Many brands and retailers have continued their commitment to amplifying Black businesses, creators and makers since the racial justice protests over the summer. Consumers increasingly want businesses to put actions behind their words and often choose to shop from brands and retailers whose values align with their own. The 15 Percent Pledge, started by fashion designer Aurora James, is a commitment businesses can make “to use their financial power to create more equitable market share for Black-owned businesses.” The 15% initiative has offered an on-ramp for many businesses recently making promises to deepen engagement with Black creators and brands.
Many Black-owned businesses have been adversely impacted by COVID-19. A report by the New York Fed found “Nationally representative data on small businesses indicate that the number of active business owners fell by 22% from February to April 2020 — the largest drop on record. Black businesses experienced the most acute decline, with a 41% drop.” By choosing to highlight Black-owned businesses, many brands and retailers are both doing the right thing and building loyalty and creating opportunities for customer acquisition. Several businesses, including West Elm, Yelp and Macy’s, deployed digital strategies and partnerships to amplify Black voices.
West Elm Collaborates With Black Makers And Highlights Black-Owned Businesses
“We are determined to use our purchasing power to create economic empowerment for Black-owned businesses, artists and designers,” said Alex Bellos, president, West Elm, when taking the 15 Percent Pledge in July. Since then, the modern furniture and home decor brand has featured Black makers and creators under their “friends & collaborators” tab on the West Elm website. Among the featured businesses are ceramics studios Utility Objects and Ceramic Meltdown, UNWRP, a gifting brand, and Bolé Road Textiles. All of the West Elm collaborators are introduced with a small bio or “Meet the Maker” video, and the collaborator pages include direct links to their business websites and the option to buy direct from West Elm. Friends and partners of West Elm are also highlighted on the site, and include Black-owned businesses like Celsious, a modern, hipster laundry in New York City focused on sustainable linen and laundry care.
Yelp Amplifies Black-Owned Businesses On Website And Social Media
This past summer, Yelp created a “Black-owned” searchable attribute, allowing businesses and restaurants to identify as black-owned if they wish. Development of the Yelp search feature was the result of increased consumer interest in black-owned businesses, with Yelp seeing a “35x increase in the frequency of searches [by users] for Black-owned businesses across categories on Yelp” year-over-year (May 27 to June 10). Yelp also noted that “reviews mentioning Black-owned businesses were up more than 617% this summer  compared to last summer.” Additionally, Yelp added a “black-owned” search filter to the main page of Yelp.
In August, Yelp signed the 15 Percent Pledge committing to amplify Black-owned businesses through calendar and community events, public relations and social media, and internally in order to drive awareness among employees. Additionally, 15% of “Yelp’s Instagram feed content will feature Black-owned businesses” and “15% of Yelp’s lists will focus on and include Black-owned businesses,” according to Yelp’s announcement at the time.
Macy’s Partners With Black Fashion Designers For Exclusive Collections
In October, Macy’s announced they would launch four exclusive fashion collections by the “country’s most dynamic black creatives” for several “limited-edition seasonal collections throughout 2021.” The collections will be created by designers Zerina Akers, Misa Hylton, Aminah Abdul Jillil, Allen Onyia and Ouigi Theodore and aim to reflect the talent, creativity and style of these exceptional fashion designers while also helping diverse brands scale, an opportunity that is often only possible via a major department store or retailer. “We are excited to work with these tremendous talents to bring truly exclusive, one-of-a-kind collections to our fashion-devoted customers,” said Durand Guion, vice president, Macy’s fashion office. “We are committed to bringing more diverse-owned brands and design talent into our assortment. We know having a supplier base that reflects our diverse customers offers shoppers a more robust experience, allowing us to expand the breadth and uniqueness of our merchandise, while nurturing diverse talent in our industry.”
Retailers and brands that are able to authentically highlight the work of Black-owned businesses and black makers and designers, even after the national call to action has dimmed, are likely to develop and encourage affinity from like-minded consumers who perceive the brands as true allies. Advertising strategies including robust content marketing, targeted search implementation and strategic partnerships can increase visibility and help Black-owned businesses gain recognition and scale across larger markets.
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