Though the trend began with consumers, both influencers and regular shoppers, posting their own content on the social media channel, the discounters themselves soon got in on the action. Last June, Dollar Tree and its Family Dollar brand joined TikTok; in November, rival Dollar General did the same, promoting its arrival with a “We’re on TikTok!” holiday-themed post. All now boast tens of thousands of followers.
“The great thing for dollar stores is they don’t like advertising much because it’s expensive, it costs them money and they try to keep their whole operation very lean,” said Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail. “They use social media as a very cost-effective, savvy way of marketing and advertising themselves.”
Traditionally, he noted, dollar stores are more of an in-person destination and do not do a lot of business through e-commerce, yet by being on social media channels, such brands are able to connect with Gen Z and reach such customers in a creative way.
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Of course, brands need to be careful their posts don’t go viral for the wrong reasons. A Dollar General employee was terminated last year for posting on TikTok about her workplace challenges.
The renewed interest in discounters comes when many shoppers are looking for ways to save money. The rise in prices for everyday items such as groceries and toothpaste, and continual fears of a recession, have consumers looking to dollar stores as a destination for more of their regular shopping. The strategy is also in sharp contrast to some other popular trends on social media.
Some creators are looking for ways to distinguish themselves and promoting a “dollar store haul” is one way to stand out from luxury buys, for example. In this way, it’s similar to de-influencing, when creators advise their followers on what products not to buy, according to Lia Haberman, a social media consultant who teaches about social and influencer marketing at UCLA.
“The dollar store videos are a pendulum swing against all the over-the-top shopping videos we've seen recently, such as the influencer who ‘accidentally’ bought the $100,000 couch,” she said. “Influencers are still creating content around their lifestyles, but the delivery has changed to pop against a saturated social feed where everything looks the same.”