When you run an influencer marketing campaign, how do you measure success?

This is a question that leading brands have struggled to answer, even as influencer marketing has become more transparent, data-driven, and strategic. Although influencers often drive immediate sales, those revenues don’t always tell the full story — influencers are great at introducing brands to new, potential customers, but they aren’t always the last click, which can make their impact difficult to measure. To see their full ROI, brands are now looking beyond the dollars generated by a single campaign, and toward the overall customer journey, which can encompass as many as 30 touchpoints between inspiration and purchase.

Our experience managing influencer collaborations over more than four years has shown us that bloggers are often the first touchpoint. They connect brands with customers, instill trust, and inspire shoppers to buy, but because shoppers often make their purchase outside those interactions, influencers are often cut from the very path to purchase they set in motion.

To understand whether influencers are converting, it’s important to look at the customer journey through every touchpoint. Here’s how to do it:

Think Beyond the “Last Click”

The first step is casting off the last-click conception of influencer, which ignores a large part of the conversion story. With a more nuanced understanding of attribution, marketers often find that certain partners are better for introducing a brand into the minds of consumers—say, a mention by a respected blogger in a given space—while other channels work better for closing sales. For example, an eCommerce platform with detailed product comparisons or discount codes is more likely to inspire a purchase, but a consumer is not likely to land there first when seeking outfit inspiration. Acknowledging that all these disparate touchpoints contribute to the customer conversion journey – not just the click that leads them to the shopping cart – is vital to accurately measure the ROI of any influencer marketing campaign.

The above campaign by fashion brand Hale Bob is a great example. After seeing this collaboration with Jenna Boron (@jennaboron), followers casually scrolling through their Instagram feed weren’t likely to make a purchase on the spot; but they might seek out Hale Bob eCommerce site when searching for the perfect summer jumpsuit. In that scenario, Jenna’s content still inspired their purchase.

Tracking conversion starts with understanding the customer journey from inspiration to purchase. A customer who learns about a new product from an influencer might then browse the brand’s eCommerce site, bookmark the product page, then ultimately buy from a retail store on impulse. Finding ways to track that journey is part of accurately tracking conversion. Thankfully, we now have much better insights and metrics than we did even a few years ago to pinpoint an influencer’s role in converting followers into customers.

Use the Right Metrics

As you look at the whole customer journey, here are influencer metrics and data points to help you measure conversion:

Coupon Codes. Although coupon codes will only help you track conversions for online purchases, they can be incredibly helpful for tracking customer behavior. Coupon codes can even help you determine the natural length of time between a collaboration and a transaction by incentivizing shoppers to tie their purchase back to the influencer. You can make coupon codes even more effective by tying them to an affiliate campaign. Shopping Links, for example, is integrated with over 15 different affiliate networks, so your chosen influencers can easily generate affiliate links directly through their accounts.

Instagram Story Swipe-Ups. Instagram Stories traffic is another effective way to measure conversion, which is why we encourage brands to include this platform as part of their collaboration brief.

Engagement. Engagement is also a key metric to track, but it’s important to distinguish between types of engagement. Followers often double-tap images without making a purchase, which can inflate the value of “likes,” but more active engagement, such as comments, shares and interactions with Instagram Stories, can be valuable indicators of future conversion.

The above collaboration between Chelsea Thomas (@iheartbargains) and MARKS & SPENCER is a great example of how comments can contribute to conversion, particularly when followers tag other users, introducing the brand to new consumers.

Actions. One final way to track conversions is by following specific actions that indicate a likely future purchase. These actions could include signing up for your newsletter, joining your loyalty program, or following your brand’s social accounts. Conversion pixels can help you track the actions of an influencer’s followers after a campaign and tie those actions to a specific influencer.

Working with the right influencer marketing platform can also help ensure you have the tools to track conversion. Thanks to sophisticated tracking through different eCommerce carts and integration with multiple affiliate networks, we can track conversion even when it occurs early in the customer journey.

The Bottom Line

Influencer marketing can have a significant impact on conversions in ways that aren’t obvious. Effective at “top funnel” interactions, Influencers introduce customers to your brand, cultivate trust and loyalty, and keep your products top-of-mind when shoppers are ready to buy, even if they aren’t involved in that last click. Tracking the role that influencers play in the overall customer journey by measuring sales from coupon codes, Instagram Story swipe-ups, engagement, and other individual actions along the path to purchase, can help you gain a better sense of your influencer marketing ROI, and how well your influencer collaborations are truly converting.

A version of this article first appeared on the Shopping Links blog.