself is a personal twist along with a bit of the trending fashion. The pricing and style are a little different. So we’re still testing the water.
S: What kind of platform it is for your trend research?
J: Usually, I surf Instagram to check out other people’s posts or celebrities’ outfits or accounts from other brands on social media platforms. If I like the styles, then I’d add a little of my twist and put it into consideration for my next release.
S: What are the differences in strategies between managing as an online influencer and an operating fashion business?
J: I think the biggest difference between the two is the different targeted audiences. As an influencer, you should just be yourself. What I post is my daily life, exercising…etc. So the kind of audience that I attracted wasn't really limited. I have a male and female audience too. The age range is broad as well. But if I’m back doing my business, since my products are mostly for females. This is why most of my customers are females. The age range is around 19-35 years old. The posts and messages I posted on both TATULA and my personal Instagram account are all created for this company. I would consider what my customers like about the style and the sense of the outfits. Then I’ll choose the theme for the photo shoot.
S: How much do you rely on customer loyalty?
J: Oh! A lot! That’s why we try our best to connect with our customers. Though I feel like it’s easy to gather your customer base as an SMI, a lot of my fans, later on, turned into my customers. So it does matter a lot if they like me or not. So I should use several ways to communicate with them. To let them know that I provide the best service and quality.
S: Becoming an influencer is getting popular now, how do you maintain customer loyalty and connection with your customers?
J: I’ll keep releasing interesting and eye-catching products, which are based on my customers’ expectations (like asking them on the Instagram stories), and also work with new influencers that will provide them with TATULA clothes. This is a more effective way to attract customers from different fields. I’ll also invite them to do a photo shoot together. And in the future, I will do different collaborations with different influencers in each season.
S: What percentage of followers turn into customers? Are your customers mainly your fans? Or do you have other ways to attract customers?
J: I’m not sure hahaha. But most of them are my fans. They're also fans of other KOLs. Since I constantly work with other KOLs. So I slowly gain my customer base when other influencers introduced me to their fans. Judging by the frequency I see my fans watching my story, live streams, and replies to their messages, I realized that word of mouth (E-WoM) on online platforms is very important.
S: What do you think about the trend that SMIs are building their brands?
J: It’s great! I encourage everyone to try. Since different SMIs have different personalities and images. So the brand they established would be different too. There’ll be various types of brands in the future. This could be the future of Taiwan. I can tell by the responses from my fans that many influencers bring positive influences to their fans. They also influence how their fans dress up. Technology makes everything more convenient. Now everyone is confident enough to do what they want to do. Is a pleasure to see this!
S: Compare to other fashion markets, do you think SMI stores can thrive well in the Taiwanese market?
J: SMI stores are rather intimate with their customers. They’re able to obtain first-hand news and also create interactions between the store, fans, and their customers. It’s more reliable because its SMIs are trustworthy. Compare to other clothing brands, it’s easier to convince and build trust with the customers when fans are following your social media. So just do your things. (Many SMIs’re doing it for the sake of making money. They do things out of their league. For example, allowing sponsors. Disappointing…) But I know some of them are trustworthy. So it depends on how they manage their accounts. Also, it’s easier to spread publicity of an SMI brand at a lower cost. Usually, advertising covers half of the expense of a company. So it’s a good start for reducing the cost.
S: What do you think about the fashion market in Taiwan? What influences do you hope TATULA can bring to the market?
J: The fashion market in Taiwan is improving. That’s great! A lot of small brands are slowly building up. Customers well know better what styles they want. Everyone has his/her thoughts on following their favorite influencers. Physical stores are reducing as well. But online shops are increasing. This could also mean that customers are gradually deciding to shop online. Though customers would be able to let customers try on their clothes in physical stores, the rent is crazy in Taiwan. Shopping behaviors are changing in Taiwan too. So a lot of people start by opening online shops. They could change to physical stores in the future if they do well online.
And for TATULA, I’m not hoping to make any big influence on the market. But our company upholds the spirit to provide customers with the best quality clothes. To make them feel confident when they put our products on. I hope my fans and customers could also benefit from how I request my clothes to be of the best quality. I want to give them positive influences. This is my mentality and also the way to express myself. I’m considering making sportswear. One of my favorite things to do is outdoor activities. So there’re different lines to make for how TATULA should grow. No matter if it’s about the sportswear or the kind of custom-made clothes that I’m selling now, it’s a way to present “me”.
S: What kind of shopping habits would you say after judging by your customer base and your observation?
J: Like discounts, free shipping is some basic service. They love buying discounted products. Not even a second thought as they purchase, like me. Haha. If it’s free shipping, then they’d think they saved some money. Coupons are also pretty effective! It’s so difficult to ensure good quality since I’m making higher-priced clothes.
S: Why didn’t you consider collaborating with Pazzo? Have you thought about the pros and cons?
J: There’re tons of benefits for sure. Like looking for my suppliers, clothes patterning, and other logistics system that Pazzo can help with. But since Pazzo has its assembly line and business model, they have its process. I feel like influencers would be limited if they decided to work with them. It’ll be less fun then. I like to face challenges. If we’re doing this thing, we’ll do everything on our own.
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How much time do you spend on social media?
Which social media?
Su: I usually spend most of my time on Instagram and YouTube. I spend a total of 4 or 5 hours on these two. I only use these two.
Ariel: I usually spend 4-5 hours on Instagram. It depends on my schedule of the day. I usually spend around half an hour on Instagram when I wake up. I’m on IG when I’m taking public transportation, on the toilet, and two hours before I go to sleep.
Alex: I spend around 6-7 hours on social media every day. I spend more than half of my time on YouTube because I watch YouTube channels very often. The rest of the time I surf Facebook and Instagram. I usually use social media when I wake up, before I go to sleep, and sometimes on transportation.
Miao: I spend 5-6 hours on social media, mostly Instagram. I scroll through Instagram with no specific purpose. I don't spend much time on YouTube, usually around half an hour. I do that on the daily basis.
Zi-Yun: I spend 5-6 hours on social media. I watch YouTube videos for around half an hour to an hour when I’m eating during lunchtime or dinnertime.
Leo: It’s a little bit different for me since I work on Facebook. I have to constantly surf Facebook and make surveys. I usually spend around 8-12 hours on Facebook. When I get off work I go on Instagram to check out what my friends are doing.
Sharon: So usually on Facebook for work, and Instagram for socializing?
Leo: Yes, I check out news on Facebook. Usually around half to an hour. I watch it daily.
Sharon: I see…So you guys have one thing in common, you all use Instagram. What makes you want to use it?
Ariel: I use Instagram because they’re all about photos. I enjoy scrolling through people’s posts, especially posts about fashion and traveling.
Alex: I usually use Instagram when I receive post notifications about my friends’ new photos. But most of the time I use Instagram to watch stories from my friends to check out what they're up to. Yea. Mostly for checking out posts and stories. Not so much on IG TV though. And for YouTube, I watch NBA and gaming videos.
Sharon: So for Instagram, you can say that it’s a platform to connect you and your friends? And for entertainment purposes? Alex: Mhmmm…that’s right…
Zi-Yun: I read articles on Instagram. Many writers post articles on their walls. They’ll make the most important lines from the articles into a photo and the full article right under the photo. I’d read the photo first, and I’ll finish the full article if I’m interested.
Sharon: So you learn knowledge scrolling through these posts? Psychological knowledge?
Leo: As I said, my work is to be on Facebook. So I’d watch some news, and sort of receive them passively. I connect with my friends on Instagram. Laugh about the stupid things they do…and for YouTube, like what I said before, I would learn things by watching videos, that’s about it.
Miao: Say when I need to find a restaurant or places to go when I travel, I’d use Instagram for its hashtag functions. It’s just easier to look up what I need to know rather than simply searching it on Google.
Sharon: So you’re saying it’s more practical and faster on Instagram?
Miao: Yes. The search result is closer to what I need. Also, my friends use Instagram to check and post photos, and stories. So I know what they’re doing within the last 24 hours.
Sharon: Kind of like a stalker…
Miao: Yea (hahaha)
Zi-Yun: Oh and also a new function. Say if you want to view maple leaves, you’re not sure what they look like now. You can check out the most recent stories from the destination. It’s easier to do so.
Su: I watch YouTube when I eat, or when I’m trying to learn things. Most of the time I also watch stories and check out what everyone’s doing. Then that's it for me.
Sharon: Well, it sounds more like you’re just trying to pass time. Not using it for other purposes.
Su: Yes, yes, yes.
Sharon: Do you think there’s a difference in your consumption behavior before and after using social media?
Ariel: Yes! I would check out the people that I follow. If I like their outfit, I would look up the brands and might even buy myself one too. (hahaha)
Sharon: So it’s a connection. People use it to connect with their friends. A connected platform. Would you say that when your friends resonate among themselves and it will sort of influence you a little bit? Why would you want to be like your friends following up on the trend?
Alex: There’s an account that I use very often it’s called Hypebeast. They’re all about streetwear. Say if they’re dropping new items and I’d like to cop them with my friends, it’s more convenient to just share and send them to them. It’ll be more difficult to gather all the release info. They’ll tell you the exact time and location. So I think it’s easier with the help of social media.
Sharon: Would you say that there’s a difference in the authenticity when you get release info online or from other places? Because usually when people see info online, some would make impulse purchases, and some would consider it before buying it.
Leo: I think it depends on the price. Price will determine if people do impulse shopping.
Ariel: I think it depends on whether I like the person advertising it. If I trust him/her, I’d buy it.
Alex: Since we constantly check out celebrities’ outfits. Many companies would ask celebrities to advertise their clothing. And when they advertise, it sort of becomes like the celebrities are putting their names under the clothing brands. It also means there’s a high chance that followers that follow up with these celebrities would purchase the advertised items.
Sharon: Do you do online shopping often?
Alex: Yea. There’s a function on Instagram where you can instantly check the price of the items. It’ll link you to another website where they have items in stock and you can buy them right off the website. It’s very convenient.
Miao: I do online shopping very often. I rarely shop in the store. But I do online shopping under one condition, they offer free shipping and free return. I’ll do impulse purchases if they meet what they do offer. They must allow a free return. Sometimes ads would suggest items that you might want to purchase. And when you do see something you like, you can buy it without a second thought.
Su: To answer your question, no matter if you shop online or in-store, it depends on the material and the details. Followers more or less have a bit of trust in these SMI, that's why they’d follow. Since they probably already researched before they decided to advertise for these companies, followers could trust them, and at the same time, trust these companies' products.
Sharon: Would you say those SMI and online discussions are trustworthy? Or are your friends’ suggestions more convincing when it comes to purchasing?
Zi-Yun: Mhmm..friends. I think there’s still a bit of distance between us and the celebrities. Friends are more straightforward.
Su: Sort of like by word of mouth.
Zi-Yun: Yes, since friends probably have already used them before. And they could show it to you directly.
Leo: I have occupational habits. When it comes to KOL, at the very top level of the Market Funnel, it’s the awareness section. And what you said about the word of mouth, it’s probably at the very bottom level. They’re on two very different levels. At the very top section, it has to be that you like the KOL, then you’ll probably decide to purchase. When it comes to friend suggestions, I’m not sure about the pricey products. But when you see your friends wearing them and looking good in them, then you’ll probably buy them. I think conversion is rather high if you’re merely listening to word of mouth. At the very top level, how much you like your KOL would influence if you’ll buy the product.
Sharon: So what kind of SMI influence you the most in shopping? Do you only trust them after you have followed them for a while?
Miao: I think it depends on their advertising methods. If the celebrities allow too many sponsors from different companies. Say if this celebrity advertises for care product A and not long after, advertises for another care product, then he/she is not convincing enough for me to purchase the items he/she advertises. But if my friends are willing to buy the products, then recommend me to buy them, then it’ll be a bit more persuasive. It’ll be more practical too. If this KOL doesn’t usually allow sponsors, it’ll seem more trustworthy when he/she advertises.
Sharon: So you guys use social media because you’d like to follow what these celebrities post. Do you think social media act as a platform to connect you and the celebrities? Has it influenced you in any way?
Miao: I think lifestyle, especially those who’d like a healthy lifestyle. If these celebrities exercise daily, you’d want to adopt this healthy lifestyle too. It’ll change you.
Alex: Food. If I see celebrities posting food stories, and it looks delicious, it’ll make me want to try too.
Leo: Food for me too. It should be psychological stuff for you (Zi-Yun), not food.
Sharon: What I want to know is when you’re reading these articles, will you feel what the writers are trying to convey? Or just their words? Do you believe their words because you follow them? Or do you only feel relatable after you read their articles?
Zi-Yun: It depends on their articles. I check out these writers after I read their articles. Since I use hashtags often to find the articles I like. If I enjoy reading their articles, then I might go to the bookstore to purchase their books.
Sharon: Do they influence your thoughts in any way?
Zi-Yun: Yea. Words could heal. I feel emotionally attached to them and sometimes their articles can be very relatable. They might write something that you probably haven’t experienced before. Some KOL would reveal their dark sides, those writers seem rather trustworthy.
Ariel: I agree!
Zi-Yun: Showing their dark sides will make them more trustworthy.
Su: Let’s talk about SMI. Why people rather trust SMI than other stars or idols? Because they feel more intimate with them. Since they’re not so much different than us. It depends on their ideology and thoughts. Just like Zi-Yun would want to read all the articles and then decide to follow these writers. As a photographer, I would look at the photos first. I want to know why these photographers took photos from certain angles, and what are the elements in this photo? These could potentially be very precious learning materials.
Sharon: So what kind of SMI do you guys follow?
Ariel: Lifestyle, travel, fashion, food.
Sharon: Have you purchased products SMI recommended? Or do these SMI own products?
Ariel: I have. One of my favorite SMI is a Dutch Instagram celebrity, Negin. She has her care products brand and I bought a hair oil because I like her. I love it! So I trust her, even more, when she advertises other products.
Alex: Not much for me. I know a lot of game streamers. I watch them stream sometimes, and they often recommend certain keyboards or mice they use when they game. However, it’s still not enough to convince me to buy a new setup for me the game. I trust my friends though. When they recommend me certain products, they’re very unlikely to lie to me. But there’re too many fake comments online. SMI advertisements are also not too convincing for me.
Sharon: Have you ever trusted any SMI, bought the products, and then realized that some products are fake? Or is it that you’ve never trusted any SMI?
Alex: I’ve never bought any products from these SMI until my friends or someone close to me confirmed that the products are legit.
Sharon: Do you rather trust branded products or products advertised by SMI?
Alex: I would rather trust branded products. Because these SMIs are sponsored by other companies to advertise their products. Branded products seem more legitimate compared to those that are advertised by SMI.
Sharon: So you would trust renowned brands over SMI advertised brands?
Alex: Yes, because it’s renowned for a reason. They do not need any SMI to advertise for them. They just need to make a decent advertisement and they already have their market. They don’t need SMI to promote their products. Startups might need the help of SMI since they don’t have a high budget for marketing. They might be convincing, but I choose not to trust them.
Su: I think those products that SMI recommends should be fine, I’ll observe before I make a decision. For instance, when Team joined is still starting up, they ask all the fitness SMIs to advertise for them. I decided to buy Team joined products because I saw on their story that they wear their products to work out. This makes the products seem more trustworthy. Because it’s not like they’re trying to make a post or a video solely for promoting their products. We’re able to see their personal life and tell if they’re using the products. It seems more natural that way, and more convincing to me.
Sharon: So it’s not just the SMIs themselves, it’s more about their lives.
Su: Yes, I think this is the biggest difference between a celebrity and an SMI. We’re able to see their personal lives. It’ll be more persuasive if the SMIs are not sponsored.
Alex: I’d like to point out something too. I’m in the field too so I know well that SMI is signed to certain entertainment companies. When their agency asked them to advertise products, it’s more like they’re forced to do so. They can’t refuse even if they don’t like the products. I feel like if the SMI are using the products in their personal lives, not sponsored or trying to advertise anything, it’ll be more persuading than a post promoting the products.
Leo: One more thing. A very crucial point to decide whether I should buy the product or not is the product’s features. For example, our company is collaborating with Philip to promote air fryers. The price is around 6 to 7,000 NTD. We already had several advertisements on our Facebook fan page. We’ve also asked a few SMI to stream and test out the air fryer. Compare to other companies’ fryers, Philips’s works better and is less oily. On the day that SMI streamed, we sold about 40 of them. According to our data, we sell about 7 per ad, but these SMIs can help the company to sell around 40 of them. If you’re buying clothes, and they look good in photos, but you don't know if they’d look good on you. If it’s electric gadgets, and there are streamers to test out, the promotion is way stronger than an advertisement on a fan page from a renowned company. So it depends on the contents and the feature of the products.
Sharon: Would you trust a streamer if they’re promoting products? Since they’re directly interacting with the audience. Streamers could answer their questions, about the material…etc.
Leo: Streaming to advertise should be more effective. You cannot edit the video and it’s live.
Ariel: I’ve watched an SMI try out several sets of clothes on stream. At the moment, if you like it you’ll buy it. It’ll influence the audience for sure. You’ll feel like…wow…it looks good on her. Then you’ll buy it.
Sharon: So you wouldn’t consider the materials or the color of the clothes?
Ariel: Not at the moment.
Sharon: What kind of SMI would be more convincing to you?
Ariel: Those who talk about the good and the bad side of the product. Like…Molly thought she advertised a lot of products. But I give her 70% of my trust.
Leo: I think it depends on how you describe it, like how “Li-Ke Tai-Tai “lost her audience’s trust because she advertised too many products. I like Howhow’s videos. Though I know it’s a sponsored video, I’m aware of the products and I’m entertained. It’s a plus even if I’m not interested in the products. But I’m able to remember this product and it’s very effective. It’s all about awareness.
Miao: I’m personally very into a KOL called Yu, LEE, she used to be the Chief Editor of a magazine company. She’s not just a pretty KOL, she’s could be very persuasive. Many of her Instagram posts are about knowledge. She doesn’t just talk about different clothing brands, but the history behind them. A lot of companies will send out PR products to SMI. Usually, they’ll just take a picture or make a post. But Yu, Lee would post a story about the products. It’s more convincing that way. I like this kind of SMI. Knowledgeable, pretty, and fashionable.
Ariel: It’ll shorten the distance between SMI and the audience when they allow interactions.
Su: Back to what I said before, no matter what kind of SMI they are, they’ll slowly become commercialized. They do things when they get paid. So streaming the products seems more authentic to me.
Sharon: So do you guys have any SMI that you follow regularly? SMEs represent themselves as individual brands too. Compare to those brands that are on the market, SMI seems to have a closer connection with the customers. Even so, is it difficult for them to maintain their customers?
Miao: When you see an SMI that you like, you’ll follow him/her immediately. But for you to trust them or to buy the products they recommend or their products, you’ll need to observe them for a while. Posts after posts, they’ll slowly build trust with their audience. After the trust is built, then it’s likely that the audience will buy their products.
Sharon: It usually takes how long?
Miao: It depends on how KOLs interact with their followers. If this keeps a close connection with them, then it wouldn't take long. But I’ll unfollow too if I can’t relate to the KOL.
Sharon: So when these SMI are building their brands, they’ll collect data and try to figure out their market. Understand what they like, and how they should change to appeal to their customers. Do you guys grow along with your favorite SMIs or do you think everyone has different loyalty to them?
Ariel: I have high loyalty to my favorite SMI, Negin, for instance. In the beginning, she shares her outfits and daily vlogs with her boyfriend on social media. Later on, she started her brand, I’d still buy her products. So it depends on what content they bring to their audience.
Su: I’m not a loyal follower. (hahaha)
Alex: Same here for me. L
to: I feel like guys have low loyalty.
Alex: It’s very low for guys. I used to watch Pewdiepie and Ryan Higa. I loved their contents. But new YouTubers’ contents seem more interesting. These new YouTubers are very creative. I don’t watch videos from those YouTubers that I followed back in the days
Leo: I think guys care more about content. Everyone could do similar content, but it’s about how they deliver them. What matters, is that the follower follows up with them. If the YouTuber is on the “On Trend” list, I’ll choose to watch.
Alex: Anyone could be a one-hit-wonder. If you’re able to maintain your audience, you’ll become successful.
Sharon: How do you consider a successful SMI?
Leo: An SMI that created his/her community or words that only his/her fans know.
Zi-Yun: A distinctive SMI. I’m not a loyal follower too (hahaha. I wouldn’t like to do something just because I want to do the same thing as this SMI. I’ll follow if I like his/her lifestyle or something that interests me. There’s still a gap in between, I wouldn’t buy the products even if the SMI is trying hard to promote)
Sharon: Since you haven’t bought the products which are recommended by SMI or products that are owned by SMI themselves, is it because you’re more likely to buy products, would you be happier to buy branded products?
Zi-Yun: I’ve never purchased products from any of SMI’s brands. I still need my friend to recommend me before buying it. Like Fion’s friend’s own care products, I’d be more interested to buy them. So it’s easier for me to buy branded products, I wouldn’t consider the authenticity so much before buying them.
Ariel: For me, it depends, usually I’ll base on my favorite KOL’s recommendation, the style, and the image that they create to decide whether I should buy the product.
Sharon: What would make you want to follow and subscribe to an SMI? What kind of SMI would convince you to follow?
Su: When I follow someone I’d like to know his/her thoughts, and how valuable is he/she to me. I follow these SMIs because I admire them or because there’s something that they’re better at doing. I’d like to see things from their perspectives. I’d like to learn from them, like when they face obstacles how they’re able to solve the issue with the right kinds of attitude.
Leo: Sort of like your life instructor?
Su: That’s why I’m not loyal, because I switch to the next SMI after I complete learning something from them. Sharon: So you change as you age?
Su: Yes, I face different things as I grow up, so I tend to follow different SMIs. I used to follow people who dress nice. But now I follow people who talk about self-development, or something work-related. Maybe when I’m in my 30s I’d like to follow people who talk about family or work issues. But I don't have an SMI that I’ve been following for quite a while.
Leo: I’m pretty much the same as Su. There’s not anyone who encounters the same thing I do in my life. Just like Zi-Yun, when I encounter something, I’ll go online and look for articles and see if they’re relatable.
Ariel: Not for me (hahaha). I don't care about their contents. If their lifestyles seem appealing enough to me, I wouldn’t try to relate to their lives. I’ll follow them as long as I like them.
Sharon: That’s another way to admire.
Ariel: Yes, yes…I crave their lives.
Miao: I think you’re trying to live like them, change your life to be like them. I’m not saying you’re trying to imitate them, but more like you’re setting a standard because their lifestyle is appealing to you.
Leo: I want to add something else. My manager said that they’re starting to form a movement not trusting KOLs in the U.S. KOLs aren’t being honest because they allow too many sponsors. And around the third or fourth quarter, that’s around September and October, a similar issue will happen in Taiwan as well. But I don’t think so because Taiwanese KOL claims that the post or a video is a sponsored one, but KOLs in the U.S. don't do so. So I wouldn’t say this movement will occur in Taiwan.
Sharon: So you’re saying KOL is a trend, that slowly changes what the audience thinks?
Su: Yes, KOL is popular because they speak the truth. But they’re slowly becoming commercialized. Continue with what Leo said, many entertainment companies are signing SMLs. Because the audience trusts these SMLs and they’re effective promoters for companies.
Leo: It depends on how these KOL shape themselves. How they deliver the contents to the audience.
Ariel: It depends on the KOL.