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How to Utilize Influencer Marketing as an Ecommerce Brand

Influencer marketing is hot right now, and for good reason. The influencer marketing industry has grown exponentially and is expected to increase to 13.8 billion in 2021. Sigh, they grow up so fast. 
When properly utilized, influencer marketing can have huge potential for ecommerce brands looking to expand their audience, grow their reach, and increase their sales. The key is proper planning, budgeting, and selecting the right influencer for your industry. 
So, how do you make sure you’re choosing the right strategies for your brand? Keep reading, and I’ll show you the way. 
How to find the right influencers
In terms of audience, bigger is not necessarily better. Typically, influencers with more followers and bigger audiences charge more. Instead of working with influencers based on their audience size alone, find an influencer who authentically aligns with your brand and reaches your target audience as precisely as possible. 
Here are a few strategies to help you find the right fit.
Build more trust with micro-influencers
With follower counts in the 1,000-2,000 range, micro-influencers are a great way to target a specific niche audience. The benefit of working with these influencers is that they’re seen as trusted experts in their fields, compared with influencers with larger audiences who may take on more, less authentic partnerships. It’s this level of trust that makes them invaluable to a partnership with an ecommerce brand.

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash
Consider influencers outside of your brand space
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when considering influencers to work with. Your product likely appeals to multiple audiences. Influencers who aren’t typically associated with a certain type of product are often thrilled at the prospect of promoting a product outside of the scope of their normal partnerships. 
Many big brands have done this and seen considerable success, for example, Ford partnering with Tinder, or Serena Williams working with Sleepnumber beds. The concept is the same regardless of the size of your business or influencer. For example, Purple, a mattress company that operates mainly online, recently partnered with sketch comedians Tim & Eric.
Types of influencer campaigns
When it comes to the type of campaign you want to run, you have a few options. Here are a few we think are particularly useful for ecommerce merchants. 
Custom URLs or coupon codes
This is likely the form of influencer marketing you’re used to seeing. A company will create a coupon code or a special link for influencers to share with their audiences. The code includes a special offer and the influencer will make a commission every time someone uses it. This is a good place to start if you’re new to influencer marketing. It’s mutually beneficial to the influencer and your brand, and easy to track since you can monitor the usage of the code.  
Here’s an example of a popular sailing channel on Youtube partnering with Audible, an audiobook company. They add their custom Audible URL to their Youtube descriptions. 

Giveaways
Having an influencer host a giveaway for your brand is a good way to generate buzz and introduce your brand to new audiences. People love free stuff, it’s a fact. If growing your social media presence and audience is your goal, this is the campaign for you. Requiring entrants to give you their contact information can help you grow your audience as well. 

Gifting
This is another very common form of influencer marketing wherein companies send products to influencers with the hopes that they will review, use, or talk about them on their platforms. This can be combined with a code or special offer for extra effect. These kinds of videos are huge on Youtube.

Tips for influencer outreach
Now that you know the types of influencers you’re looking for, the research begins. 
Step one is to follow their social accounts. This will help you understand what makes them tick, which will help you outreach more successfully. Like their posts, leave comments, and your name will start to become a familiar one. Now you’re ready to reach out.
But first, let’s discuss something important. Please, I beg of you, DO NOT use a templated message when you conduct outreach. There’s nothing more cringe than an email that was slapped together with little to no research or personalization behind it. You aren’t sending a mass email here. Personalization is the key to success. Mention what you’ve seen in their content that you like. Fully detail the reasons you think they’d be a great fit for your brand.
Another key to success: be forthcoming about how the relationship will be beneficial to both parties. Influencers will typically have their own rates for partnerships, which are most commonly calculated based on the average number of likes and comments they receive per post (aka their engagement), the number of views their posts get (aka their reach), or the number of followers they have. 
Measuring success
Your campaign has finished and you have a bunch of data to sort through. How do you know what the markers of a successful influencer campaign are? Here are 3 important KPIs to pay attention to. 
1. Conversions
How many sales did your campaign generate? Hopefully, this will be an easy metric to track if you used a special code or link. If you didn’t go that route, you can still compare your conversions before, during, and after the campaign timeframe. Pay attention to any spikes in traffic. 
If sales weren’t your goal, you can still track conversions in other forms. Filling out a form, signing up for a newsletter, and clicking a link all could be considered conversions. 
2. Referral Traffic
This is a good metric to help you determine how much additional traffic was sent to your website during your campaign. Google Analytics should give you plenty of insight into campaign performance. Pay attention to things like time on site, number of new visitors, and referral sources to get a more holistic view of how people got to your site and what they did while they were there. 
3. Engagement
Followers are all well and good, but having engaged followers is almost always better. Several tools can track your engagement rates for you (we love BuzzSumo) but there are several metrics to look at. Engagement consists of interactions such as likes, follows, video views, retweets, comments, and shares. Take as many social interactions into account as you can for the most holistic measurement of your campaign’s engagement. 

Photo by Georgia de Lotz on Unsplash

How to Do a Product Launch Like a Kardashian

What do a billion-dollar lip kit empire, a size-inclusive denim line, and a disruptive shapewear company have in common? Each company is owned by a Kardashian/Jenner. And they’ve all brought in over $1 million in sales on launch day. That’s the power of selling direct-to-consumer (DTC). (And of building a trusted brand). 
Love them or hate them (or love to hate them), America’s first reality TV family knows a thing or two about launching brands and selling direct-to-consumer. 
The youngest Kardashian/Jenner launched Kylie Cosmetics in 2015. And her most successful launch to date brought in $19 million on the first day. When Kim Kardashian West launched her latest business venture, shapewear company Skims, the initial launch made $2 million in minutes. Khloe Kardashian’s denim line, Good American, reached  $1 million in sales on the first day of its release and was the biggest launch in denim history.  
While most of us don’t have a reality TV show, 100 million+ followers on social media, or Kris Jenner in our corner, here’s what we can learn from the many Kardashian product launches. 

Plant seeds for your product before its release
Before you have a beautiful garden of flowers… you have to plant the seeds that grow them. And the Kardashian/ Jenners are master seed planters.
Ahead of Kendall Jenner’s 818 Tequila launch, she slyly included people drinking 818 Tequila in photos and videos on social media. Kim Kardashian was always vocal about wearing shapewear, and she posted behind-the-scenes photos of herself wearing multiple pairs of Spanx before she launched Skims. 
Kylie Cosmetics recently deleted all of the pictures from their Instagram page except one, letting users know that something big is coming.  
Planting seeds like this builds up hype for a product prior to its release. And framing your big launch around a problem you face, and that your target audience faces is a great way to tell your story and ensure that launch day is super successful. 
Make your mission known 
In today’s competitive landscape, to successfully launch a product, you need to build a brand to differentiate yourself. Part of brand building is having a clear mission. 
Hey, you might have the best product on the planet. But if you’re not making your mission known, i.e., telling a story, telling the world who you are, what you stand for, why you’re here, and what sets you apart from the rest, your brand won’t resonate with consumers, and products won’t fly off the shelves as quickly. 
All of the most successful Kardashian product launches have at least one thing in common: they’ve all made their mission known from day one. 
Skims is inclusive shapewear for every body. Good American represents body acceptance + positivity for all women. Poosh is here to educate you about wellness. 
Make your mission known by baking it into the messaging on your website, ads, and social channels. Want to learn how to craft a powerful mission statement? We love this article from our friends at BigCommerce.
Launch with user-generated content 
If you’re selling DTC, you need user-generated content (UGC). It’s the key to increasing authentic reviews, new customers, and brand awareness.
Consumers are 83% more likely to trust peer recommendations than branded advertising.
If UGC isn’t part of your launch strategy, don’t sweat it. Here are some Kardashian examples to get you inspired. 
The KIMOJI Hearts fragrance launch when Kim sent an edible candy heart with the fragrance bottle inside. This sparked Instagram story videos of people unboxing the fragrance pre-release, generating awareness and buzz about the launch.
Curating a shareable and memorable unboxing experience on social media is a great way to spread the word about a big launch. 

Source: YouTube
This hilarious TikTok review of the Skims Fits Everybody collection. The goal with UGC is to get people’s honest and authentic thoughts about your product while making others want it. Erika Priscilla is all personality, all of the time, and we’re fans of hers already. 
TikTok star Addison Rae dancing in Good American sweats. User-generated content doesn’t always have to come in the form of a review. For consumers, seeing someone whose lifestyle aligns with theirs using a product makes it desirable. With UGC, you’re not just selling a product, you’re selling an experience or a lifestyle. 

Source: Instagram
Looking to get your own user-generated content program off the ground? Read our blog post that covers all things UGC. 
Invest in social media marketing 
Think back to the early 2000s, or even the early 2010s. Product launches were announced on early-morning talk shows and radio programs. TV ads, billboards, and magazine ads were the primary mode of promotion. The norm was large marketing campaigns casting wide nets, hoping to reel something in. 
If there’s one thing that sets the Kardashians apart from other celebrities and founders, it’s how they’ve consistently used social media to market themselves and their products from very early days.
The family was among the first to prove that you don’t need to break the bank with an ad agency or some other behemoth to get in front of consumers. 
A social media presence and strategy go a long way. Kylie Jenner launched Kylie Cosmetics with just her social media channels and a Shopify store back in 2016 (she sold all of her inventory in seconds!).
Part of what makes selling direct-to-consumer so popular is that the barriers to entry are low, you don’t need to have millions of dollars to do it, and you don’t need to be backed by a big corporation to succeed. 
Social media democratized advertising, and the ability to engage with a wide variety of audiences. Instead of paying large sums of money to an agency to get you in front of the right audience, you can do it yourself on social media. 
Curious how your ecommerce store can benefit from social media? Read our Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Ecommerce. 
Engage with your audience in multiple channels 
When it comes to engaging with people, the Kardashian empire uses almost every channel you can think of. From reality TV and social media to email and ecommerce sites, to pop-up shops and in-person appearances, they’ve done it all. 
Kim Kardashian launched a popup shop for KKW Beauty in Los Angeles and made a surprise appearance with her makeup artist and glam team. Kylie Jenner rented an ice cream truck and surprised fans at different locations in LA to sell her sold-out lip kits. 
In addition to the more splashy ventures, the Kardashians use email and SMS just like the rest of us. Skims frequently uses email and SMS for product launches, product reviews, and restock alerts. 

Okay, we know we’re not all celebrities. People won’t be cheering your name outside of your pop-up shop. But we can take away this lesson: through various channels, it’s important that you connect with your customers in a tangible way.
For direct-to-consumer brands, the best channels to connect with your audience are email and SMS. These are two channels that you own completely, and where you can control the customer experience.
The more you engage with your audience and create a stellar customer experience, the more they’ll engage with you in return. 
Use social media feedback to improve future product releases
Speaking of social media, another great thing about it is that it’s a low-cost way to collect customer feedback. If you get some not-so-great feedback, don’t stress out about it. Use that social feedback to improve your next product launch. 
Before she launched her own perfume line, Kim Kardashian used Twitter as a focus group to gather feedback about the bottle shape and size.
Twitter is where you find out what the world is talking about, and the KKW Beauty owner stated that she uses Twitter to listen to what people have to say and talk to her followers. 

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