Arii Has Over 2 Million Followers. So Why Did Her Clothing Line Fail?

Social media star fell short of selling 252 items in 13 days

As marketers realize followers aren't dollars, questions about the value of 'influence' rise. Instagram: @arii
Headshot of Diana Pearl

252 out of 2.6 million is just over .009%. If you look at that number as a conversion rate, it’s low—too low for anyone who calls themselves an influencer to aspire to. It’s basically less effective than a display ad, which is saying something.
But it wasn’t low enough for Instagram influencer Arii. Last week, Arii—who has over 2.6 million followers on the platform—shocked the social media sphere when she announced that her clothing line, Era, which debuted just 13 days prior, would be shutting down because she wasn’t able to sell the required 36 units of each of her seven products.
In a now-deleted post, she apologized for the shuttering and explained the reasoning behind it: “Unfortunately the company that I’m working with goes based on your first drop sales,” she said. “In order for them to order and make my products (even to keep working with them) I have to sell at least 36 pieces (knowing I’ve become super irrelevant, I already knew it was gonna be hard) but I was getting such good feedback that people loved it and were gonna buy it. No one has kept their word so now the company won’t be able to send out the orders to people who actually bought shit and it breaks my heart.” (Adweek has reached out to Arii for comment.)
With over 2.6 million followers—a large number, even in the influencer world—many would assume that for Arii, selling just 252 products, such a minuscule percentage of her overall following, would be easy. This seemed to have momentarily taken the wind out of the influencer sails, as talk of a bursting influencer marketing bubble—and speculation on how this could have occurred for someone with seemingly such monstrous influence—lit up the Twitter town square.

Jack Appleby, director of creative strategy at marketing agency Midnight Oil, put it this way: “This shouldn’t have happened.”
“Most creators in the 2 million plus club can move hundreds, if not thousands of units with relative ease,” he said. “For this brand launch to have failed so severely means gigantic mistakes at every step.”
But Arii’s blunder shouldn’t be taken as a sign of the burst of any influencer marketing bubble, or a sign that that the sway influencers have when it comes to purchase decisions is waning. What it does hint toward is an influencer marketing world where simply having a large number of followers on Instagram isn’t enough of a foundation to build a career.
According to Reesa Lake, partner and evp, brand partnerships, Digital Brand Architects, as an influencer, you need to create a reason not just for your followers to come to you in the first place, but for them to stick around. If that reason isn’t finding products to shop, people won’t be inclined to do just that.
“As consumers, we look to influencers for a different reasons, whether that’s inspiration, education or entertainment, and we’re not always looking at an influencer to be sold to,” she said. “In her past content, she might not have been used to selling or prompting her audience to go buy her favorite fashion pieces.”
Though the bulk of Arii’s content is fashion-focused, it’s not shopping-centric. She primarily posts photos of herself, from selfies to bikini shots. The captions are usually brief: “backkk,” with a black heart emoji alongside a photo of her in front of a green wall, “missing positano” with a lemon emoji underneath a photo of herself in the Italian city. No purchase instructions, links or sale alerts in sight.

Not only did Arii not showcase opportunities to shop other retailers, she didn’t even do it for her own brand. In her feed, there were only two posts promoting her clothing line, and she wasn’t actually wearing products from them in either of the photos. And the seven items of clothes sold in Era’s debut collection didn’t mesh with the items that Arii typically presented on her feed.

@dianapearl_ Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.