Retailers, It’s Time to BeReal… Or Is It?

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By Published On: September 7, 20220 Comments

From Instagram to TikTok, retailers have tapped every single touchpoint on the social media landscape. But when is the time to step back and reevaluate this move? With new social media platforms like BeReal popping up and taking centre stage, is it wise for retailers to jump on the bandwagon straight away? And if they do, how can they make the most of it without annoying shoppers? 

What is BeReal?

BeReal is a relatively new social media platform, launching in 2020 but taking off in popularity over the last few months. With a simple premise, the app asks users to take two minutes out of their day to ‘be real’. This means stopping what they’re doing and taking a snap of themselves and what is in front of them at that exact moment using the dual-facing cameras on their phones. Raw and unfiltered, the app provides a welcome return of the ‘social’ in social media and gives users authentic access to their followers’ lives.

Its tagline takes this one step further. “BeReal won’t make you famous,” reads its description on the App Store. “If you want to be an Influencer, you can stay on TikTok or Instagram.”

In the last few months, users have turned against the likes of Instagram for their blatant favouritism of Reels and advertisers in newsfeeds. Changing algorithms to show more ads, promoting Reels more than ever and reducing the posts of followers have become the norm. It’s becoming abundantly clear that social media is being turned on its head, turning into an advertising platform with followers’ posts sprinkled in newsfeeds.

BeReal is the fresh face on the social scene, removing these algorithms, filters (even likes!), and the traditional aspects that are driving people away from the likes of Instagram. It is climbing the App Store charts, threatening to knock Facebook off the Top Ten list. And other social platforms are already taking notice. Snapchat has already adopted its own version of BeReal, allowing users to take snaps with both cameras simultaneously. And Instagram is rumoured to launch its own version BeReal as ‘IG Candid Challenge’, prompting users to share an image within two minutes of receiving the notification.

With so many other platforms already copying the format of BeReal, is there any need to adopt this new platform?

Short answer: kinda.

Look, I understand that retailers need to be on top of every trend that comes out, be it TikTok, Instagram Reels, Clubhouse, etc. If there are shoppers on the platform, retailers want to appeal to them. But the question here isn’t just whether retailers should be on BeReal, but if consumers want brands to be on BeReal.

At the Power Retail Connect lunch on August 31st, we asked online shoppers about the gripes they find with retailers. And they didn’t hold back. The overwhelming consensus was that there is an overload of promotional emails from retailers and a lack of transparency. This comes in the form of stock levels, hidden delivery charges, and missing reviews.

Consumers are being bombarded with promotional content more than ever before, but if the retailer isn’t authentic in its communications, what good does it do to be on a platform like BeReal? It sort of defeats the whole purpose, right?

The Retailer Perspective

At this point, I’m talking from the perspective of a consumer, but what about the retailer’s perspective?

Is it a good idea to join BeReal as a brand? The premise of BeReal is in its name; it is expecting authenticity and raw reactions to the two-minute notification timeframe. So retailers need to deliver on that and not just turn it into another mindless revenue stream.

And let’s be real here (pardon the pun): there’s no stopping retailers from joining BeReal. So, if you’re going to do it, you should do it right.

Cosmetics brand, E.l.f, was one of the first brands to join the social media app. The brand shares content on BeReal with exclusive behind-the-scenes shots of new products and discount codes for those who use the app. “With BeReal, we see a real opportunity to just give fans this unfiltered, authentic look at E.l.f.-exclusive content: what’s going on behind the scenes, what the office looks like. So [early adopting] is allowing us to listen to what our consumer and community will respond to, but also give them a level of transparency that we feel that not a lot of brands have offered yet,” said Laurie Lim, Chief Brand Officer at E.l.f.

Sharing behind-the-scenes shots and discount codes are a great way to appeal to the customer. However, it comes with some headaches. Social media managers and assistants may have a rough time planning their posts in the same way they do for traditional apps. One of the attractive elements of this app is its unpredictable nature. The two-minute notification to tell users to ‘Be Real’ comes at random points of the day, so there is a good chance that brands may not be available to share the latest behind-the-scenes of a product or have a discount code when the notification arrives.

So before you download the app and create a brand account, consider this – don’t BeReal for the sake of it.

If Retailers Want to Look More Authentic and ‘Be Real’, Don’t Join BeReal. Get Real.

At the Power Retail Connect lunch, Rob Cooke, New Zealand Country Manager for Braze, called to attention the rise of a new phase of customer engagement. From selling products in the ’70s to products and services in the ’90s, we swiftly moved into a customer-centric philosophy in the 2000s. But that has shifted once again, and retailers are facing a new era of being relationship-centric.

As COVID shut stores worldwide, it had a negative impact on the relationship many had with retailers. According to Cooke, there has been a decrease in brand satisfaction due to the removal of human interaction.

But it’s beyond human interaction to generate a relationship-centric approach with today’s consumers. Retailers need to listen, understand and act if they want to succeed. That comes in the form of personalisation, transparency when products are out of stock, if deliveries are going to take longer than expected, or if there’s been another issue.

Consumers will choose a brand that delivers a product with a great experience. Within this experience, there is a cohesive, personalised and relevant approach. Get these elements right before you jump into something under the pretence of looking more authentic. Actually, be more authentic.

You don’t have to have a BeReal account to be authentic with your consumers. Plus, who knows if it will work anyway? BeReal has a different algorithm to Instagram and TikTok, as it is pushing a more ‘IRL’ feel than its competitors. “The way the BeReal algorithm and friending works, it’s not really conducive for a brand to go out and truly recruit new audiences [and] I don’t see it as conducive for an influencer to build a following,” shared George Goldberg, the Chief Creative Officer of Movers + Shakers to WWD.

“It’s test and learn for sure, and what we want to do is make sure we’re keeping pace with what people on BeReal actually want. We always want to be there in an authentic and genuine way,” he continued. “We never want to be that brand that’s crashing the party.”

At the end of the day, there is no real way of knowing how long this app is going to last. As mentioned before, legacy social media apps like Snapchat and Instagram are already testing the waters of the BeReal concept. The app’s founder, Alexis Barreyat, is notoriously private about the app and its growth. Who knows where it is going, if it will tap into advertising or verified accounts? Looking at the meteoric rise (and fall) of other social platforms like Clubhouse, it will be interesting to see if BeReal has the sticking power it needs for brands to really pay attention.

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About the Author: Ally Feiam

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