Why creators are key to making e-commerce human

Kit Ulrich, general manager at LTK, thinks the connections forged by creator-driven shopping will bring more trust to e-commerce.

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  • Christopher Good Staff Writer for What the Future
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Anyone who’s scrolled through Instagram or TikTok in recent years has probably discovered new brands (or trends) to try. Increasingly, however, fashionable shoppers are gravitating to platforms like LTK, where style-minded influencers show off the hippest products found online. LTK now drives more than $3 billion in annual retail sales from some 200,000 creators globally. General Manager Kit Ulrich says the app can bring new value — and a human touch — to online shopping.

Christopher Good: What makes people shop differently when they see an influencer’s social post, as opposed to an ad or a billboard?

Kit Ulrich: The main point is that creators are just real people — and they do the work on the behalf of you as a shopper. There’s a lot of work that goes into curating and finding the best products. Even when you find something you think you want, does it fit the way you expected? Did you get it for the best price? Creator-driven shopping is about humanizing shopping, making it authentic and convenient for the consumers. 

Good: Many customers are loyal to influencers or creators. How do you bridge that to brand loyalty?

Ulrich: As a platform, our No. 1 job is to make creators as successful as possible. What we are seeing more, though, is people understanding creator commerce — understanding that if they want to go shopping online, it is better if they do it alongside a creator, and that is why they come directly to LTK. In a way, it’s part of our democratization economy. Similar to how Airbnb democratized hotel rooms, or Uber democratized drivers, LTK democratizes personalized shopping. As a consumer, I’m hiring a creator to make shopping easier, more fun and more valuable. 

Good: How will you remove barriers between browsing and buying?

Ulrich: What’s really interesting in our category is that shopping or browsing can happen in an entertainment state. Take the analogy of when people used to go walk around a mall, it was interesting, it was fun, but it was also social. You were usually with a group of people. I think that’s still true. We’re just starting to do it in an online world. And that’s exactly the space that creator commerce fits in. What we try to do is to balance that. We create paths that a browser can explore — and when a shopper is ready to buy, we’re there to convert them. 

Good: Reviews are crucial for consumer confidence, but they also have a trust problem. Will that get better or worse? 

Ulrich: If you roll back the clock on e-commerce, there are really only two features that providers put out there to try to get people’s confidence. One was reviews and the other was free shipping and returns. Now, we’re feeling the pain of both those features. With reviews, it’s so easy for it to be fake or paid. And with free shipping and returns, we’re all living the pain of ordering 10 things and having to ship nine back. 

Creators are incentivized to build trust. If they promote a product with an artificial review, and then you buy it, you’re not going to follow them anymore, and then they’ve hurt their business model. Both sides are incentivized to do exactly the right behaviors to build trust — and I think that’s why the industry is booming.

Good: Some shoppers prefer a physical retail experience. Do you think AR (or VR) tech could help reach reluctant online shoppers?

Ulrich: I’m a bit hesitant on this, at least for our space. AR and VR definitely work for some functions, like showing you what that mirror looks like on your wall. Clothing is much more complex — and that means [VR and AR] can actually degrade trust, because putting on a shirt is very different from placing an image of the shirt on top of you. So, the exact thing that our creators do — trying it on and saying, “you know what, the armholes on the shirt are really tight,” or “I can’t lift my arms above my head,” or ‘it shrunk dramatically” — these are things that a VR try-on room won’t make massive strides for. 

Good: LTK was established 11 years ago. What do you think the greatest change will be in another 11 years?  

Ulrich: You’ll see many different types of creators. You already see younger generations saying the job they want when they grow up is to be an influencer — you didn’t have that a decade ago! Creators are going to develop authentic, niche types of expertise, because that’s where they add value, tapping the long tail of shopping trends.  

That’s really exciting, because creators serve a need for their shoppers, saving them time and money, adding value to their lives. And on the flip side, these are creators who get to make their own income and build their own business. It’s empowering people to live their own lives on the terms that they want to live it. 

The author(s)
  • Christopher Good Staff Writer for What the Future