How retail brands can use influencers
by Tshiamo Tladi. The challenge in ensuring that influencer-generated content drives sales, not just engagement.
by Tshiamo Tladi. The impact a great influencer run campaign can have, is far reaching. The results could span from pure top-line improvements in brand affinity; to seeing the needle moved on bottomline sales. Though the former is the most often utilised, given the simplicity of the KPIs that it’s benchmarked against, i.e., reach, shares and engagement. Whereas the latter often proves to be a little tougher to build a solid correlation to impact on sales. The challenge being the evident gap between where the influencer-generated content is found, and where they need to go to in order to make the purchase.
In this article, my purpose is to share a few considerations on how retail brands could further their influencer campaign efforts in moving bottomline sales for their products in a manner that allows better tracking and measuring on impact of the campaign.
A part of the challenge in making influencer run programs within a campaign effective, is the lack in giving consumers a clear or valuable “so what” for engaging with a particular influencer’s generated content. I think the vast majority of influencer programs are solely focused on offering brand reach and awareness KPI rather than challenging themselves to ask if they can do more for brands. To this end, part of the challenge falls back on us as brand custodians to ask ourselves if we are doing enough to make our influencers work harder too. I recall sitting in a post campaign briefing where the client was advising how the campaign broke several engagement records within their EMEA region. However, when it came to sales performance, the campaign barely had an impact on performance. I believe we need to redress this laurel that influencers cannot do more for our brands, especially those with a clear sales objective to be achieved too.
Currently, we have reach and engagement metrics in place to determine efficacy of an influencer’s participation within a campaign. However, what we have not yet cracked locally, is the measures we can explore using to determine impact on sales performance. Is it really difficult for us to do that? The answer is no. There have been a number of great strides made internationally via advancements in omnichannel and ecommerce to address and close this gap. In most international markets, the use of influencer-linked vouchers and redemption codes are becoming increasingly popular to close the gap between influencer-generated content and purchase. Though the use of couponing is not particularly novel, the application of it as part of an influencer program could easily serve as a fix to close this gap.
In some markets, brands have developed pixel markers within influencer posts that can be used to redirect a consumer to either the brand’s ecommerce platform or alternatively, the social media store to complete the purchase. Other more innovative tools to close this gap is evident in how GDN banners are now integrated to take you straight from an online display and to your preferred retailers checkout basket. The essence of this point is to highlight how there are tools and avenues to close these gaps, even within third world markets like South Africa, where couponing and vouchers is still a tactic that is alive and well. Rather than leave the call to action open ended, maybe it’s time we reduce the complexity and vagueness – and be direct with our consumers that we want them to engage and buy into the product we are punting to them.
So, why is it particularly important for us as marketers to close this gap? Advertising budgets are increasingly getting smaller and return on investment becomes the most critical KPI to achieve in order to unlock bigger slices of the pie. Especially now as high reach, high engagement influencers start coming at an even higher premium to secure and partner with for campaigns. Thus, the onus then sits on us as marketers to demonstrate just how effective using certain influencers is to ensure campaign success. And to this end, empowering influencers with their own batch of vouchers, coupons or promotional codes that can be redeemed either on your own or a preferred retail partners’ ecommerce platform, could serve to demonstrate the efficacy of your influencer program.
Branded content series
The above is but one avenue to close this gap. Increasingly, I am seeing that WhatsApp as a platform to drive sign ups and engagement, is burgeoning as a preferred platform to drive engagement with campaigns and promotion. The platform works in similar fashion to running a USSD string mechanic and presents the potential of being the next engagement platform for brands. In recent times, we have seen brands develop entire branded content series that can be enjoyed through WhatsApp stories as a new way to engage with a campaign. And in similar fashion, I believe that there is merit in using WhatsApp campaign numbers as a channel to drive engagement with influencer generated content.
Consider the following idea… Imagine running an influencer program whereby we empower all of our participating influencers to advise their audiences of a special offer to receive a redeemable voucher that will be dispensed and distributed via WhatsApp for simply participating with their post using a set code for that influencer. I believe sometimes in reducing the complexity, we make it less intimidating and vague as to what we want consumers to do beyond likes and reshares of influencer generated content. Rather, we need to gear ourselves as delivering campaigns that have considered that we need to reduce the gap from influencer touchpoints and make it seamless to make a decision to purchase what we are selling to you through them. And in so doing, I believe we can make our influencer campaign programmes truly effective in moving the needle where it matters most for us.
Main image credit: Photo by Gian Cescon on Unsplash.
Tshiamo Tladi is Strategy Director at 34 Degrees, the specialist through-the-line and retail agency. Tladi is a seasoned strategist and shopper marketer with years of experience developing winning strategies that have guided creative work and commercial growth from both agency and client side.
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