Why retailers should be tapping into the maker movement


and platforms on the internet, has had a huge impact on making. 

Creativity should be as much a part of retailing as selling products and services, so for retailers to harness creativity they need to:

  • Demonstrate the personality behind the brand 
  • Be nimble – and not afraid to sell direct without bricks and mortar
  • Unlock the Ikea effect – people value what they have made themselves
  • Tap into the creator economy to connect with customers

Demonstrate the personality behind the brand

The ‘ease’ with which anyone can dabble in, try out or set up a new business, driven by the availability of online tools and platforms has seen the rise of a new brand of entrepreneurism.

For example, the grassroots Instagram platform @BlackOwnedEverything amplifies the bold voices and products made by Black makers globally: from ‘melanin’ necklace pendants to Tracee Ellis Ross’ natural hair care brand Pattern, through to custom press-on nail kits from The Nail Plug Toronto. Instagram also gave account administrators the option to edit their profiles to reflect that they were Black-owned businesses. 

Meanwhile, the makeup and fashion team behind HBO’s Euphoria has capitalised on the show’s success by leveraging its influential aesthetic. Euphoria’s stylist, Heidi Bevins, partnered with luxury vintage e-commerce site TheRealReal to serve up a selection of on-brand looks, while makeup artist Donni Davy launched HALF MAGIC, a makeup line inspired by her creations for the show. 

By harnessing their personalities, actual staff, or the idiosyncrasies of their category, these creators are connecting with customers and highlighting what makes their business unique – a point of differentiation that cuts through the clutter of crowded categories. As a result, they have all created genuine communities rather than shoppers. 

Another way to tap into this trend is to encourage the people behind the scenes of your brand to express their personality and engage directly with their audience on social media. 

This is particularly true for TikTok. It’s a platform that favours individual creators, and where overtly commercialised content is sniffed out quickly, and deprioritised by the algorithm. It’s a conundrum for businesses familiar with Meta’s analytics and built-in commerce. Those that are succeeding on TikTok are focusing on personality and voice, perhaps more akin to a billboard than trackable advertising.

One brand that promotes its people rather than just products on TikTok is Woolworths. Using the lens of a team member formerly on the shop floor, now content creator, Liam Kirley shows what it takes to keep the supermarket running, like setting up the deli area in the morning, as well as other musings grocery shoppers will relate to, much to the delight of followers. 

Retailers should understand that sharing a glimpse of the people, and activity behind your brand helps people connect with your comms. Build an audience and the opportunity to go viral and the sales will follow.

Being nimble is everything

Today’s obsession and imitation of start-ups as leaders of innovation has seen the rise of 

businesses where all you require is a brain and a laptop. Being nimble is everything. 

Fantasy Explosion – a cult New York brand – sells rare, vintage and deadstock clothing. Run by Kevin Fallon, the brand routinely drops new releases of sweatshirts, t-shirts, and hats on a weekly basis. Fallon understands that today some second-hand stores are full of lacklustre, chain-store goods so he found his niche by making it easier for customers to buy directly from him without wading through the duds in the local second-hand store.

Shoppers have learned to follow Fantasy Explosion’s Instagram to hear about weekly product releases and are primed to buy them quickly before they sell out. 

Music icon Harry Styles launched pop-up experiences to complement the release of his album in nine big cities including London, Berlin and Los Angeles with people queuing around the block to enter ‘Harry’s House’. These temporary stores offered people merchandise, at under $80 an item, in an Instagram-able comfortable home-like environment they could post to promote the activation to their own networks. By nimbly transferring what is typically a digital relationship in streaming music and making it physical with a space for people to visit, share with friends and follow, they were ultimately able commemorate the experience with a purchase.

The takeout for retailers is clear: prepare your customers to expect new products at a standard time that’s only available online or in novel and exciting ways. They’ll remember you and come back for more. And they’ll likely help spread the word too.

Make it work 

There’s a reason mushroom kits, sourdough and home brewing kits have taken off lately. 

This return to cottage industries is not only out of resourcefulness but is driven by a desire to make things when traditional knowledge of growing, making, and sewing is fast disappearing.

Supermarkets Woolworths (Australia) and New World (New Zealand) were onto a winner with their Discovery Garden and Little Garden promotions – where shoppers received stickers and seedling kits with their shopping.

These kits were prized by many because similarly to the endowment effect, we tend to regard anything we can make ourselves more highly. So, involve your customers in the making, assembly, or customisation of products – they’ll thank you for it.

In another example of “making it work”, during a recent TRA qualitative research project for a major retailer, a respondent shared that his toddler had the most fun assembling an office chair with him at home. The experience of “making” clearly resonated.

For retailers, this could look something like offering a service or product that enables and guides your customer to learn a new skill and ultimately create the item you typically offer them. 

Fostering a deeper connection than a one-off transaction is more likely to be shared. There are many examples where a fledgling business has taken off by turning their product into a ‘how-to’ guide, or a fashion brand offering the patterns and materials required to make their clothes and so on.

Tap into the creator economy

Who is your brand speaking to? Why not enlist the support of those who know them best and broker a more genuine connection with your customers? 

Diet Paratha is a platform run by London-based creator Anita Chhiba, the creative force that champions South Asian culture and community across the diaspora. Chhiba has been working with the likes of Tate Modern, Byredo and Gucci to create highly engaged content, sold out events and publications that have more resonance with people like her.

Girls That Invest is a podcast, book and masterclass series run by South Asians, Simran Kaur and Sonya Gupthan who are on a mission to remove the jargon from investing to encourage more women to create wealth.

As a result, these creators have partnered with banks, local councils, and other brands to support women learn about the topic in an accessible way. Kaur’s book has also hit the bestseller list before being released alongside timeless classics like Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

Building and engaging with an audience in the 2020s is about connecting with authenticity, as social media has empowered creators and brands to reach and grow their audience directly without the need for major distribution. Like Substack for writers, TikTok for musicians, even Cameo for celebrity appearances. 

These same tactics or skills can be employed in retailing – harnessing emotion to garner results.



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