Influencer marketing is a powerful tactic for all kinds of businesses, generating a return of $6.50 in revenue for every $1 spent.
But by the looks of it, e-commerce brands are especially positioned to get the most out of influencer marketing to reach new customers and drive sales. According to recent Twitter research, nearly 40% of people say they’ve made a purchase because an influencer Tweeted about it.
Working with influencers can also help your e-commerce brand create new brand advocates — 88% of influencers tell others about the brands they work with.
If you run an e-commerce business and want to start benefitting from influencer marketing, here are 5 steps to get you started.
Step 1: Find potential influencers
E-commerce influencers are everywhere. A quick Google search for “e-commerce influencers” returns tons of relevant list posts to sift through:
But trust me, you don’t want your e-commerce brand partnering up with influencers who promote any and every product. You want to find influencers with a genuine interest in what your brand offers.
Say, for example, you sell organic toiletries. Head over to Buzzsumo and type in “organic skin care.” Then you’ll see popular blog content on that topic, and who’s publishing it:
Next you can head over to Instagram or Twitter and type in a popular hashtag related to your niche, such as #naturalskincare. Then you’ll see who’s already posting about topics related to your niche.
You can also turn to influencer platforms to find influencers to work with. Here are a few popular ones:
Influenster is probably the most relevant for e-commerce brands. Sign up with the platform and get access to more than 3 million online shoppers and social personalities ready to review and share your products:
Step 2: Get to know them and their audience
Finding influencers is really the easy part. There are tons of bloggers and social media personalities out there ready to help promote your business.
But if you want to get real results from your influencer marketing strategy, you need to be sure your influencers have a sizable, engaged audience that could like your business and products.
If you use an influencer platform to find influencers, it becomes really easy to evaluate these metrics. Most platforms keep track of audience demographics, engagement, audience size, and more for each potential influencer.
There are three main metrics you’ll need to look into before choosing to work with an influencer: relevance, engagement, and audience size.
Just because you found a blogger who writes about your niche doesn’t mean their audience will be interested in purchasing your products. You need to take a hard look at their follower demographics to ensure they really are a part of your target audience.
There are a few tools out there that can evaluate social follower demographics, such as Audiense. You can ask your influencer to use the tool on their profile and send you a report. If your influencer has a business profile on Instagram, they’ll also have access to demographic information from Instagram Insights that you can request to see.
You’ll also want to make sure all their followers are real people that could become ecommerce customers. You can use a tool like FollowerCheck to run a quick bot scan, but I wouldn’t take those numbers at face value. Take the time to browse their followers yourself and look for signs of bot profiles, such as:
- No profile picture
- Very few followers
- Very few posts
- Comments that look too generic/automated
Next you need to be sure your influencer’s audience is actually listening and engaging with their content. Influencers with highly engaged audiences are much more valuable if you want to encourage people to take action and make purchases from your e-commerce business.
You can evaluate this yourself by calculating their engagement rate. Origami Logic created a helpful guide on how to do this using the following formula:
So, using Instagram as an example, a person’s engagement rate on a photo would be the number of likes/comments on a photo, divided by their total number of followers.
Your last consideration is audience size. Is their follower base big enough to make an impact for your marketing?
Don’t be fooled into thinking small audiences aren’t worth the effort. It really all goes back to their engagement rate. An influencer with 3000 followers and a high engagement rate is really more valuable than one with 20,000 followers and a low engagement rate.
Step 3: Pitch your influencers
Once you’ve identified influencers that are a good fit for your business, it’s time to propose working together. It’s likely you have a product you want to send to them so they can test it out and share it with their audience.
Some influencers will want nothing more than a free product in exchange for reviewing it on their blog or sharing their opinion about it on social media. Others will require some sort of compensation you need to agree on before hand.
One great way of motivating your influencers is by offering some kind of commission or prize. For example, you can create unique coupon codes for influencers to share and whoever gets the most clicks or sales gets a bonus. There are also a couple of affiliate tracking apps out there you can use to offer commission to your influencers. Both Affiliatly and Refersion will track links, coupon, codes, QR codes, and more.
With platforms like this one, you can assign unique links to each influencer and offer commission on the sales they helped close.
Step 4: Create great influencer content
Once you agree on payment terms with your influencer, you’re ready to start making the content in question. Here are a few ways to get the most out of influencer content for e-commerce sites:
Let them create a genuine endorsement
The real benefit of working with influencers is that they can create a personalized, genuine endorsement of your products. People pay attention to real recommendations from their peers, not blind promotions. So give your influencer the creative power to do just that.
ModCloth does a great job of this with their #modclothsquad influencers. These women create their own style with ModCloth’s products and share their true feelings as part of their promotional posts:
Share links to your product pages
Influencer marketing can do wonders to build brand awareness, but if you want to encourage your audience to make purchase decisions, be sure your influencers are linking back to your product pages, not your homepage or blog.
You can even create trackable links to see which influencer content is driving the best results. Just make sure it always links right back to a place where people can make a purchase.
Offer discounts and coupons
Influencer endorsements can be enough to drive people to make a purchase. But if you want to give audiences an extra push, coupons and discounts would never hurt.
That’s what Dorot did as part of their influencer marketing strategy:
They created more than 2,100 pieces of influencer-generated content on blogs and social media. Influencers in the Food, Lifestyle, Parenting and Home & Garden niches recommended Dorot’s products to their audiences and offered coupons to try them out. The campaign resulted in a 15% increase in sales for the brand.
Spread their social proof
Influencer content is a form of social proof that you can use time and again to grab your audience’s attention. Just because your influencer’s done their part and shared your products doesn’t mean that should be the end of your efforts.
Let’s look again at ModCloth and Dorot, for example. Many of ModCloth’s influencers end up featured in the brand’s Style Gallery on their site long term:
Dorot’s epic influencer campaign happened last year, but even today you can find them re-sharing their influencers’ recipes and recommendations on their Facebook page:
Step 5: Analyze your efforts
Influencer marketing should never be a one-time campaign. This should be only your first step in building strong relationships with brand advocates who can sway their audience to buy time and again.
That’s why you should always analyze the results of your efforts with each influencer. If you’re already using custom links or coupons as part of your influencer marketing campaign, this should be easy enough to track.
Figure out who is the most effective at helping you drive ecommerce sales, and who’s not delivering much return on investment. Next, you can look for new opportunities to collaborate with your most powerful influencers. Over time, your influencer marketing strategy can easily soar above the $6.50 return for every $1 invested you see today.
In 2016, global e-retail sales grew 24.6 percent, and the trend continues upward. E-commerce is booming while traditional advertisements are having less and less impact. Influencer marketing appeared on the scene at the perfect time to help regular e-commerce businesses compete with the likes of Amazon, Walmart and Alibaba.
Just remember to take the time to find impactful niche influencers who can cut through the advertising noise and really influence their peers to make purchase decisions. These are the marketing partners you need to help drive your e-commerce bottom line.