We witnessed a seismic shift in marketing capabilities when the pandemic first hit. Physical stores shut down, and suddenly brand marketers were unable to execute pre-planned above-the-line campaigns the way they thought they’d be able to – so, many of them turned to creators. Capable of producing creative and innovative content at a high production value from their own homes, creators proved themselves as an invaluable marketing tool while we were all spending large parts of the day on social media.
Unsurprisingly, influencer marketing campaigns increased in 2020, and that momentum has carried through to this year. According to a recent report, 75% of brands intend to dedicate a standalone budget to influencer marketing in 2021.
But still, a lot of brands are missing a trick in not taking the industry seriously. Realising the power of influence is a surefire way to drive success. Look at Gymshark – a brand that has nailed influencer engagement from the beginning and curated a successful ambassador programme to reach an engaged and active audience. It’s a case of a disruptive brand investing in a strategy and sticking by it. Now, Gymshark has taken the mantle from legacy brands in the space. Its founder, Ben Francis, has created a billion dollar brand and recently made The Sunday Times Rich List.
Maintaining strategy relevance
In a digital-first world, it is difficult to imagine the possibility of a further digital boom. But the impact of Covid-19 forced us all to take to social media to connect with one another. And it wasn’t just Gen Z and millennials – take Grandad Joe, for example. In 2020 he became one of TikTok’s most popular UK creators and featured in the platform’s first TV ad.
As TikTok has exploded in popularity over the last year, platforms have realised they need to compete for consumer and creator attention. Just recently, Instagram announced a host of new functionalities focused on putting the creator first, including its native affiliate programme, putting a marker in the ground to be the platform of choice.
When these updates are rolled out, it opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for creators, which, in turn, affects influencer marketing strategies and briefs alike. To stay front of mind, brands must adapt their approach to utilise new features which allow creators to experiment and keep audiences engaged and entertained.
One of the trends we’re seeing as a result of these new features is an increase in social commerce – and brands should seriously consider engaging and integrating influencers for their social commerce campaigns.
The rise of social commerce
Social commerce has been around for nearly 20 years, but it’s right now we’re witnessing its true potential, accelerated by the increased use of social media as a result of the pandemic. From Facebook Marketplace, to Instagram Shop, social media giants have realised the success of in-app shopping for brands. Users want to be able to spend their money in one click, without being taken away from the content they’re browsing.
Live shoppable events have exploded in popularity recently, with brands able to see direct ROI as shoppers can easily purchase signposted products. Just recently, Clarks hosted a live shopping event, working alongside creator Nià Pettit (@niathelight) to showcase its Spring/Summer collection. Something Clarks did successfully was integrate influencer and brand content, which is a really effective way to reach audiences.
As social commerce continues to grow in popularity, brands will need to create shoppable moments that intrigue and inspire followers. They should look towards live shopping campaigns, be those branded events or integration into a creator’s proprietary Live. Hosting these in-store means brands are right down at consumer level, and it can help bridge the gap between online and offline shopping experiences.
As the world looks to open up more with restrictions easing and lockdown lifting, brands should start to think about how these events might translate into non-virtual life. Having practiced virtually, creators will be even more confident in hosting real-life live events and are more cost-effective than traditional celebrity talent.
It’s going to be an exciting six months, but as the past year has proven, brands will need to be flexible and adaptable. One constant though is influencer marketing. It’s only growing and brands marketers who aren’t already, need to start incorporating creators into their strategies from the get-go.