Why influencer marketing is key to growing your retail business in 2021

Influencer marketing has emerged as a powerful force for businesses across many industries, and the relationships that brands can build with influencers can create irreplaceable value when executed well. Influencers have the power to affect the buying habits of their followers by uploading original—sometimes sponsored—content to social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Retailers, however, may be forgiven for not immediately seeing meaningful value in hiring influencers, especially since driving traffic to your stores and increasing in-store purchases with influencers is not as easily linked to sales revenue, for example, as it is to visual merchandising. However, eCommerce and digital shoppers are a definite fit for influencers, whose social media posts on products and brands are read and acted upon by their followers. Their audience is online, and simply one click away from shopping an eCommerce site. Converting that digital interest into in-person traffic will be critical in 2021 as in-person shopping reemerges for consumers.

Converting digital to in-person

Success with influencers in driving retail sales depends largely on first partnering with the right type of influencer for your brand. Then, leveraging that authentic relationship to drive traffic to your stores, such as visual merchandising, customer service, and branded environments, can take over to close the sale.

Here are some basic tips retailers need to consider when seeking the right fit with the right influencer to build a successful program that gets more people into stores and boosts sales.

Non-celebrity influencers are underrated

Not only are celebrities hugely expensive, but they are sometimes not the right marketing tactic. 30% of surveyed consumers are more likely to purchase a product in-store endorsed by a non-celebrity blogger than by a celebrity. Only 3% of consumers would consider buying a product in-store if it was endorsed by a celebrity. As the survey results show, most retail consumers respond much more to influencers who are simply individuals, like them. If the influencer is a prominent fan of your retail brand, then chances are, their community of followers (no matter how many) could be fans too. Listen to the feedback the influencer provides about your brand, because that is how their review will resonate authentically with their followers. The influencer's followers will know right away that an endorsement is an authentic one by the influencer, and not 'manufactured' for their consumption.

At the end of the day, you want to make sure the influencer is a good fit by understanding how they feel about your retail brand. The influencer has to genuinely resonate with your retail brand, and only then will it work. Trying to force a good review of your brand's in-store experience is not going to convince anyone.

Leverage mobile marketing for in-store events

Successfully driving in-store purchases is the holy grail of influencer marketing for retail, and mobile marketing techniques are a key ingredient for success. Make sure your influencer campaigns are linked to reaching consumers on their mobile devices before making a purchase, or while they are in-store shopping. Consumers often read influencer online reviews about products and brand endorsements while they shop in-store.  Ads on popular apps like Facebook and WhatsApp Messenger are worth investing in, as more than 1.5 billion people use these apps and are great tools for influencers to share their content about your retail brand, especially during shopping hours.

Another mobile marketing tool to tie in to the influencer campaign is a quick store locator. This will help an influencer's followers find the nearest location to buy your retail products and services. Create in-store events, like product launch parties, or live experiences with the influencer—like classes or product demonstrations that followers will benefit from. Create a buzz about the event on social media, before, during, and after.

Retailers are also blurring the lines between virtual influencer content online and in-store experiences—by creating visual merchandising that reflects the social media experience. With more shoppers using phones in-store during shopping, it makes sense to translate that visually in window displays and other point-of-sale merchandising. Linking influencer campaigns on social media with in-store displays is a great way for retailers to drive traffic to their stores and engage shoppers.

The retailer, Nordstrom, set up a 3D Instagram installation on a store roof showing a leopard-print dress as part of a large-scale Instagram post. Victoria's Secret created a campaign asking shoppers to take a selfie in front of a display and show it to sales personnel for a free gift.

Provide generous access

Influencer marketing for retail works best when it is part of a retail marketing strategy that is linked to a product or service promotion, limited time, or special offer. One of the best influencer strategies for retailers stems from influencer-generated reviews of key products or services through a blog post, Tweet, Instagram post, or other user-generated content. Surprisingly, many retailers who work with influencers only consider providing access to brand-related products (usually for free) as an afterthought. Authentic reviews of a product or service work to drive traffic to your stores, and it is important to allow influencers to experience what you're offering to customers, so they can write reviews without the slightest bit of coercion.

Create a buzz with micro-influencers

If a retailer is new to working with influencers, one of the best ways to begin, in terms of cost-effectiveness and easily measurable ROI, is to focus on promoting and amplifying a unique in-store experience. If you want to move the needle on footfall, it would be best if you link an influencer's review to a specific event. Perhaps you have a product launch, special event or limited-time offer in a specific outlet or area. If your target audience for an in-store event is living within a specific geographic area, then micro-influencers are ideal for promoting a campaign like this.

Micro-influencers usually have a reach of between 1,000 and 10,000 followers, and therefore target a much more niche audience. They are also less expensive to work with, which makes them ideal for short campaigns, where a retailer can see the return in a short period of time.

Micro-influencers can offer niche community access, based on shared interests or locales — and that is exactly the audience you want to reach to promote your in-store shopping event. Most importantly, micro-influencers are seen as extremely relatable, and their followers tend to be highly engaged. If a micro-influencer endorses a retailer, it is immediately seen as a genuine recommendation by their followers from someone who is a lot like them.

Show how products look and feel on real people

Micro-influencers are closer to their followers than celebrities are, in terms of personal appearance and lifestyle, so they are ideal for demonstrating how your products look and feel on real people. Followers can easily see themselves purchasing and enjoying products that their favorite micro-influencers recommend, so leveraging this can help with your marketing campaigns. For example, choose one or several relevant micro-influencers who have followings that are interested in your type of products or services, and then get them involved in creating a new line of products.

The aim is to entice an influencer's followers to become customers but also to enhance the relationship between the influencer and your retail brand. Being a part of a special line of products may compel an influencer to promote a brand more naturally since they are a part of the creation of the products or services. In turn, this will also encourage their followers to post their own products, creating a vast amount of user-generated content for the brand to use and become more community-driven. Ultimately, consider that working with influencers is a lot like building a relationship, and you need to have a two-way conversation with an influencer, just as you would with any stakeholder in your retail brand. It's a partnership with a mission to grow interest in your brand's in-store experiences.

Ray Ko is the Senior Ecommerce Manager at ShopPOPDisplays. With years of experience in the retail space, Ray is an expert in formulating and implementing e-commerce strategies to increase revenue.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.

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