Influencer marketing (IM), the process of identifying, engaging and supporting individuals who create conversations with a brand’s customers, is now used by many retailers to get people to buy their products. Indeed, influencer marketing is growing faster than organic search and is responsible for 28% of customer acquisition, according to Aj Agrawal in Entrepreneur.com.
So, is influencer marketing the new “silver bullet” for online retailers that struggle to sell their products in a highly congested and competitive virtual market place?
What is influencer marketing?
Although IM is now the new “buzzword” in the digital marketing world, it’s not a new thing. It’s a term that refers to leveraging the influence of key people and businesses to support your brand and spread the word about your products and services through their own social channels 1. Subsequently, IM is similar to the well-known word-of-mouth marketing.
To use influencers to help promote your brand makes a lot of sense. Indeed, “Influencer marketing presents a glaring opportunity for brands to leverage the power of word-of-mouth at scale through personalities that consumers already follow and admire” according to a guest writer in ADWEEK.
Why is influencer marketing now in the news?
Retailers are now confronted with maturing digital marketing channels in which similar content for mostly commodity-like products are having a losing battle to get customer to click on their brand.
Indeed, Nicole Dieker, The Content Strategist (2016), said this on the amount of content we are consuming each minute: “In the first 60 seconds of your day, Facebook receives over 4 million likes. More than 2 million Instagram hearts turn red. Nearly 350,000 tweets join the birds singing outside your window.” Yes, quite ridiculous – now where are your brands out there?
Then along comes influencer marketing. Influencer marketing circumvents these frustrations by delivering a highly-visible and relevant message from a trusted and welcome source.
Carter Hallett, Digital Marketing Strategist from R2iNSIGHTS proposed five reasons why influencer marketing is right for your brand.
5 Reasons why influencer marketing is right for your brand
- Builds consumer trust – 92 percent of people trust recommendations from individuals (even if they don’t know them) over brands. IM allows brands to break into that circle of trust in a way that feels organic and welcomed because it is relevant, reliable, and relatable.
- Circumvents ad blockers – The average American is exposed to 5,000 ads per day and can’t possibly process them all, leading to lower recall of marketing messages. In 2015, 47% of online customers used ad block technology, in response to dissatisfaction with digital advertising. Influencer marketing circumvents these frustrations by delivering a highly-visible and relevant message from a trusted and welcome source.
- Meets marketing goals effectively and affordably – Influencer marketing can easily be analysed using web tracking and focusing on deeper engagements, such as engagement rates, comments, and sentiment, as well as clicks and conversions. It also generates more than twice the sales than that of display advertising. As a result, those customers have a 37% higher retention rate than other acquisition channels.
- Targets audiences accurately – A well-crafted influencer identification strategy will yield the strongest return. Different product categories have different influencers, usually with an overlap of less than 15%. So it’s important to select influencers accurately and appropriately.
- Boosts SEO – Beyond meeting immediate marketing goals, an influencer marketing strategy can significantly boost your brand’s search rankings. Customers who seek information on social media will also use search engines during their decision making process.
Now let’s have a look at some recent results from empirical studies regarding IM.
What value does influencer marketing offers to the retailer?
“Word-of-mouth recommendations from influencers effectively turn prospects into customers, who trust the people they interact with on a daily basis” said Eileen Brown recently in ZDNET.com.
Here are some results from a survey done with retailers last year by Linqua regarding the state of influencer marketing:
Respondents indicated the following benefits they enjoyed using influencer marketing:
|Create authentic content about my brand||89|
|Drive engagement around my product/brand||77|
|Drive traffic to my website/landing page||56|
|Generate content cost-effectively||43|
|Reach younger generations not trusting traditional ads||43|
|Generate authentic, easily dicoverable product reviews||36|
|Drive online and in-store product sales||34|
|Grow my email database with qualified customers||8|
As shown in the table above, retailers experienced greater brand authenticity when using influencer marketing. This may explain more customer engagement (77%) and traffic (56%) to their websites. Hence, only 34% of the retailers indicated more product sales when using IM.
However not everyone is convinced IM makes a difference in their marketing efforts. Results from a more recent study done by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), showed that only 36% of 158 marketers surveyed felt that their influencer marketing efforts are effective (Minda Smiley, THEDRUM). While 44% said they were neutral about the effectiveness of their influencer marketing, 19% deemed it ineffective, reported Minda.
Influencer marketing may give retailers focused alternatives with product promotion in the digital channel. However, influencers – especially celebrities, may charge retailers high fees to link their faces to their brands. Sadly, this has caused the advent of “fake influencers”.
So, retailers need to do a lot of homework before contracting and using influencers.
1 Pophal, L. 2016. Best Practices in Influencer Marketing, Insights from Digital Marketing Experts, Copyright 2016 Linda Pophal.