The Interview: Samina Virk, Global CMO, Threads Styling
Threads Styling pioneered shopping via chat, bringing a new approach to shopping for luxury to a new generation of luxury consumer. Through creating compelling content on social media channels, Threads moves the conversation to chat where it creates a personalised shopping service, converting orders for luxury items that can run into tens of thousands of pounds.
The London-founded company has just launched a new B2B service enabling professional stylists to leverage its platform and know-how to grow their businesses. Global CMO Samina Virk explains all.
Before we talk about the new B2B service for Threads, for the benefit of our readers, could you please explain the premise of Threads and chat-based commerce in a nutshell?
The founder and CEO, Sophie Hill, launched Threads Styling with the vision to pioneer a new luxury shopping experience for the next generation of shoppers.
Threads creates engaging style content to inspire Millennial and Gen Z clients on social media channels including Instagram, Snap & TikTok.
From there the customer journey continues over chat platforms like WhatsApp, iMessage and WeChat, providing a completely personalised experience. Threads’ custom built technology platform fuels the high touch service, allowing personal shoppers to service clients across any platform of their choice.
Communicating with consumers directly via chat and social platforms makes so much sense, particularly given your target market of young luxury consumers, how did you get the engagement initially from the audience and what about the brands - how did they initially respond to the proposition?
Threads was founded with a mobile and social first model, which has been key to reaching and engaging our community – we are servicing clients where they already are searching for inspiration, rather than asking them to visit a website or download an app.
We’re continually evaluating what our community is asking for and how they respond to our social channels, to ensure that we produce content that both inspires them but also feels relatable. Threads content is always shot social-first and styled in a way that Gen Z clients like, mixing together different styles, products and brands.
Our brand partners have seen the traction Threads has developed with young luxury customers so they want to work with us to connect directly with these customers.
Given the explosion in the use of social media and chat during the pandemic, can we assume that usage of your service increased significantly too?
Yes, we saw an increase in activity and followers across all our channels, with significant growth in specific categories, including fine jewellery and watches, as well as growth in international markets.
Threads is a truly personalised service, so we are able to really listen to what our clients want and understand what they are going through, which was crucial throughout the different phases of the pandemic period.
Feedback from our community inspired the products we featured, how they were styled, as well as the launch of new, dedicated channels that clients wanted to see more of. For example: @ThreadsGen (younger, casual luxury shoppers) @ThreadsJewels (fine jewellery) and @ThreadsInteriors (home).
You targeted luxury fashion and jewellery, did you ever find any resistance to people buying high priced products via your channel or is the sky the limit on what they are prepared to spend?
Threads has always been focused on inspiring the luxury consumer through style content. Clients love high quality, investment pieces that are seasonless and will stand the test of time, styled with the hot product of the moment and mixing different trends.
During the pandemic, we saw an increased interest in fine jewellery and watches. They are currently two of our fastest growing categories, with jewellery growing at +80% YoY and watches +356% YoY.
As a business, Threads has always been a retailer that sells high value goods (starting with fashion and eveningwear), so our clients found it very easy to trust us with high value fine jewellery purchases. It felt like a very natural transition.
New clients have also become more comfortable purchasing high value pieces for the first time through our channels due to the exposure and trust people have with the Threads brand. Clients often come to us because they are looking for special, personalised, bespoke pieces; such as bespoke Rolex watches or high-value jewellery pieces from the likes of Fernando Jorge, Cartier and Garrard. For example, we sold a £40,000 customised set from Emily Wheeler, and our average order value for watches is between £16,000-£20,000. 100% of these sales are through WhatsApp, iMessage, WeChat, Instagram or Snapchat DM.
Our shoppers enable more detailed conversations and product views over chat, which is key for high value purchases.
Presumably, working via social channels and chat you can gain great insight into customer behaviour, how do you use that to hone your service and do you share that data with partners?
This generation expects a high level of curation that suits their style, combined with convenience, and a mobile first approach. A recent study indicated that 70% of Gen Z customers make purchase decisions at the point of inspiration (*Source: BCG)
By evaluating how our clients engage with our content and what they ask our shoppers for, we are able to really understand what inspires our community the most.
We can see this behavioural trend on Threads channels as clients move quickly from engaging with social content to swiping up to connect with a personal shopper, and continuing the experience over direct chat.
Through our personalised service, Threads is able to really tailor our service to each individual client.
You’ve just expanded with your first B2B service targeting personal stylists, can you explain that to us please?
Threads Connect gives independent personal shoppers the ability to scale their own business by accessing Threads’ innovative tech platform and unrivalled global sourcing network.
Through the platform they will be able to invoice and track all orders, track all client sales and service clients across any channels, while maintaining a central knowledge base.
Access to our global sourcing network, including our extensive community of brand partners, gives personal shoppers the ability to access hard-to-find pieces anywhere in the world. Partners also have the option to utilise Threads’ inspiring style content, as well as our global logistics network to enable international shipping.
Could you give us a bit of insight into your tech platform and logistics, how that works and how stylists can tap into it?
At Threads, one of our first priorities was to build an order and transaction system that can be used across any social channel such as Instagram, Snap, TikTok and Chat platforms including WhatsApp and iMessage. This allows our personal shoppers to interact with clients wherever they are while maintaining a central knowledge base.
Our platform also allows shoppers to access all of our styling content, create unique send outs based on their shopper’s needs and search a catalogue of the hottest product. For the first time, Threads will offer independent personal shoppers and stylists the opportunity to become a partner and tap into this platform via the Threads Connect service.
You’ve said that you see this service being at the core of the growth for the business moving forward, what is it in particular about this that you think offers such potential?
Threads Connect will give independent shoppers, in any region, the ability to use Threads’ custom-built technology platform, global sourcing network and curated style content to scale their own independent business. This will allow Threads to expand the global community and market share, driving faster growth within established territories and also giving us the opportunity to service new markets.
You are looking at global expansion and are targeting the US and Asia in particular, can you explain why those markets have been key?
Threads is about servicing our clients wherever they are, whatever they are doing in the world. We launched APAC in 2019 and the US in 2021, both are strong growth markets. APAC has gained momentum and now makes up 20% of the business, whilst the US is quickly ramping up at +500% YoY and projected to become 12% of the business in 2021. Given the current trajectory we see strong potential for these territories and they will be a key focus of our growth strategy.
What about the UK? How has the service been received here and are there any plans for particular focus here?
Threads was founded in London, and from our HQ our shoppers service many regions including the UK and Europe. We will continue to focus on growth across all regions, including the UK. Our London customer is very international and therefore whilst it’s their primary city they work with us wherever they are in the world.
One of the big movements amid younger luxury consumers has been towards more sustainable consumption, how does Threads speak to that trend?
The Threads’ customer journey is entirely over chat, so personal shoppers are able to receive direct feedback and tailor recommendations to clients. Through this we have seen an increased awareness of the environmental impact of fashion.
The Threads community are even more interested in vintage over the last few years, not only with past collections but also bespoke vintage pieces that are customized and truly one-of-a-kind pieces. They often see this as a balance of responsible fashion, while embracing their own uniqueness.
Our shoppers often recommend pieces the client will cherish for a long period of time, sustainable brands and also source rare unique vintage pieces for clients helping to keep beautiful crafted pieces in circulation.
Have you considered how you might tap into models such as resale and rental?
We’re very interested in what's happening in the resale space, we view resale and vintage as an important element of luxury fashion and the transition towards circular practices in the industry and consumer behaviour.
Can you summarise your ambitions and the potential you see for Threads moving forward?
Threads' vision is to offer an unrivalled shopping experience, and our business model very much delivers this to our clients. Moving forward, we have two main ambitions - to grow our client base and expand our reach by launching in new markets, and to continually evolve our client experience and offering to stay aligned with our vision.