Launchmetrics CEO: "The luxury industry has handed over content creation to influencers"
After a financing round worth $50 million, the CEO of Launchmetrics, Michael Jais, talked to FashionNetwork.com about the future plans of the influencer marketing specialist, which has the beauty industry and Asia in its sights. Jais discussed the rebalancing that is taking place between influencers and micro-influencers, the emergence of a new generation of influencers with artistic leanings and the mistakes made by the luxury industry in its initial approach to millennials.
FashionNetwork.com: What will the fresh funds enable Launchmetrics to do?
Michael Jais: We have three objectives. First of all, we want to strengthen our technological capabilities. As we helped brands work with influencers, we built up a huge mass of data, which is absolutely unique in the world of fashion and which we haven’t truly exploited yet. It can enable us to help brands design their products better, thinking about them more effectively in economic and psychological terms and selling them without relying on current trends alone. This involves expanding our AI capabilities. The second objective is to strengthen our commercial teams. We have a number of sales people, less than fifteen, which is very small compared to our revenue. The goal is to triple this number. Of the six modules we offer, our clients use on average 1.5. We have ample room for growth. The third objective is to implement a highly dynamic acquisition plan.
FNW: Acquisitions of direct competitors, or of complementary products?
MJ: With a revenue of $25 million, we are the largest company in fashiontech. It is a privileged position from which to monitor smaller players with interesting technology and products which could be added to our portfolio. We keep an eye on everything, on firms in the USA and in Europe. Our priority is to look at firms operating in domains where we aren’t present, that would enable us to offer additional modules.
FNW: How has the way in which you work with client brands changed?
MJ: Two things have happened. Until last year, brands were asking themselves whether it was really necessary to get into influencer marketing. Now, they ask how to do it effectively. A genuine shift in attitude has occurred, since the returns on investment are tangible. Also, brands have suddenly realised that 50% of their customers are millennials, who don’t have the same expectations and attitudes, but that brands cannot for this reason double their marketing budgets. Hence the need for brands to analyse in detail what works and what doesn’t work, to find the ideal trade-offs.
FNW: Will fashion, luxury and beauty remain your only business areas?
MJ: These industries are changing. For example, there is an entirely new attitude to luxury. Young people combine luxury and low-cost purchases, whereas in the past there was a genuine luxury-only clientèle. Behaviours have changed. For us, the consequence is that brands have the choice of either going down the accessible way or of concentrating on inspiring consumers. Brands like Nespresso or Dyson promote their products like luxury labels. In my opinion, our target market will increasingly feature experiential brands rather than brands from a specific industry.
FNW: Have some of the expectations of luxury labels surprised you?
MJ: Their challenge is to reconcile exclusivity with accessibility. This explains why they struggle to adapt to new behaviour, making influencers the ideal bridge for luxe products, since through them labels are constantly accessible by and on the radar of Millennials. The real question is: “What should they say to [Millennials]?” " What surprised me is that normally you target a given audience with a given message for a specific goal. Instead, the luxury industry started using influencers without thinking about its own content first. The luxury industry has handed over content creation to influencers. And you do act differently depending on whether you seek to establish reputation or legitimacy.
FNW: Is this always the case?
MJ: It's all becoming more sensible. And a swing is also occurring. Two or three years ago, it was all about influencers with a million followers. Since last year, people have been swearing by micro-influencers. It will all balance out eventually. In the near future, I think that brands will orient themselves towards influencers with artistic leanings, independent from their digital talent. Alongside professional influencers, there will be architects, designers, artists, etc. A new economy will take hold. It will be an opportunity for fashion, luxury and beauty brands.
FNW: The field you work in is still in its infancy. Do you manage to find the skillsets you need when you hire?
MJ: The financing round will give us the chance to fully establish what we call the Launchmetrics Academy. It is an internal structure which verifies the skillset of the candidates who apply to us, enabling us to keep your staff up-to-date, something which, from the technology aspect alone, is quite difficult. Our priority is to hire people who are familiar with the way our clients work. We aren’t afraid of hiring people who are experienced in, for example, welcoming VIPs in top hotels, even if they don’t have a tech industry experience. What’s important is that they are flexible and willing to learn.
FNW: How is your current business split up between industries?
MJ: We have long been established in fashion, which accounts for 60% of our revenue. The luxury industry too is well-developed, accounting for about 30%. As for beauty, we’re only at the beginning. This explains why we included in our fund-raising the Famille C fund, owned by the Clarins family. We think we definitely have a strong hand.
FNW: Are you targeting Asia chiefly via the beauty market?
MJ: Asia is a challenge in itself. We don’t want to approach it until we have the appropriate resources. We have a distributor in Tokyo, to enable us to study the market. Initially, our plan is to support European brands in Asian markets, where they encounter rather tricky problems. Then we will be able to apply our expertise to local brands too.
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