Social media platforms are becoming increasingly shoppable, with Instagram and TikTok leading the way with their in-app shopping capabilities. Even Twitter recently debuted its own commerce feature, with Walmart being the first retail brand to use ‘Live Shopping’ on the platform.
As social commerce grows, so does the opportunity for influencers (or creators, as many prefer to call them) to become the ‘shop window’ for brands.
But is influencer-guided shopping really the future of retail?
Robin Ward, Head of Sales for creator-driven marketplace LTK, believes so, telling Econsultancy how recent investment has resulted in “100%+ growth year-on-year in the number of creators joining LTK” as well as “100% growth in investment from brands by the end of 2021.”
A more authentic source of shopping inspiration
So, we know that brands are increasingly investing in influencer-driven marketing, but is this being reflected in more than just surface-level engagement on social? And do consumers even trust influencers nowadays, given previous controversy over ASA guidelines?
Ward argues that influencers can actually help brands to generate deeper levels of trust, by acting as a “more authentic source of shopping inspiration to consumers.”
“[Creators] have established communities, and all of their followers have opted to view and tap into their trusted advice and sense of style they have spent time nurturing,” says Ward.
“They speak with their audiences daily (often one-to-one), and they understand them intimately in more ways than a brand can. As a result, creators can connect deeply, because their audience relate to their personality – they see a bit of themselves in the way they live, their body type and how they choose to style themselves.”
Consequently, when it comes to influencer content versus traditional advertising, Ward says that the former instils a much more immediate sense of trust, which “ultimately,” he says, “helps brands drive greater sales opportunities and build longer-term customer loyalty.”
An acceleration of long-term partnerships
Long-term influencer partnerships have been gaining popularity for some time, but Ward says that there has been a real acceleration of this over the course of the last year, with the vast majority of brands transitioning from one-off campaigns to ‘always-on’ strategies.
“This shift has been underpinned by a boom in the creator commerce industry, as retailers put more of their focus on ecommerce channels with proven performance when it comes to sales and conversion,” he says. “The creators have a strong understanding of the brand, and when they are treated as ambassadors, the business priorities and messaging is better instilled and relayed back to their audiences.” In turn, he says, “when a consumer Photo Editing Services sees repeat brands being incorporated in their favourite creators’ everyday life, this increases consumer confidence in purchase and the versatility of a brand. This will yield greater performance over time.”
Ward recommends that brands should take a data-driven approach from the outset, particularly when it comes to finding the right influencer for their campaign. “Insights on creator, channel and content performance, should all inform how these partnerships are shaped and optimised for full-funnel performance,” he says. “Accurate data and sales intelligence also help brands find influencers with an audience primed to shop their products.”
LTK has found success with this approach and its always-on, strategic partnership with Missguided. According to Ward, the partnership has achieved a “165% increase in sales month-on-month” with influencer marketing also contributing to Missguided’s 2020 revenue growth, which saw a rise of 92% year-on-year.
Filling the gap between online and in-person retail
With consumers becoming increasingly comfortable shopping on social channels like Instagram, LTK aims to capitalise on this behaviour with its own app, which enables users to shop directly from their favourite creators (giving them a more focused experience). But, how does LTK encourage users to shift away from Instagram?
Interestingly, Ward suggests that influencers are “filling the gap in the market between online and in-person retail.” In other words, offering both shopping inspiration and valuable advice on how to wear items. At the same time, he proposes that the LTK app is a way for users to avoid the bombardment of online content they see daily, instead offering “a curated and personalised way to filter through tried and trusted recommendations.”