Covid-19 was initially seen as a major threat to the influencer marketing sector but has instead acted as a catalyst for its growth. Dave Murray, Managing Director, EMEA at LTK discusses how brands are now taking a more strategic, long-term view to their creator relationships.
It’s safe to say, Covid-19 has transformed the way brands operate.
Fundamentally, companies have had to change how they interact with their customers – and influencer marketing is a prime example of this.
It has been an uncertain time for both brands and influencers. But by working together to connect with audiences, they have built a partnership that is hugely beneficial to both parties.
As a result, businesses are embracing influencers. They’re now a key way to get brand messages to stand out in a crowded advertising space: according to Influencer Marketing Hub, influencer marketing is estimated to grow from a $9.7 billion market size in 2020, to $13.8 billion in 2021.
Let’s take a closer look at the ways influencers became a lifeline for pandemic marketing – and why.
Authentic, relatable content
This has been a time of change for influencers. With restaurants, bars and gyms closed and travel heavily restricted, influencers have been forced to adapt in order to deliver the content their followers expect and can relate to.
Creating the usual luxurious lifestyle content simply wasn’t possible in mid-2020. So, influencers had to pivot, resulting in more authentic, relatable content.
And these same pandemic roadblocks affected brands too. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, over a third of advertisers had to cancel campaigns due to Covid-19. Without in-person interaction, brands have had to find new ways to build a genuine connection with their audience.
Creating alternative, authentic channels of communication became a priority as consumers sought a more human touch from brands.
Influencers and brands have found success by working together to tailor content designed to help followers through these challenging times. Influencers give businesses the opportunity to create branded, customised content despite restrictions.
We should expect this to continue as lockdown eases, because there aren’t just shifts in the types of content we’re consuming, but we’re also changing the way we’re consuming it.
Bridging the offline gap
The pandemic meant retail moved almost entirely online.
Brands had to try and recreate the full shopping experience online to maintain customer loyalty amidst long-term lockdown restrictions and brick-and-mortar store closures.
So, as all interactions moved online, influencers bridged the gap. They created the missing human touch, offering credible recommendations and offering advice. They became the virtual storefronts. This allowed brands to continue to communicate with consumers consistently, without worrying about restrictions in the outside world.
Influencers also gave consumers the added bonus of seeing items in context.
When buying through an influencer, consumers have far more visibility over the fit of a certain dress. They can also get inspiration on how to style a pair of sandals or see how a rug might look within a colour scheme.
And so, by bringing items to life, influencers give consumers a relatable, human touchpoint through which to buy.
Growth and innovation
It’s perhaps no surprise that according to research from Fullscreen, 34% of 18-to 34-year-olds say they now watch more inﬂuencer content during and because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As consumers increasingly look to influencers they trust to recommend brands and products, we have seen the effects ourselves, too. Our LTK shopping app, recently rebranded from LIKEtoKNOW.it, saw triple digit growth in 2020, as consumers searched for a curated shopping experience.
Brands have recognised the shift in consumer priorities, with 40% more spent on LTK collaborations. Influencers’ virtual shop fronts have allowed them to reach new customers and build loyalty in new ways.
And so, even as society opens back up, a significant number of consumers will prefer the ease, comfort, and elevated experience of shopping from home.
Influencers and creator platforms are also diversifying the path to purchase. New innovative trends such as ‘live shopping’, which works as a streamable home shopping channel, are now growing in popularity.
Digital content creators, such as influencers, will play an increasingly important role as brands partner with them to help sell these products on these live video formats. Different video formats will continue to make collaborations with influencers more popular as brands expand their purchase points.
The micro-influencer boom
Pre-Covid, brands tended to go big, especially when creating ad campaigns and sealing massive partnership deals.
However, high profile and wide-reaching partnerships do not necessarily guarantee the most productive sales. Data-driven influencer marketing has led brands down a new route.
In the past year, there has been a big move towards smaller – or ‘micro’ – influencers. Typically defined as having between 1,000 and 100,000 followers, micro-influencers have created a ‘community’ audience with similar interests.
As a respected voice within their niche, these influencers have been very effective in promoting products to their loyal followers. Brands can tap into relevant communities through these influencers and reach an engaged shopping audience who are more likely to purchase and, ultimately, elevate the brand’s profile in a more targeted way.
The potential results are huge. Previous research has found that micro-influencers have 22.2 times more conversations weekly than a typical user, as they tend to be more passionate about their niche and want to recommend the right products to their audience.
With face-to-face interaction limited during the pandemic, brands have invested in trusted influencers to reach their target audience. With its potential being recognised, the micro-influencer boom will only continue.
A new opportunity for brands
We are witnessing a seismic shift in retail. Covid-19 means consumer attitudes and habits have changed forever. Brands must adapt or be left behind.
Influencers provide a real opportunity for brands to build an authentic connection with their audiences. Creating targeted content in collaboration with influencers can boost sales and win loyalty as consumers interact with trusted influencers and their personal recommendations.
It seems there’s no stopping influencer marketing. As brands continue to gain positive results and solid returns on their investment, it’s set to grow exponentially.
From a period of real uncertainty, influencers and brands can now thrive, furthering each other’s success. And as opportunities grow, the possibilities really are endless.
By Dave Murray
Managing Director Europe
About the author
Dave Murray is the founding leader of LTK London. With over 14 years’ worth of experience in Performance Marketing specialising in Fashion & Lifestyle, Dave joined the company in 2012 to lead international growth, with a belief that global content creators would significantly grow their influence in the future. From a start-up blog monetisation tool, Dave has driven LTK’s international expansion over the last 9 years, redefining the influencer channel for European brands and now leading innovation in cross-channel mobile social shopping.