Influencers are the new retailers

influencers in retail

Influencer marketing has been growing over the last 5 years but accelerated in the pandemic as more shoppers went online to find their products of choice. 

Influencers or content creators as many of them refer themselves as, saw record levels of engagement.  Livestream shopping was once the focus of QVC, and Idealworld has now greater competition with livestream influencers. In Asia, top influencers are selling millions direct to their consumers.  Becky Li, top Asian influencer once famously sold 100 limited edition Mini cars in less than 5 minutes to her engaged multi-million audience.  Amazon and Ali-baba a couple of years ago put out requests for 100,000 influencers to help promote their ambassador programmes.

So what makes influencers so successful at selling to their audiences? 

Engaged niche audience from influencers

One of the benefits influencers bring is their ability to connect directly with their audiences, unlike a traditional retailer. That said a lot of independents are now realising that shop owners and founders can themselves be the influencers and communicate online.  A series of interviews I did recently for London Fashion Week as part of my podcast highlighted among the creators how important their audience feel connected to them. Fashion influencer Josie Ldn has almost 260k followers on Instagram and talks about how her audience see her as their personal shopper.  They can relate to their content and their lifestyle. If they pose questions or a comment they are likely to get a response back. Another one @louisahatt says she will go and find products her audience have asked her to look at. Its almost as though she becomes the curator of personalised content

Feedback and research 

If you send out a survey online, how many people respond or give feedback, honestly it’s not great is it. However, a content creator that asks their audience what type of styles of clothing they like will get far greater responses.  This not only improves engagement but provides valued insight.  In fact, a brand called Purecane was created entirely by content creators and their audiences in Brazil a few years ago as part of an influencer immersion 3-day workshop. The creators were constantly engaging with their audiences during the process. 

Product demos  from influencers

Influencers are able to demo products benefits in an authentic and engaging way that helps consumers make informed decisions.  Many of them actually review products which makes them the go-to person in their niche.  Fashion and beauty influencers can keep their audiences on their youtube channels for up to an hour- that’s an amazing amount of time you’ve held the audience’s attention.  Product demos are often something missing from the physical retail spaces. We want to know about a product’s features and benefits and how it could work for us. Within fashion, content creators will often show all sorts of styling options, then link directly to their stores. It’s not unheard of for influencer related promotions to sell out within hours of going live.

Affiliate discount codes and promotions 

Just as in the physical retail world, promotions also play their part and influencers can make sizeable revenues by offering their followers a unique discount code which helps the brand attribute the sales directly back to that individual influencer.  These discounts coupled with relevant interesting content provides audiences with a reason to purchase.

New influencer product lines

Brands are now realising that influencers are custodians of niche audiences which represent considerable opportunities not just in terms of collaborative campaigns but also to create new exclusive product lines. In this case, influencers may or may not source products, be very much involved in the design, marketing and promotion. Zoella is living proof of this, someone that used to promote other brands now has her own range of cosmetics. Kylie Jenner is another example too.

“Going live”

This is the new way to sell, as it gives audiences a real-time experience. Livestreaming exploded in Asia and now some of the top influencers are literally making millions. It’s estimated to have generated somewhere around $136 billion in revenue in China in 2020 alone. In Europe Chinese online shopping conglomerate AliExpress conducted some research that revealed 70% of European shoppers are open to the idea of   “shoppertainment”  Social media giants Tiktok and Instagram have found a huge growth through their shopper links functionality.

Digital natives

Many influencers are multi-skilled in the digital space, so they can create content on the hoof ie “always on” Many create amazing organic content which supports their sponsored post.  Creators have a good understanding of their audience behaviour, they know what content works best with their audiences so they promote more that works and less that doesn’t. The Instagram business account allows you to see all the insights.  Creators also will invest in proper equipment knowing the value of quality content. Investing in editing software for example can make such a difference to the output. 

Tony Laskar CE0 of Influencer marketing behavioural platform, Audience2Media, says in the early days of influencer marketing it was just about brand awareness now as the industry has developed with far more advanced tools and talented creators, retail brands are realising the impact of generating sizeable revenues from using influencers.  You have top brands like Gymshark and Pretty Little Thing whose entire marketing effort is driven by influencer marketing. Influencer marketing is here to stay.

By International global expert on influencer marketing, podcast host and author, Gordon Glenister.