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Why influencers are the secret sauce to successful social commerce

As brands go deeper into social commerce strategies, influencer marketing will become a key component to connecting with followers on social platforms and growing online sales revenue.

8 min read

Social Media

Why influencers are the secret sauce to successful social commerce

Libby Penner / Unsplash

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Social media platforms are undergoing a massive evolution.

They are no longer solely the place you go to connect with friends and family. TikTok has turned everyone into a creator. Snapchat has moved well beyond the teen demographic to an audience that spans age ranges and businesses. Earlier this year, Instagram head Adam Mosseri posted an Instagram Live video confirming that Instagram is moving away from being everyone’s favorite photo-sharing app, and instead focusing on creators, video, messaging and shopping.

Mosseri’s statements only underscore the changes we’re seeing across the social media stratosphere: Social apps are the new hubs where users go for news, entertainment and, more recently, shopping.

Social commerce, the ability to shop via social media, is rapidly growing. B2C marketers and e-commerce teams are quickly learning that their social commerce campaigns work best when they’re able to connect them to the full scope of social marketing campaigns. What’s the point of having an Instagram Shop if you’re struggling to drive traffic to it?

This is where influencers and content creators play a key role in any social commerce strategy: They offer maximum visibility to your brand and products, while serving as a natural route to your virtual storefront.  

With the help of social commerce technology, consumers can discover products simply through content posted by an influencer they follow. Doing so is as easy as seeing, clicking and purchasing. We live in a world where items find us rather than us finding them — that’s truly the epitome of great marketing — and influencers make it that much easier.

What is driving influencer marketing growth?

More and more, brands are implementing influencer marketing as a part of their social commerce strategy to grow their social media audiences and deliver authenticity, resulting in increased engagement, brand awareness and tangible ROI. In fact, between 2019 and 2021, influencer marketing more than doubled, growing from $6.5 billion to $13.8 billion. And that number is only going to climb higher as the demand for content creators grows.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced brands to change their marketing strategies at record speed. Digital transformation became a top priority as brick-and-mortar businesses lost a majority of foot traffic literally overnight. To overcome the monumental challenges brought on by the pandemic, brands increased social media marketing budgets and reviewed their influencer marketing investments.

With more people spending more hours online, influencer marketing became an effective method to get the right message out to the right audiences in the most expedient way possible. A July 2020 GlobalWebIndex survey reports that 96% of consumers who follow influencers said they engaged with creators more or to the same extent as before the coronavirus outbreak.

Because younger consumers are harder to reach through traditional media channels, Generation Z will continue to drive influencer marketing, especially as their buying power continues to grow. Current numbers already paint a compelling picture: 40% of Gen Z and millennials have already bought something while watching a livestream on a social media app.

Influencer marketing, though highly effective, has been notoriously hard to track. The good news is this form of marketing is becoming more data-driven than ever before, giving brands additional measurement capabilities to assess their success. Advanced social media management platforms can now offer detailed performance views to help marketers understand how their collaborations impact their bottom line.

How to identify an ideal influencer

It’s no surprise that influencer marketing has become an avenue for businesses to increase their digital footprint and grow their brand. The right influencers help brands develop genuine relationships with key audiences on social media and expand a business’ reach into new customer segments.  

In a Mediakix survey, 89% of marketers said the ROI from influencer marketing was better or comparable to other channels. However, you can’t just reach out to Kylie Jenner in hopes of reaching her 259 million Instagram followers.

When it comes to your influencer marketing tactics, bigger isn’t always better. Microinfluencers boast up to a 60% increased engagement rate compared to macroinfluencers. Microinfluencers also have over a 20% higher conversion rate that can positively impact a brand’s e-commerce sales.

The engagement and conversion of a microinfluencer’s followers are typically higher because users trust the individual, are more likely to comment and engage, and click the “purchase” button. According to one survey, engagement rates for nanoinfluencers on Instagram proved to be 10-times the engagement rates earned with mega- and macroinfluencers.

Going live: Making influencers a cornerstone

Live commerce, or livestream shopping, integrates product purchasing capabilities into a live video via a chat function or reaction buttons. It enables audience participation and interaction, while giving influencers a platform to demonstrate the product in a live video environment. A live broadcast renders a fresh and exciting buying experience for customers while offering intimacy and interactivity.

Because people trust other people more than they trust a business, livestreamed shopping is the perfect avenue to leverage an influencer partnership. A survey conducted by Facebook found that almost a quarter of adults would like to discover new products via a livestream featuring an influencer or brand representative.

In addition to consumer demand, livestream shopping can boost visibility, engagement rates and other key analytics metrics of your content — and generate more sales. For example, the fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger recently extended its livestream program to Europe and North America following successes in China, where one show reportedly attracted an audience of 14 million and sold 1,300 hoodies in two minutes.

In May, Facebook launched “Live Shopping Fridays” that included shoppable live videos from several well-known brands, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and Sephora. Shoppers could discover products, ask questions about the products in real time and make purchases, all without ever leaving Facebook.

Featuring your product or products via a live shopping event is a crucial component of your e-commerce strategy — and it will only become more important as the social commerce market grows. One way to do is is inviting someone to host an event and feature a curated catalog of their favorite products. Another way is to host a live interview with a creator where they talk about how they solve a particular problem, featuring your product.

Starting your livestream shopping journey

With livestream shopping, users are not simply filling up a shopping cart, they are joining an experience that they couldn’t get in a traditional retail store.

Due to its massive success in China, there are some key lessons to be learned for making the livestream shopping experience memorable. For example, Sephora has continued its omnichannel marketing strategy in China. To celebrate the Lunar New Year and Valentine’s Day, Sephora’s WeChat mini-program held a livestreaming event on Feb. 5, an exclusive campaign to interact with Chinese beauty shoppers.

Sephora is using livestreaming not just as a sales channel, but as a place to have deep and direct communications with customers. Beauty assistants can help customers select the most suitable products and use rewards to encourage viewers to share the livestream link with their friends and communities.

Additionally, partnering with an influencer or outside host to run your livestream event allows for fresh perspectives and can also increase viewer totals. You also can make your audience feel valued and heard by fielding their questions during the livestream.

Alternatively, posing questions to your audience can increase engagement. By interacting with your viewers, you are in one sense encouraging them to return for more of your live events. With livestreaming, brands can interact directly with their customers in authentic and meaningful ways that other formats cannot.

The takeaway

Regardless of your industry or region, using social media influencers in your social commerce strategy is key to meeting your social media marketing goals. Only 4% of consumers have faith in marketing and advertising tactics, so the ability to speak to your audience through a trusted resource is an essential marketing tool. Marrying your social commerce and influencer marketing efforts enables you to create a successful marketing strategy while hiting your e-commerce goals.


Yuval Ben-Itzhak has more than 20 years of technology and business experience as an entrepreneur, senior executive and executive leader. He’s worked as a chief technology officer at fast growing companies in the mobile, security, adtech and cloud services markets. Yuval, currently president and chief of strategy at Emplifi, often speaks as a thought leader on the future of mobile, security, privacy, consumer dynamics and disruptive innovation.