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In the age of “Instababies,” the perfect photo gone viral can boost your bottom line.
Moms in the U.S. post 2.5 times more status updates, 3.5 times more photos and 4.2 times more videos than the average person, according to a study by Facebook. What’s more, 80 percent of children will have an online presence by age 2, with approximately 1,500 images posted of them by their unapologetically proud parents prior to their fifth birthday. Social feeds are jammed with pictures featuring sonograms, gender reveals, milestones, holiday snaps, vacation moments and so on. If it’s worth a pic, then you can bet it’s just a click or two away from going live before families, friends and followers.
What does all this mean to the childrenswear industry? Free viral marketing, for starters. What moms see, (many) moms buy. Imagine an adorable tyke wearing an appliquéd bomber while getting her first haircut in an airplane barber shop seat—now that’s “Instagram-worthy!” Such a post presents a golden opportunity for brands and retailers to piggyback on for more exposure and a subsequent boost in sales.
“Social savvy moms post their Instababies from the second they are born and before you know it, the child has their own Instagram account showing off their latest Onesie and mini Jordans,” says Erin Rechner, senior kidswear editor for WGSN. “This in turn, influences what parents buy with an overwhelming library of info through social media accounts.”
“Buying for baby can be an incredibly overwhelming task, whether it’s your first or fifth child,” says Jim Harris, director of kids’ merchandising at Zulily. Realizing that Mom increasingly seeks advice from her own circle these days, the online retailer guides its customers by highlighting user-generated content with #ZulilyFinds. “She is buying based on inspiration and functionality—what will help hit development milestones, build necessary skills and ‘look unique’ on the next playdate, running errands, and of course, on Instagram,” Harris says.
Staged to perfection with trendy baby clothes, toys, home décor and polished off with a carefully considered filter, Instagram has become the No. 1 platform for Mom to document her child’s journey in a curated array of photos, worthy of followers’ double tap. In fact, a poll by the children’s subscription box service Mac & Mia reports parents take up to two hours to capture that perfect shot. “Quality and price point are a given, but it’s more about the uniqueness of the product these days,” says Marie Tillman, founder and CEO. “It’s about posting that picture with something really different and having people say, ‘Wow, where’d you get that?’”
Viral discovery is what Gemma Broekhuis, founder and CEO of Milestone, attributes the majority of her company’s growth to since launching in 2012. “When I started Milestone, Instagram wasn’t a big deal yet. Can you imagine?” she says with a laugh, noting how the first set of Baby Cards was not made with social media in mind. “It was simply thought to capture memories—like snapshots that could be emailed to grandparents,” she says. “However, our brand grew massively because of social media—parents started spotting cards in others’ posts and wanted to create that look, too.”
Similarly, Lulujo Baby had no intention of stocking Instagram-inspired product until the Canadian company began noticing moms using its blankets as backdrops in photos. “We would often see our XO print blanket beneath a baby along with some sort of milestone card or sticker,” says Alicia Tracy, business development manager. “This inspired us to make our own all-in-one set—blanket and (coordinating) cards.” The company’s initial Baby’s First Year sets were released in 2016, including designs like the “I Will Move Mountains” landscape, the “Isn’t She Lovely” floral wreath and the “Loved Beyond Measure” oversized ruler, to name a few. Each blanket can also be used as a nursing or stroller cover or a swaddle. “The idea happened organically,” Tracy says. “We owe it all to the moms.”
Indeed, consumers have more influence than ever today. “Social media has affected the baby apparel and accessory markets by letting the consumer take over,” Rechner says. “Years ago, it was the brands designing what they thought people needed, but in today’s society of instant gratification, brands are now at the mercy of what the customer is demanding.”
eresa Stephen, owner of Teresa’s Room at the California Market Center in Downtown Los Angeles, says the showroom is Insta-ready, stocking more than just blankets and stickers. “Buyers don’t just want the swaddle but the whole cute outfit,” she says, noting that she carries Silkberry Baby swaddles with coordinating outfits, as well as Princess Paradise, which offers complete photo-ready costumes. “The baby can dress up as a policeman, cowboy…you name it, and it will always make an adorable picture,” she says.
The craving for uniqueness and eye-catching edge that Millennial moms share was what drove Bella Tunno to create its popular Wonder Bib designs. Cameron Sobanski, director of operations, says the brand ventured beyond classic graphics like elephants, alligators and ducks to add hip phrases on their bibs. “We started by playing it safe, using single words like ‘Love’ and ‘Happy,’” she says. When buyers immediately took to the new additions the design team added “tongue-in-cheek” pop culture-inspired phrases. Sure enough, buyers fell in love with the more humorous verbiage such as the Drake-inspired mermaid graphic “You Can Call Me On My Shell Phone.” “The funnier we make something, the more people can’t get enough of it,” Sobanski says, adding, “Our growth has a lot to do with how these fun phrases are so visible on today’s social platforms.”
Teether company Oli & Carol has also taken the quirky route of late. Its new line of hyperreal vegetable teethers span lettuce, carrots, broccoli and (bestseller) kale. “Kale is super trendy, very realistic and simply a playful product to show on Instagram or Insta stories,” says Nicole Tafur, marketing director at Bendie, distributor of Oli & Carol. “It doesn’t have to be an influencer using your product to get traction,” she adds. “Just an average mom showcasing a product on her Insta story can be beneficial because at the end of the day, moms trust other moms.”
Karyn Ravin, director of the Babypalooza influencer show in New York, agrees that authenticity is one of the reasons Instagram posts by fellow moms are so effective. “Beyond aesthetic, the posts that do the best on Instagram are those that come from an authentic place for each individual influencer,” she says, noting Lamaze Intimates as a recent example. “We sent product to @KateIreneBlue, and she posted a gorgeous belly photo of herself wearing one of the brand’s nursing bras on her birthday. While Lamaze Intimates was tagged in the image, the caption wasn’t directly talking about how comfortable, stylish or affordable the bra was; it was about her and her pregnancy journey.” Ravin reports that within 24 hours, the post had more than 3,650 likes and almost 150 comments.
In addition to featuring eye-catching products, it helps to have photography skills, like Amanda Pfeiffer, owner of Hush Little Lanie in Merton, WI. The former photographer believes it’s important to keep up with her Instagram’s aesthetic to make sure it matches her customers’ high standards. “It’s really simple—I shoot on a 3×3 white floor drop, fold some new outfits, add some accessories and done,” she says, explaining that a simple flat lay Instagram post is neat, creative and without the hassle of models. “I think everything I post, somebody comes in to buy.”
Another tip: the more attention-grabbing the item featured, the better the response. Brittany Harrell of Summer Place Showroom at AmericasMart in Atlanta, expects funky accessories to continue to increase in demand, thanks in part to Instagram showcases. “I’m seeing much more accessorizing for babies and toddlers,” she says. Bestsellers include statement-making soft-sole shoes, hosiery, hair accessories and sunglasses. “Babies don’t really need swim cover ups, but for summer we know they’ll be popular for that perfect pic—pompoms and all,” Harrell says. “Anything to bring a little extra flair that will slow down a scrolling finger.”