Beyond Threads - Ep. 2 - Digital Platforms with Maxim Sion and Antony Hawman | Bleckmann

Beyond Threads - Ep. 2 - Digital Platforms with Maxim Sion and Antony Hawman | Bleckmann

17 May 2024  |  Omnichannel, E-commerce, Branding,

Dive into the dynamic world of digital platforms with Antony, Maxim, and Mohamed as they explore how digital platforms are reshaping industries like beauty, lifestyle, and fashion. From innovative technologies like digital try-ons and VR to navigating privacy laws and enhancing customer experiences, this insightful discussion offers a glimpse into the future of marketing and brand engagement.

Antony Hawman: It's also about being, doing what you say you'll do. You know, it's like, if my products are really this great, then make sure they are that great. You know, that's what you're portraying on social, because let's face it, we've all bought those things that look like, you know, Gucci when you order them and then something terrible when it arrives.

Mohamed Akabbal:
Hello, everyone. Thank you for listening to Beyond Threads podcast by Bleckmann. I'm your host today, Mohamed Akabbal. And today I have with me two wonderful guests, Maxime and Antony. How are you guys doing? Thank you so much for joining me today.

Maxim, I think the people are really curious who you are. I think I could start with you with the introduction. Could you please tell us who you are, what you do, what you like and everything?

Maxim Sion:
So I'm Maxim. I'm based in Belgium. I'm 31 years old. I'm working one year for Bleckmann now as business development manager before I had my own fashion company, Black and Gold, and now a start-up Studio Anvers.

So yeah, I know everything about marketing for fashion brands and how to start from a scale up until like a medium scale brand. So that's my background for it.

Mohamed Akabbal:
Perfect. Sounds amazing. I think I have enough questions for you later. Anthony, please.

Antony Hawman:
Sure. Yeah, I'm Anthony. I'm the co-founder of TheIndustry.Fashion and Industry.Beauty. We are business media platforms. We produce daily news, features, insights, reports, podcasts. We have some incredible events that we do as well for our audience. And yeah, in short, we're the inside view of UK fashion and beauty.

And I am based in London. I'm going to show my age now, but I've worked in media and fashion e-commerce and beauty e-commerce for over 25 years or something. And I'm excited to be here and chat to you guys.

Mohamed Akabbal:
I would have never guessed 25 years, but awesome. So about the event you guys hosted in April, Industry Beauty, if I'm not mistaken, how was that? How did you enjoy it? What was the premise of the event?

Antony Hawman:
Yeah, that's right. We host, we have an event channel called the Industry.Beauty Live and we have the same thing in fashion, but talking about the one we did in April, it was all about the “Omnichannel Opportunity”. So it was really about, how many brands really think that they are selling omni-channel because it's very different to selling across channels. Omni-channel means that you've got this one view of your stock. You've got this one view of your inventory and so on and so forth. And then where you sell that through all of your channels. So we had the stellar audience.

We had standing room only. We were kind of putting chairs in at the back and everything so that people, everyone could enjoy it. Incredible line-up of speakers. We had some great people from your company, Bleckmann. So we were grateful for that. And we had some business leaders from brands such as Elemis and Skin Rocks by Caroline Hirons from Malin and Goetz.

We had Lush on the panel. Yeah, but really useful for our audience and we do those events almost monthly. So yeah, it went really well.

Mohamed Akabbal:
That sounds really exciting. So you mentioned omni-channel. I assume that's offline and online as well. How is a digital platform? Maybe you can give an example. How are those reshaping the beauty and lifestyle industry, or perhaps even the fashion industry? What effect do these platforms have?

Antony Hawman:
Yeah, sure. I mean, omni-channel, it was such a learning for me at that event as well, because I just, you know, I work in these industries every day and I'm learning so much, but I assumed omni-channel was, as long as you're, you know, selling on your mobile app, selling on your e-commerce, selling through retailers, selling through, you know etc. What it actually means is that your whole entire, kind of, sales channels are this one view. And that's where Bleckmann were great, because they were able to say how they could help with inventory and having it in which warehouse etc.

But then also, we were hearing from, you know, the GM of brands. We were hearing from the marketing teams, the e-commerce teams, about different things they deploy on their channels to kind of drive sales and drive conversion and engagement. We had everything from, you know, AI.

We had a really cool company come speak called Revieve. And they had Beauty No. 7 with them, where they were speaking about how their digital try-on and skin scanner had really helped with their conversion and engagement online.

And it was just, you know, I think we've all learned from COVID, right? That you couldn't go to stores and you couldn't try things, etc. So digital has come a long way to be able to, sort of, put that experience from what you would normally have in store, having it online with companies like Revieve. So, yeah, we just heard so many great things across different channels that were there to help drive engagement and conversation like I said.

Maxim Sion:
Yeah. I agree with Antony on this one. The only thing is also that, these kind of digital platforms are creating, new markets for brands. Like, smaller brands getting are a lot of access to new customers. Right. Of course, now after with the updates of IOS means more privacy.

So with the change of the privacy laws, it’s a lot more difficult for brands to have all the data on their websites. So they can use this marketplace, digital platforms to receive, more data in a good way.

Mohamed Akabbal:
Definitely. I completely agree with you. As a marketer myself, I am so aware of the GDPR and the laws that are coming with it. But on the opposite, it's really important for consumers that their privacy is being kept safe.

So it's not just being able to easily obtain data on customers and benefit from that as a brand. So I think it's a two-way street, definitely. So thank you for your input, Maxim.

Is there anything you want to add? Because you are a brand owner, Maxim. Is there anything you want to add in regards to digital platforms? How was your start? Is there anything people should know in regards or starting a brand? What to take into account when using a digital platform? Especially if you do direct to consumer. I think that's really important right now since Instagram has a shop. TikTok has a shop. Anything can be used as a marketplace these days. So anything you want to share?

Maxim Sion:
I think as a brand, as you're starting a new market, it's really difficult to do it just on your own website or you will pay a lot of advertising costs without good success.

So it's more easy to open digital platforms to serve together with the mass, like get more people to show their brand to. Also, like we explained, you have AI now. You have, like, VR technologies.

For sure, in the beauty sector, it's more easy than fashion. But if you have a sunglass, for example, and you can just use your phone with a selfie and you can wear it, it's a really nice technology you can use. Over time, a few months ago in a meeting with Google, and they are also working on this now with shaping different people with different sizing to compare to your own body.

And over time, it will be possible even to just, like, if you click on the t-shirt, you just see the perfect fit, how it looks on you. And I think over time, that's really important for also smaller brands to have the ability to use this technology.

Antony Hawman:
Agreed. I think what you were saying about fit tech and everything, I think that's going to be a game changer, especially in this world we live in where, you know, returns are such an issue. And obviously, that has such an impact on people's bottom line, but also the environment. You know, people forget brands still have to make money and think about the environment, obviously.

And so, if they can deploy those fit tech, within their site, etc. I think it really helps them to sort of stop that. So, yeah, you're absolutely right. I think fit tech and stuff is the way forward.

Maxim Sion:
And, of course, like the younger people, like 16, 18 years old, they have, like, VR glasses. So, they are, like, using meta and different ways to discover brands. Even ways that I didn't discover yet, but I think that's also really interesting to see, even in games on, like, PS5, PS4, it doesn't matter, of Xbox. Yeah, you see a lot of brands coming back there.

Mohamed Akabbal:
I think it's really awesome how technology is helping the fashion and beauty industry. Because personally, I always used to go to the store because I want to fit clothes or shoes to see if they are fitting properly instead of ordering them online, get them sent home after a couple of days, and then try everything on, and then I have to send it back.

I didn't always feel comfortable doing that. So, I'd rather just, I live in a city centre, some clothing stores are literally one minute away from me. So, I just go there, fit something, and then buy it or not. And I think fit tech would really help me personally. And I think a lot of people as well. If I can stay at home, try clothes on with this technology, I don't have to leave my house.

Like, COVID again. But then I can just, in the comfort of my own home, I can just try out clothes and then I order them or I don't order them. And then, I think that sustainability-wise, that would be a huge, huge help.

Antony Hawman:
Agreed. But listen, they're also doing it for beauty. I mean, you know, before we would have had to go to the store and, try the perfume or try the lipstick, whatever it might be.

So, actually, our event the other week that we worked on with you guys, there's an amazing company called SoPost. And they do a ton of different ways of doing digital sampling. So, one thing that they've done recently, and I'm sure it's more in-depth than this, by the way, and they'll probably say, you didn't sell it right.

But, you know, the thing that I learned from them, which I thought was amazing, is that they've actually partnered up with Amazon Alexa so that if there is something like a podcast or an ad or something that comes out, you can actually, by voice command, ask them whatever they're telling you about in the podcast or on the ad. They can then send you a sample so that you can have it into your house. You can try the fragrance, you can try the lipstick, whatever it might be.

They even do chocolate, you know, for Tony's chocolate only. And that then has like a kickback card and everything that you can then order. But what's great for the brands is that they actually then have all of your data and everything so that they can really cut down on all those freebie hunters and stuff because they know who is actually converting and who is the right demographic to buy their brand's product.

So yeah, it's not just fit tech. It's also to do with cosmetics and stuff now. So it's incredible, the whole kind of offline, online connection.

Maxim Sion:
And the data is also an extra value, of course, for all the brands.

Antony Hawman:
Yeah, exactly.

Mohamed Akabbal:
That sounds awesome. I wasn't even aware of that. Maybe I should do more of my homework because that's actually really interesting. I didn't know it was so interactive with even with ads or podcasts that you're able to get this information or even these samples. So yeah, I'll be doing my homework. And I think you did the brand that does it. I'm not sure what was the brand called.

Antony Hawman:
So Post.

Mohamed Akabbal:
Yeah, I think you did them more than justice because you already have convinced me to look into this. Let's talk about personalized marketing. Of course, Anthony, you own a media business media company. How are these digital platforms influencing marketing and even on a personal note? Because as Maxim mentioned before, GDPR, even that will be implemented this year. I think August or September, those laws will be implemented. And then as of 2025, third-party cookies will be no longer. So every brand has to go off first-party cookies. So they have to actually retrieve all the data themselves.

So if any brand is listening to this, start now as a marketer to another. Get as much data as possible to make sure all your target groups are being well-targeted instead of just, in Dutch, we have a saying “schieten met hagel” just shooting with, it's called shooting a hill with a shotgun and hope you hit something. But it's rather to have accurate data and everything. How can you see that back in a media company? How does that work for you guys?

Antony Hawman:
Yeah sure. So we, obviously we're GDPR compliant but within, for us anyway, it's really about making sure our content is right for our audience. So for example, it must be an absolute minefield in consumer business because you can essentially sell anyone anything, right? So you can be contacting people, you can be sending them a hundred emails.
One day it's about new PVC windows, the next day it's about Coca-Cola. But when you're a business media company like us or a business to business company, you're definitely a lot more targeted. And so you're only really attracting the people that are going to want to use your platform, right? So for us, I mean, we use all different types of methods to make sure that we engage our audience and we want to own their data or we want to own them in some way, but we very much kind of know that we have to go where the reader is.

It's not necessarily us just saying, oh, our website, everybody's checking that website every day. We know that that might not be the case. So that's why we've got our newsletter that goes out every day. And so we've got a pool of people over there that do that and read us through that. We've then got our Instagram. We hear from a lot of people that they just literally get all of the news from our Instagram stories. That's their morning kind of sort of intake. And then we've got our live audience as well. So people come along or we sort of ask them to kind of sign up to the newsletter and stuff.

And then we've just got people that come organically to the website. So yeah, it's just as tricky for us, but it is definitely more targeted if that answers your question.

Mohamed Akabbal:
Yeah, definitely. Yeah, great. More than I could have asked for even. That's really informative. Maybe Maxime, do you have anything to add to that as a brand owner perspective?

Maxim Sion:
I think on the brand side, it's really important, like a few last years that you start focusing more on partnerships with like influencers or external companies. Because of course, with the privacy law, starting up all the data that you're receiving, you can still keep it like for a few months and then delete it automatically. So you need this kind of influencer that you know, okay, his following base is our target group. And that's really interesting in influencer marketing, of course. And you see it also over time now with TikTok, for example, as like a digital platform, they have like different algorithms using. So it's more easy as a small brand to like go viral there.

So you don't need a lot of money. You can just like have a nice video. Like the best way is even if it's a customer that like just making a review about your product and that can go viral. And this is more like a way that as a brand, you need to work today instead of just spending money on ads with like products seats.

Mohamed Akabbal:
Definitely. I think I've been one of those people that have been targeted through social media and has been convinced of buying certain products through like TikTok or Instagram. So it does work. And I completely agree with you. And Anthony, is there anything you wanted to add or?

Antony Hawman:
Yeah, I think you're absolutely right about it. It fills me with fear nowadays. You know, I've always toyed with the idea. I say it to my business partner all the time. I'm like, we should launch a brand, like a consumer brand that's a product. But we just, you know, we just get put off because the horror stories that we hear about these brands having to pump so much money into all of the social media to be able to even sell a unit, it's crazy. And so from us, we, because if you think about it, our content is our marketing channel.

So we're not someone who does that. You know, we don't pump tons of marketing money into that because we've got our own channels. And like I said, we're super targeted. So we've got our own content and stuff that kind of engages the right people. But yeah, I mean, it's way over my head, the amount of money and stuff that you have to pump in to get a customer. Maxim, I feel for you that, you know, that's what you have to do to drive your sales.

But I agree with you about the influencers. And I think if you get, even at my age, I still love influencers and I follow some on my Instagram and stuff. And you know, I know when they're just kind of like vlogging me something, you know what I mean? It's like, I know that it's just a partnership that isn't organic.

And so I think when you get the right partnership with the right brands and they do genuinely love it. And by the way, I'm not saying they shouldn't be paid for their time. Of course they should, but it just, it speaks volumes when they're actually into the product. You know what I mean?

Maxim Sion:
They need to be authentic.

Antony Hawman:
Exactly that, exactly that, yeah. And there's now, have you heard of “unfluencers”? So there are now this whole trend. Again, we had it in one of our reports that you can download online about unfluencers, which is where they're sort of getting tons of popularity and followers by being really, really, really honest about the product. So they're saying I got sent this thing and the makeup washed off after two minutes or whatever it might be. And so people are finding that a lot more authentic. And some of it, I guess, might be a hate follow because they're just finding it funny. But it is quite interesting because there are so many influencers that will just tell you anything. Whereas these unfluencers are kind of telling you the truth. You know, so yeah.

Maxim Sion:
Definitely. I think it's maybe like over the years, influencing is starting, I think, 2010, 2012, something around. So in that time, people really believed what they were seeing. But now with time, everybody knows it's sponsored. They are not authentic or like full partners of the brand. Every day they post something else. Yeah. So in that way, it's getting more difficult.

So as a brand owner, it's important to choose the right influencer, having a long term relationship with them. That is looking and being authentic to all the people.

Mohamed Akabbal:
Agreed. I agree as well. And I think the most important takeaway from this is everything in the market is so transparent nowadays, especially with social media.
And honesty is much more appreciated. Myself included, because the content I watch, I follow certain influencers and they say, okay, I have been sent this, but I didn't like it or I loved it. And then if you have a, if you're a brand and you have a good product and you get honest reviews, which are good, you're more likely to go into this atmosphere, like it's going to skyrocket your brand. And I brands should take advantage of that because I've seen brands become so much more significant because of this one good review from like this mega popular influencer they had that the sales went insane. And I can give an example. It doesn't necessarily have to do with an influencer, but do you remember the cup that survived the car fire? Oh yeah.

Antony Hawman:
The Stanley Cup.

Mohamed Akabbal:
Exactly. And it's one TikTok video and the brand went viral with that.

And the sales, I've seen some numbers, the sales that it made purely based on that video and the views it got, that's insane. And of course that's a really catastrophic or a really sad happening, but that shows how social media platforms can change a brand or a bad thing. And I think, of course, don't set cars on fire.

This is a disclaimer, but it's like also maybe the food TikToker, you probably all have heard of. He is a Vegas based TikToker. And he just says, I'm going to rate this food from one to 10. And if it's good, I will tell you guys if it isn't, well, so be it. And people who are on the brink of bankruptcy, people who are like on the edge of bankruptcy, this one person reviewed their products and they are opening multiple locations right now. It's running so good. So it's only marketing that they were missing. The service was good. The products were good. And that is not only in this specific industry. That's for pretty much every industry a brand is in. So also the fashion and beauty industry can be heavily affected by influencer marketing. And if you want to pay for it, sure. If you don't, then just hope people stumble upon it and think it's a good product. So I think that will help definitely.

Maxim Sion:
So maybe also over time, if you see a brand, how it was working like before, it was more like product selling. Today it's like brand story selling. So it's not only anymore like product showing. It's really a total view. And the customers really more like a premium product today than just a cheap product that everybody can buy online.

Mohamed Akabbal:
Definitely. Yeah, I completely agree. And I think, especially with certain things I purchased, the lifestyle around a certain brand that it portrays is sometimes more important than the product itself. And that shows just, I think people who sell certain products, they just put a Rolex in the picture and then it shows, oh, like it's a luxury item and it has a certain lifestyle. It's just really how the brain works. And maybe I'm like a softy for those kinds of content, but apparently it does work.

Maxim Sion:
Maybe they check their audience in a good way. That they just know, okay, this is the audience we have. We need to show this. If you have a more sustainable audience, you need to work more on that kind of way.

Mohamed Akabbal:
Definitely, definitely. Yeah, I'm a little bit in the middle because I think sustainability is really important. I've been studying it for more than four years. And of course at Bleckmann, it's a really important factor as well. But at the other side, there's no other side. I also like luxury items. I'm not sure why I wanted to make the comparison, but yeah, I think both are really important to me personally. And that just shows how I can be influenced with how other consumers can be influenced as well.

Antony Hawman:
No, I was going to say what you just said though is absolutely right. Because I feel like, you know, Vivienne Westwood started to do it, didn't she? Where she tried to say, like if you just buy a few things every year that are great quality, they're going to last you forever. You know, that is the whole essence of sustainability. Let's face it, we're all going to buy stuff. Nobody can just stop buying things tomorrow. And so all of the different channels need to happen, right? It's like all of the manufacturing, the delivery, the, you know, every single channel along the way has to do what they can to make it as sustainable as possible.

But then to your point as a consumer, what you just said about, you know, you like luxury items. Okay, great. Well, if they are those luxury items that are going to spend, you know, you're going to might spend, I don't know, a thousand pounds on it or something, but it's going to last you 20 years. That to me is so much better than buying, I don't know, you know, five things every week that fall apart. You know what I mean?

Mohamed Akabbal:
Definitely. Yeah.

No, I see myself in there in that, what you just described, because I'd rather spend a little bit more of money for a product that lasts me so much longer than, for example, a wallet. I have owned the same wallet for over three years now. It still looks as new as to like some of my friends, they own the wallet that costs maybe like a couple of euros. And then in a couple of months, they need to buy a new one because it's already falling apart. And I'm like, okay, I'd rather spend, okay, maybe it's a little bit excessive, a couple of hundred euros for a wallet. So no, I definitely agree. So yeah, that's a really good point. And thank you for sharing that information, Antony. So I feel a little bit better on spending more money. I can see, yeah. Spending more money on my products. So yeah, definitely. Okay, cool.

But Maxim, you mentioned earlier about social media, how brands are evolving on these platforms. Are you able to tell how these brands are evolving on these platforms? Because there are so many brands on social media right now. How does a brand differentiate themselves from the others?

Maxim Sion:
I think in the most important way, if you're like, starting 10 years ago, you started like first on the Facebook kind of way, then to Instagram and now more and more to TikTok. So you create first like more business-minded pictures and not really like customer-based. But today, if you see again to TikTok, it's really like more funny, more connected to the customer itself. So that's a totally different approach that they have there. They also try to have more like the customer itself making reviews about the products on the platform itself. So they will reshare it as a brand. This was something five years ago they would never do.

Mohamed Akabbal:
Anthony, is there anything you want to add onto that?

Antony Hawman:
Yeah, sure. So everything Maxim said, I completely agree with. I think it's about having your brand kind of identity and voice. And I know everybody says that, but I think to what your point earlier was about, you know, if you love the brand and the lifestyle, they're kind of putting forward, then you're going to want to buy stuff from them.

And I think that's absolutely right. And I think it's also about being, doing what you say you'll do. You know, it's like, oh, if my products are really this great, then make sure they are that great. You know, if that's what you're portraying on social, because let's face it, we've all bought those things that look like, you know, Gucci when you order them and then something terrible when it arrives. So yeah, exactly. And so I also think that having a bit of a niche as well, because again, if we look at beauty, there are some really cool brands like Dcypher that are a makeup brand, but they are creating foundations and stuff that you literally make online. So you can put in all of your different bits and bobs and then you get a personalized foundation, you know? So that is, yes, that income competition with someone like MAC, but they're offering something very different that maybe the other one isn't offering.

I also just think, you know, all of, it sounds crazy, but all of those logistical things are really important. Like if I go to a brand and their returns policy is terrible, or, you know, their delivery took forever, or, you know, I couldn't get the refund for three months and things like that. That doesn't matter how amazing they look on Instagram. Doesn't matter what celebrity they've got telling me to buy it. It doesn't matter how much I want the product. I'm just not going to bother because all of those other things are bad. And I think people forget about that side of it, but they are probably more brand damaging than an Instagram post. Do you know what I mean? It's a me anyway.

Maxim Sion:
Yeah, you will be like a one time buyer.

Antony Hawman:
Yeah, exactly that.

Maxim Sion:
I think it's also important, like if you're using like an influencer there that you have more like a micro influencer than like the macro because it's more close to like the audience itself. And even that if you're doing like, gym clothing or laundry, that it's more like connected to like this community of people. It's not like always random.

Then, of course, like Antony was saying, the interaction between people, it's really important that you have more possibilities on the website, even like the sunglass or anything with VR or like with AI. You see also a lot of options now in Instagram and TikTok. I think that's really important.

Mohamed Akabbal:
I completely agree with you, with both of you, because from my experience, as soon as the customer service, for example, isn't what I expected it to be, then I'm like, ok, have my money for this one time. Then there's a small chance I won't be coming back. And of course, it depends on the product or maybe it's just like this one time occurrence. And I don't want to be the one that of this one bad experience completely ignores the brand for future references. But it plays with the mind a lot. And I think that's also really important. That's and some brands do it really well. You have like a year to contact them.

If you're not happy with the product, you get refunded without any questions asked. And or you can change an item if it's like broken. These things all sound so logical to us. But in the reality, they're not really applicable for brands. And I think brands should learn from that as well, because it's really important to do, of course, attract from a market perspective new customers, but also to keep the customers you already have and do whatever it takes to keep them.

Antony Hawman:
Because I mean, it's cheaper, right? It's cheaper to keep the ones you've got than drag in a load of new ones.

Maxim Sion:
That’s really a pain for the ad. They need to stay right? Otherwise it’s a lost of operations. I think also that if you have this advertising influencer guys working for you, then by checking the website is really thinking it’s nice a nice products. They will go for sure checking reviews that they will for sure do. If you have they’re already like problems in the reviews, they will most of the time will not buy. And the you also have after that, in the checkout, you have Klarna you have MasterCard, you have a lot of options, but we see also a lot if you have like Klarna or like pay later options. That is giving also a lot of more trust to like the customer to try the products the first time.

Antony Hawman:
Agreed. It’s funny because I now look and I see what are the payment methods they have and if they’re, if they don’t have all those things, I’m normally a bit dubious about it. Cause I think in today’s world, I mean, let’s face it, nearly everyone’s got a buy now pay later service haven’t they? Or you know, some kind of sort of way of paying or whatever.
I sometimes look at it and think, hang on a minute, that’s weird. Why have they not got that? You know? Is it reputable? Is what I always think.

Maxim Sion:
Yeah, even in the checkout, like the delivery options, it’s getting more and more important. Like if you’re like delivering at home, but just that day you are at work or somewhere else, it needs to be more easy to just adapt it. And you can just tell to put it off in a drop off zone somewhere

Mohamed Akabbal:
Definitely I struggle that with that so much, because living in a city centre, I don't have a garden or like a front yard or anything. I just have my apartment building and sometimes they don't even come up to the second floor or the third floor to deliver my package, so I have to go outside. Sometimes it has been stolen before, so then that's a whole different story than I have to get my money back at etc.

But what you mentioned, Anthony, payment options are really like it's a small service, but they are really important because it gives up a certain vibe that like we want our money now and then you get the product otherwise you're not getting the product and with the pay now or pay later or paying installments, you're giving a sense of trust to those customers who are buying a product and that really helps because of course if there's not a pay now or pay later option, then I'll just buy something with my credit card and I'm insured anyways, but going through the hassle of doing everything like that then it's just.

Antony Hawman:
We work with Klarna and I've always been a huge fan. I was lucky enough to meet their founder and their team’s incredible. And you know, it really upset me actually when they got so much hate in the press when everybody was like, oh no buy now, pay later is causing all these problems and actually they went so far into look at research where it was actually proven that it was helping people because you got to think, you know, not everybody's using it for the same thing like I might use it to buy two sizes of something. And yes, I know that's a returns issue and you know I'm trying not to do that. I'm very careful with it, but then you can also use buy now pay later for someone who maybe hasn't got the you know the funds to buy their kid and new bed or you know, a sofa for their lounge or whatever it might be. So I think that by now pay later is actually a good thing. Used correctly, and retailers, I know for a fact it helps them with their new customer acquisition and retention.

And by the way, they have such incredible and it's like I'm doing an ad for Klarna.
Sorry, but they have such incredible databases and everything where they're able to promote brands. So I think for the young brands as well, it's actually great because they can use their marketing wallet, you know and data outreach and stuff. So yeah, I have a lot of a lot of love for buy now pay later companies done properly.

Mohamed Akabbal:
That's important and that makes me think of the question like is a platform like Klarna is also a digital platform on which brands can promote because if you’re like to the regular John Doe, you ask them what is the digital platform, most likely they will say Facebook, Instagram, TikTok but do not underestimate the platforms that not necessarily obvious so to say.

Antony Hawman:
Yeah. Oh listen, eBay for example. Again, sorry to kind of plug one of our clients, but eBay have an incredible amount of data. I mean, millions of, you know, data points and again, they're able to kind of like, you know, funnel off certain things. So if brands want to go on there and sell their kind of product that isn't selling in this store or whatever, the marketing machine behind it that's able to open them up to somebody new that might then go on to buy from them in their store. It's these platforms now are not just one thing, they're also marketing support, they are advertising channels, you know, it's just I think they're just great. I love this industry. I love fashion and beauty. I think it's come a long way.

Mohamed Akabbal:
You sound really passionate. So you're doing a good job. So awesome.

Then we can go to the to the next subject, because Maxim you mentioned earlier that or also Antony you mentioned unfluencers or influencers. I'm curious like as a brand, maybe Maxim you can elaborate on this. Like, how do you as a brand choose an influencer? Because of course you want someone with a huge following who can target the most people at the same time, but is that always a good thing to do? Can you maybe tell me more?

Maxim Sion:
And of course it's depending, of course, on your budget. You haven't spent first and so I start you tried to have like a mix in it. First you will check of course the audience, which kind of influencer or fitting together with your brand and then you have of course micro influences. These are more the influences that will fit your brand, of course. Then they are like in between 10,000 to 30,000 followers, for example. Most of the times they are not expensive or even happy with just free clothing. So that's like a good way for smaller brands to just give like, yeah, a little bit more like spread in, in the country. And if you have, like, more budget, you will go to more to the macro influences. But of course, if you have like people from you know 100 to 400.000 you pay already like maybe 2.000 – 3.000 euros for like a post if you don't have a like a partnership agreement with them. So it's getting expensive then and it's really difficult also to measure back how much sales you have because most of the time they don't want to use a code or anything. In China, it's different, that's more like an online selling and you can track everything. But in Europe, it's not like this at the moment. So that's a little bit, yeah. Personally for me, it’s more difficult to work with them. It can be really good as awareness campaign and to show the brand to a lot of people, but will you take sales out of it? Depending, I think off the time if you do like the good strategy micro-macro influence together, then you will of course have a nice mix and focus on the one country possibly.

Mohamed Akabbal:
Awesome. Thanks for that. And as a marketer myself in my network of marketeers, I've seen some of my friends working with influencers and the prices are. I'm not saying getting ridiculous. Of course, it's the time and effort, and also it's their brand as well. They need to promote with these friends, but I'm shocked with the prices. It's like you you mentioned two or three thousand. I've seen some 5 even 6 digit numbers were not even a person that has like 100,000 followers on Instagram. So it really depends on the quality of your followers as well.

And you mentioned like something about China, maybe I'm not sure if you guys have seen it. Have you seen the lady who shows clothing for like a split second and then shoves the box away and then another box comes with a piece of clothing and then she shoves it the way she's getting paid millions per day just to show a piece of clothing for like a split second? You should. You should look into that. That's like, it's like I think she does like TikTok live or TikTok videos.

And she literally a minute, she shows 60 pieces of clothing and per piece. She gets paid like thousands and thousands and thousands of yuan, I think. Or it has been converted to dollars like when they make the numbers.

Antony Hawman:
Is that because she's got, like, an incredible audience or something?

Mohamed Akabbal:
She's she is huge and everything she touches literally does into gold. So yeah it should also be how much you are willing to spend and able to spend. So yeah, that also really that should also be taken into account.

Antony Hawman:
And that also, yeah, that that kind of brings up another comment, doesn't it? And Maxim, maybe you can speak to this more, but it's also, I suppose you have to really, really think about who you're going to employ to be the face of your brand because they might be everything might be fine today, but then when it goes down the line like I'm sure you all seen the news about Chiarra Ferragni, who you know became this mega influencer and she deals with Ferrari and Converse, a massive, massive star in Italy and around the world and in America certainly. And you know, now she's had a unfortunate fall with something that I read in the paper with some charity thing she was doing or something, and now it's all backfired and stuff. But all the brands pulled their deals, but of course they're attached. So it’s a dangerous game, isn't it? I wonder from you like and you know what do you think about that?

Maxim Sion:
I think if you have a connection with somebody like this like influencer or like even sport guy, that's really like famous and they have an accesses, they do something that's not allowed. Every brand is always like taking off at that moment, just to give like a good signal to the people. I think that's really important, but of course it's difficult to have like to cover yourself for it. You can make contracts, of course, but more than this it's difficult to do.

And what we did in the past, like if you speak back about influencers and that moment we were not really believing in authenticity of them. And so we were more working on like sports people, so more like people that just doing something, have nice pictures, have nice following base and try to have like the products fitting to them. And then always the followers and even on their own channels really like this because it's maybe not like a popular influencer, but it's like cool images. It's like a true story that you're showing.

But then it it's difficult if they if you have influencers and they yeah do something that law is not accepting you need to cover it in the contract. That's the only way you can do it.

Mohamed Akabbal:
It's also depending on the influencer themselves, and also what they did. Because I was thinking of a specific person, an actor. Who made youth as a as a pirate, he made it really wholesome. And so to play the devil's advocate, like, of course, if a certain influencer does it, you want to distance as a brand, you want to distance yourself from it. But on the other hand, like Johnny Depp, he was being sued and all the brands like even Disney pulled their contract with him. But there was this one brand that stood by him, which was Dior. And then in the end, Johnny Depp was on top of it like he won. I don't want to speak into the legalities of everything, but the Dior was still by his side and that made me personally appreciate the brand so much more because yeah, it's a really risky thing to do, but eventually it paid off. And I'm not saying this as a this is not the financial advisor or anything. But on the other hand, it really depends on what brand you are and what your values are as a company. So, it's always good to be safe. But sometimes, if you're willing to take a risk, it might pay off. Of course entrepreneurship is the whole risk, and sometimes it pays off. So I think really those stories you guys said thought are really interesting and I think that's it.

Is there anything you guys want to add? Any questions for me perhaps?

Antony Hawman:
No, not for me. It's been really interesting and enjoyable, and it was great to see you and great to meet Maxim. So yeah, great.

Mohamed Akabbal:
If it were up to me, I would have continued this conversation for a couple of more hours, but time is also valuable, so to finish it off, I want to thank you first of all so much for your time, your knowledge, experiences. And Maxim, where can people able to find you?

Maxim Sion:
They can phone me on LinkedIn if they want and if they have questions they can always send me a message.

Mohamed Akabbal:
And what is like a question you get most often in your inbox? Well, maybe it sparks some inspiration for people who haven't thought of when they when they need to contact you.

Maxim Sion:
It's depending sometimes about the history of the brands or maybe about Bleckmann. That's also a question that I get sometimes, but most of the times, like how did you start the brand and why and yeah. It's difficult to find good suppliers and that kind of things for fashion.

Mohamed Akabbal:
And I think you will be able to answer this questions perfectly with your experience and knowledge. Thank you so much, Antony. And there's The Industry.Fashion, Beauty and the floor is yours.

Antony Hawman:
Yeah. Thanks. Yeah, you can visit our website. It's Theindustry.fashion and Theindustry.beauty. If anyone got any questions for me, I'm always open to receiving emails and comments etc. So yeah, I'm there to help.

Mohamed Akabbal:
Perfect. Thank you so much guys. If you want any questions to be answered, follow us on social media on LinkedIn, Instagram or send an email at info@bleckmann.com and we are more than happy to help you guys. Gentlemen, thank you guys so much. Lovely to have you here on this podcast and until the next step episode.

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