Given the unprecedented rate of change this year, 2019 feels like a long time ago in the influencer marketing industry. Reflecting on this transformational first half, and nearly a decade’s worth of data, insights and total industry experience, what are the ingredients necessary for success on both sides of the influencer marketing industry?
Here are five lessons we’ve learned to help us navigate the future of the influencer and the role they will play.
Influencers are driving more sales for brands than ever before
With content consumption at its peak, so is the need for meaningful messaging which feels relevant and useful. This shift in consumers spending upwards of four hours a day on their mobile devices means that right now, influencer is the most reliable channel for communicating brand messages. Nielsen’s Consumer Trust Index states 92% of consumers trust influencer marketing over traditional advertising, making it the stickiest platform for making investment work harder too.
Forbes recently reported influencer marketing content delivers 11X better ROI than other more traditional marketing tactics.
Influencers have a direct line to consumers who want to shop. By reading into sales data, listening to feedback from their audience and monitoring consumer trends, they’re able to develop and adapt their business in direct response to changing consumer demand. The sweet spot lies in activating the right channel, at the right time, with the right message to maximum results.
Influencers will continue to diversify content and drive sales across new channels
We’ve also seen the industry transition from a once supply-driven commerce to a demand-driven world, where the consumer is extremely powerful, expecting content tailored to them across multiple channels, packaged-up in an engaging and personal way.
Influencers are adept at understanding this and what style of content works on different channels. Often influencers who add a YouTube channel, or more recently TikTok for example, see an uplift of new followers across their existing channels as they tap into new audiences and cross-promote. European influencers tend to see higher conversion in engaging formats like YouTube or shopping apps, where consumers have pure intent to shop and so conversion is three times higher than other social.
For brands, by tapping into existing and future sales trends led by style influencers, marketers will have a greater insight into the key areas to address as part of an optimised cross channel influencer strategy.
Influencers are the most agile sales channel
Influencers have the ability to adapt quickly to news and trends, ensuring their brand partners are shown in the right context. Good influencers are, by their nature, experts in communicating to specific audiences with the right format and tone. This was recently shown with the pivot to sensitive content during COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and in advocacy of sustainability.
Moving forward, influencers will continue to be the most adaptable and cost-effective sales channel for brands. They are multi-skilled-experts in capturing and editing content in film and photography, SEO-experts and more – and also have the ability to generate content without large-scale production costs, which will remain important to brands cutting budgets post-COVID.
Influencers reflect brands’ desire for measurable outcomes
Most brands are investing in three buckets: Facebook, Google and influencer marketing. But with hundreds of brands signing up to the recent Facebook boycott, brands are looking at alternative, more humanistic ways to engage with consumers.
Combined with their ability to prove ROI through sales tracking, it’s no surprise, then, influencer marketing has just hit an all-time high on Google Trends, showing more demand than ever. Statistics show there’s been a 1,500% increase in Google searches for “influencer marketing” and 93% of marketers now integrate it into their wider brand marketing strategy as a standalone performance channel.
Influencers become the most viable option the more you iterate, re-invest and treat each campaign as bespoke. Based on leveraging the right performance data, marketers can see an individual creator’s selling niche – who their audiences are, what they prefer to shop and where from. And as a result, senior stakeholders and decision makers are placing more emphasis and acute interest in influencer outreach, and marketing activities more generally, to ensure a rationalised approach to spend.
The most successful brands adopt a long-term approach to influencer marketing
Like any type of marketing, influencer takes time to take effect, and that’s for good reason. Relationships don’t build themselves overnight, especially not relationships that last. So, think of this experience as a nurturing investment, which will yield results, over time.
Long-term ambassador programmes offer continued development of brand alignment and the chance to leverage what performed well in terms of content type, platform and product resonance. There is also built-in trust with the consumers here, who see the consistent endorsement as legitimate advocacy. When there’s longevity to a collaboration, it opens the option for brands to involve creators in the collaborative process too – a tactic proven effective and fulfilling for brand building, sentiment and storytelling.
Using their sales insights, influencers can consult on which channel and type of product they see most conversion, as they will know what works best for them and their audience.
On the flipside, there’s also benefits of short term collaborations, providing flexibility towards smaller budgets and allowing A/B testing of different influencer’s content, composition and messaging to iterate and optimise performance over shorter periods. Investing in up-and-coming influencers also offers brands the opportunity to develop important relationships and alignment early on in the influencer’s online journey and tap into new audiences to establish a stake in future sales channels as they evolve and grow as a channel in their own right.
Whatever the approach, the more brands understand performance data and casting campaigns based upon historical sales and proven conversion, the better the outcomes whether the goal is ROAS, or ROI.