From children's bows with JoJo to championship belts with Kevin Hart, influencer marketing dominated retail success stories at Shoptalk in Las Vegas - and for good reason. Data indicates that seven of the 12 most sought-after features on a retailer's website include a tie to real-life product use including (in order of highest preference):
Consumers' affinity for learning about products and brands from celebrities and influencers is clearly rising. Let's unpack why influencer marketing is proving to be successful and walk through three steps to help you capitalize on the strategy too.
Step 1: Identify Influencers
Andrea Fasulo, SVP of Consumer Products Marketing & Home Entertainment for Nickelodeon is no stranger to influencer marketing as she mentioned at Shoptalk 2019. When American fashion designer Jeremy Scott wore a custom 24K gold SpongeBob SquarePants on a red carpet, Nickelodeon took notice and turned it into one of the network's longest collaborations. That fashion statement helped set the tone for Nickelodeon's influencer strategy, only collaborating with those who are truly fans. "That's where everything starts, with that authenticity," said Fasulo.
Today, one of those authentic influencers for the network is JoJo Siwa whose YouTube popularity now spans a wide variety of consumer goods, concerts and content for millions of dollars in revenue.
Later on, when Nickelodeon decided to relaunch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they knew they were not only bringing the show to a new generation but also to their super fans. According to Fasulo, leaning in with influencers was going to be part of that campaign from the beginning.
Action Item: Make a list of people in your industry who are already fans of your brand. If you don't know, use a tool like BuzzSumo to see what influencers are saying about you. Then, use that influencer list to brainstorm how you can work with them to leverage their authority to provide social proof for your products or services. Finally, ask, collaborate and track your success.
Step Two: Test Small, Measure Big
Ecommerce powerhouse REVOLVE has built their company on the backs of Instagram influencers - helping to build a billion brand, as shared at Shoptalk. While their use of famous and not-so-famous social media users is not one every brand should (or can) replicate, REVOLVE Chief Brand Officer Raissa Gerona provided the advice of taking a test-and-see approach for merchandise and marketing efforts.
"You can figure out if something is going to be successful with little to know investment," said Gerona.
REVOLVE took its own advice in its first around-the-world trip when they brought two influencers to Sedona, Arizona. They had a hunch their customers would respond on social, but it wasn't until they saw a lift in traffic and to Instagram follower counts that the tiny investment proved its return. Now, they just came back from Australia where they had 150 influencers living their brand over the course of the trip and updating their social followers in their travels.
Action Item: Choose your test campaign and map out the scope of the project as well as the key performance indicators that everyone agrees would prove success of failure. If it works, expand the campaign. If it doesn't, move on to your next idea.
Step Three: Help Influencers Help You
While strategic influencer relationships can help move the needle, being in the know about an industry and its top participants can spark some ideas that a formal program may not. At Shoptalk, Fandango Chief Creative Officer Sandro Corsaro shared a story of how the company inserts themselves into conversations relevant to their brand. When Kevin Hart and The Rock started their friendly feud, Fandago looked at their data and determined that pound for pound (due to the stark differences in the actors' body types), Hart was the box office champion between the two. Fandango made him a champion belt, which he shared on social media; the post was liked hundreds of thousands of times.
What was particularly interesting is that Crorsaro said that Hart - as a celebrity - has to put content out there, and Fandago helped him do that with the prop.
Action Item: Like Fandago, find clever ways to wedge your way into industry conversations and be part of influencer marketing. The surefire way to do this, is to invest in a social listening plan and allow enough agility for creative staffs to adapt to new topics.
While there were many retail topics addressed at Shoptalk, social influencers and commerce notably stood out as a proven successful strategy but still emerging enough for retailers to be considered innovative should they break into it.
About the Author: Amberly Dressler is on the brand communications team at Episerver. She has 12 years of experience in editorial and marketing communications, including a long tenure here at Website Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @amberlydressler.
Head of analyst relations, public relations, customer advocacy (People Heroes), customer community, content marketing (full funnel/lifecycle), content operations and optimization, reputation management and social media. Leads a team of nine superstars to exceed our goals multi-fold.