What is Influencer Marketing and Is It Important for Ecommerce Success?

What is Influencer Marketing and Is It Important for Ecommerce Success?

Is influencer marketing a tactic your business should be investing in?

Written by Jason Stokes

8 min read

Last year, a company called Linqia undertook a study with a group of 181 carefully selected top marketers in order to find out how big brands and agencies feel about influencer marketing today, and where they think it’s headed in the near future. A staggering 92% found influencer marketing to be highly effective. In fact, well over half of the group reported that influencer marketing actually matched or even outperformed their brand-created content for that month.

And of course, 39% said they will now be putting a strong focus on increasing their influencer marketing budget, with special attention put on integrating this budget with ecommerce strategies to drive product sales.

That’s a great start to proving how powerful influence marketing is! But at the same time, we must admit that influencer marketing has been a part of the marketing ecosystem for quite some time now. So, if we’re going to help you grow your brand and increase your sales, we must take a much deeper look into this ever-growing movement.

We’ve broken the topic of influencer marketing down into different sections, and with this we want to guide you through successful influencer marketing that will work for your ecommerce site.

What is an influencer?

The obvious answer is ‘someone who has the ability to influence potential buyers by promoting or recommending products on social media’ – now that’s too vague. We need to understand exactly what the different types of influencers are, and where it all fits into the broader scope of your marketing campaign.

Macro influencers

Macro influencers are top-tier digital personalities or celebrities. They’re the ones with hundreds of thousands, even millions of followers on social media. It goes without saying that someone with such a big name will have a positive impact on your brand – people always want to buy the things that famous people show off.

But since we’re trying to help you get trusted and naturally gained consumer retention, we won’t be focusing on macro-influencer strategies too much. If not done with careful thought and selection, macro influencing can easily become lost in the sea of social media posts.

This is because:

  • Even though big personalities are valuable, they are generally flooded by multiple sponsors, which can make it tricky for a single brand to stand out.
  • Their engagement and influence will eventually reach a plateau, making it difficult to find valuable micro-data within performance.
  • Posts and content may have a high reach but are likely to show a low engagement ratio. When engagement does show, it still doesn’t boast great resonance.
  • A study conducted in 2018 revealed that one in every ten consumers in the UK admitted feeling jealousy towards influencers and their lifestyles. That’s a lot of people if you consider there are millions of followers!
  • Your audience is well aware of the financial incentives that influencers receive in return for mentioning a product, wearing a brand, or referring a service.

To put our points into further perspective, a story emerged last week about how an Instagram influencer with 2.6 million followers failed to sell at least 36 t-shirts. They’ve coined this situation as potential proof that the ‘influencer bubble is bursting’. Some of the comments reveal how targeted audience groups feel that macro influencers are ‘lacking genuine engagement’ and that they are ‘no longer promoting products that they even like themselves’. If your consumers feel this way about your campaigns, it’s unlikely that they will visit and explore your ecommerce store.

We’re not dismissing the value that macro influencing can have though; we’re just saying there are other strategies you can tackle that will have a defined and positive impact on your ROI. If you do want to start investing in macro influencing to boost your engagement, and ultimately your sales, then be sure to embrace creativity in the way top-tier influencers represent your brand – like Nike did 7 years ago with world renowned vlogger, Casey Neistat.

When Nike approached Casey to make a short film for their campaign #makeitcount, they weren’t expecting an amateur-styled journey of two guys travelling around the world without a plan. They also weren’t expecting this one-of-a-kind video to become one of their biggest influencer campaigns yet, reaching roughly 2.5 million views within the first three days and almost 30 million organic views to date. So yes, you can still attain great success from macro influencing – so long as you make it count.

Micro influencers

The definition of a micro influencer isn’t quite the same in different countries, or across different product types. But it’s safe to say that you need between 5,000 and 100,000 followers or subscribers to fit into this category. Anything below that may not be strong enough to make a visible impact, and anything above that starts to lean towards the macro influencer tier.

We want to elaborate on micro influencers because in this case, micro does not mean little. Influence is not only about numbers, but also about impact. There are 5 main reasons why micro influencers have a unique impact on targeted audiences:

  • They are highly conscious of the values their followers hold dear, and therefore continually focus on staying in tune with their audience and satisfying specific needs.
  • They know their audience extremely well – almost as if they share a personal relationship with their followers based on similar lifestyles, goals, passions and aspirations.
  • There is authenticity in their content that brings a natural twist back into the overwhelming world of social media. Because they are not spoilt by fame, their content has life and substance behind it.
  • They navigate brand promotion the way they want to, without layers of corporate mediators. This kindles a great sense of trust and relevance in their posts.
  • They provide more reliable and accurate product recommendations and so have a strong potential to increase both direct and referral traffic to your ecommerce site.

Besides their overwhelming impact, investing in micro influencer marketing has additional benefits too:

  • You don’t have to have an enormous budget to work with them. In fact, micro influencers aren’t even always paid to promote products. Users with thousands of followers may just as well share your content, simply because they want to. It’s up to you to create that sort of content though!
  • No really, the budget is an easy game. Since micro influencers are so passionate about what they do, sometimes all they want in exchange for their ambassadorship are free samples or products to try out.
  • They create valuable, high-quality and engaging content on your behalf, which builds brand awareness through a familiar voice that has already gained authority in a specific niche.
  • Influencer marketing does not fall victim to ad-blockers. According to InfluencerDB, over 600 million devices were running ad-blockers by the end of 2017.
  • Micro influencing is structured around real people and human factors, which triggers better results than traditional advertising does for both rational and emotional buying decisions.
  • Consumers are more likely to converse with micro influencers by asking advice in comments sections, answering questions in polls and commenting on stories. When consumers gain insight on your products through their own means, they are also more likely to buy from you.
  • The data that can be collected from micro influencer efforts help find, understand and build relationships with new consumer groups, which also allows you to target your returning audience with higher precision. This is crucial because understanding and growing a returning audience has a direct impact on your online conversion goals.
  • Micro influencers don’t have to be professionals in marketing. Sometimes (like we saw with Casey Neistat), in order for something to feel real, it can do with a little dose of good fun and amateurism.

Remember that short-term micro influencers can also be attained through strategies like competitions and giveaways that drive people to your ecommerce store. But while this is good for referral traffic and brand awareness, the audience you attract will not necessarily turn into first-time or loyal consumers, so you still have to be creative with your approach before, during and after such a campaign.

Affiliate marketing and internal influencers

Even though this falls under more traditional marketing tactics, an affiliated influencer does still count. In this case we’re referring specifically to influencers who work in the same or similar industry as your brand, and act as active supporters of your product. Affiliate marketing can increase your revenue because you gain access to a broader target audience with an existing emotional connection. Also, when an expert or successful entrepreneur makes a recommendation, it normally comes with a lot of experience, which induces high trust too.

Don’t forget about your company’s most valuable asset – your own employees! The internal influencer is a topic that doesn’t get touched on very often, but surely deserves more attention. If your company is successful, and as long as your employees are happy, you can use your team for the powerful network that it is. Even if only in a social sense, encourage your employees to talk about your company growth, campaigns, products and services on their own social platforms. Even if you’re not using them to drive direct sales, every little bit of marketing counts. Looking at influencer marketing platforms

Linqia’s study revealed that 92% of marketers believe Instagram is the most important social network for influencer marketing. In 2018 the global spending for influencer marketing on Instagram reached close to 6 billion US dollars, and is projected to surpass 8 billion by next year.

But it’s important not to ignore the likes of Facebook, blogs, YouTube and websites that follow respectively. You need to use these social platforms interchangeably and get creative with how you integrate different tactics onto each platform. You also need to expand your reach by including influencers that make use of podcasts or engage in word-of-mouth marketing at important conferences and events.

What are the challenges of influencer marketing on social media?

  • Measuring performance-based ROI is a critical challenge that marketers face. At the moment marketers are mostly relying on engagement metrics with low impact and can’t directly identify revenue-based metrics. Enhancing measurement methodologies should be an ongoing practice in influencer marketing.
  • Some people get the impression that influencer marketing on social media leans towards the scam side of advertising, and may feel disheartened when brands keep forcing their way onto our screens. It will always be important to weed nefarious practices out of your influencer marketing campaigns.
  • Facebook, the second most popular platform for influencer marketing, now requires influencers to tag all sponsored content. This has a big impact on organic content visibility.
  • Influencer marketing may show success on the higher tiers of the marketing funnel such as brand awareness and association, but does not necessarily show impactful performance on purchase intent and conversions.
  • You can’t always control what kind of name your brand is being given, especially with lower-ranked micro influencers that don’t necessarily have rules to follow. Brand safety and transparency will always be a focal point of influencer marketing.
  • Not all product categories will achieve success in influencer marketing. It can be difficult to try and sell a lifestyle naturally if you’re promoting slightly mundane products like a vacuum cleaner or a new dishwasher, for example.

What to make of all this information

The bottom line is that influencer marketing of any kind requires diligent planning and carefully controlled strategies. If you want your audience to become loyal consumers then you have to keep them in mind when choosing new forms of marketing. And always put defined, measurable goals in place for every point of your marketing journey so that you can leverage performance and find new ways to turn engagement into sales.

Listen to your influencers – sometimes they know your audience better than you do. Take their own motivations into consideration and treat them as an integral part of your team. If you want to understand marketing from an influencer’s perspective better, it will be worth your time to read this 2018 report on The State of Influencer Marketing in Fashion, Luxury and Cosmetics .

And if you don’t feel like reading any more, or if you’re struggling to find the right influencers for your brand, give us a call. We are ready to take your marketing journey to a new level!

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