Whether targeting online or in-store shoppers, influencer marketing is starting to resonate with retailers according to a new report from eMarketer. In some ways, influencer marketing is really a natural outgrowth of traditional word-of-mouth marketing with the friend at work or person next door being augmented by online voices that have become trusted sources for recommendations. The key difference is that retailers can now exercise some control over what is being said, allowing for real increases in sales.
As the retail industry starts to see the value of working with social media creators who can take the individual recommendation vignette of old to an audience of millions of likeminded folks, they are expanding budgets and seeing which platforms work best to show off their products and which ones house the consumers they’re seeking. Growing trust in these sources is giving retailers more confidence to delve more deeply into this strategy.
While many industries use influencer marketing to increase top-of-mind knowledge about their products and services, the retail industry is seeing success further down the purchase funnel. Instead, social media influencers are used to close the deal on a product sale that the brand already attracted with their own campaign. In a way, influencer marketing used in this fashion is like online reviews on a product page pushing an individual to complete a sale because of high ratings and positive messages about the product being considered.
By combining paid influencer content with unpaid user-generated content (UGC), retailers have an opportunity to create a powerful platform to close sales. As the chart shows, trust in online reviews is huge and connecting social media influencers, who can advocate more specifically by working directly with the brand, within the same system could help close that trust gap.
This reliance on bottom-of-the-funnel campaigns has meant retailers have been slower to get into influencer marketing but the forays we have seen have been encouraging. Most retail marketers now know of the recent Lord & Taylor promotion where the company worked with 50 different influencers of modest social reach to wear the same dress on the same day and post a picture of it on Instagram. The dress sold out at all stores that weekend.
While retailers have traditionally relied upon celebrities for their advertising campaigns, a larger number of retail companies are starting to see how connecting with true brand advocates that have a smaller social and media footprint can be far more effective. Companies as diverse as IKEA, CVS and Lane Bryant are seeing how they can gain real value from working directly with passionate bloggers, Viners, YouTubers and other social media creators that speak from the heart about their love of a product. Not only do they get a more engaged endorser, retailers actually get a partner in content creation that often understands their products in a way that can be illuminating for them.