How retailers are adapting through influencer/creator partnerships

By David Yovanno, CEO, impact.com

I recently had the pleasure of attending Web Summit 2022, the tech industry’s leading event for founders and CEOs, fast-growing startups, policymakers and heads of state to “ask a simple question”,  as the strapline of the conference had it: “where to next?

This year’s event in Lisbon saw over 1,000 speakers and 71,000 delegates from across the world, including brands such as Meta, Google, Airbnb, Amazon, Revolut, Miro, and Apple – as well as key figures of state including Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, Prime Minister of Portugal António Costa and, among a dozen warmly received Ukrainian speakers, Olena Zelenska, the First Lady of Ukraine.

I had the incredible opportunity to host a panel with Illuminate Social CEO Becca Bahrke and creator Madi B Webb and talk about creator partnerships to a room of over 3,000 people.

One of the key themes throughout the event was how Top500 retailers are learning to adapt through influencer and creator partnerships. Let’s take a look at the highlights.

Keeping growth alive with partnerships

The majority of consumers today (96%) don’t trust traditional advertising, with just over a quarter (26%) of internet users blocking ads on their devices. Over the past decade, there has been a huge shift in trust away from what a brand says about its business towards what others say about its business. 

Meanwhile, most consumers (92%) say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other types of advertising. Interestingly, four-fifths (80%) say they trust brand sponsorships. 

So what does all of this tell us? Consumers now have more control than ever over how they both source information about products, as well as engage with and buy from brands. For anything someone wants to buy, people now know that someone else likely has something to say about it, and the modern consumer is now trained to look for information from trusted sources before deciding on a purchase. 

In the AIDA model (Attention, Interest, Desire and Action), ads still work to create attention and awareness, but the desire or the decision to purchase is created by trusted sources of content including creators, publishers, businesses they trust and have a relationship with.

As a result, brands have started shifting their advertising dollars away from traditional campaigns and are investing in influencers and creators who share similar values and target audiences. 

Some of the most popular platforms and publishers being leveraged include Facebook (46.6m UK users), YouTube (41.4m UK users), Instagram (32.3m UK users), TikTok (14.8m UK users),  BBC (38.7 users), Mail Metro Media (33.4m users), and Reach (31.9m users).

But for partnerships to be successful in creating significant, sustainable growth, your business needs to leverage authentic influencer and creator partnerships. Some 15% of B2C brands in the UK are concerned about their ability to create authenticity in influencer marketing – and with good reason. More than 80% of shoppers in the UK feel authentic influencers are either important or very important to them.  

Consumer trust drives the partnership economy  

One of the biggest precursors to consumers buying into a brand’s authenticity is trust. Today, trust guides almost every aspect of the buying journey. But what constitutes trust? How can your business cultivate it? 

Partnerships are the new key to customer loyalty, brand awareness, and competitive advantage. The reason for this shift is that the majority of social media users trust user-generated content more than brand-owned creative.

For brands such as Walmart, Harry’s, Ticketmaster, Spotify and more, partnerships are helping create up to 28% of overall business revenue. These partnerships also build strategies that capture demand, enhance customer experience, differentiate the brand, and deliver ROI in today’s rapidly changing, complex market.

Partnerships – a key part of retail brand strategy in 2023

Although there is a great deal of debate around whether consumer attention spans are actually decreasing – for instance almost half of us believe our attention span is shorter than it used to be – getting and maintaining the attention of your target audience is certainly becoming more difficult.

Authentic influencer and creator partnerships help brands reach their audiences in a way that captures their attention far more than owned-brand media. Consequently, including partnerships in the marketing strategy will become essential in 2023. 

But what can brands do to make sure they are adapting and keeping on the right course? Today, we’re seeing more and more brands using trusted influencer partnership management platforms and tools that can help them align with the right influencers and creators that will immediately resonate with your audience. These tools will also help with campaign set-up, as well as managing terms and compensation conditions. 

But perhaps the most important element of any partnership platform is the ability to track and report success metrics. Without advanced analytics, brands won’t be able to attribute any ROI from their (or their influencer/creators’) efforts. 

Answering the question: where to next?

As the retail marketing landscape rapidly evolves away from traditional channels, I believe the key takeaway is that with access to a wealth of research, reviews, and recommendations, consumers are no longer interested in what brands say. Rather, they’re happy to channel their attention into referrals from others – including influencers and creators – that they can trust.

David A. Yovanno is the CEO of impact.com, the global standard partnership management platform that makes it easy for businesses to create, manage, and scale an ecosystem of partnerships with the brands and communities that consumers trust to make purchases, get information, and entertain themselves at home, at work, or on the go. Dave and impact.com have been pioneers in establishing all types of partnerships, including creators, influencers, major content commerce publishers, B2B, and more, as a third channel for scalable and resilient revenue growth alongside sales and marketing.

Dave has provided strategic leadership to SaaS companies in the technology vertical for more than two decades, previously serving as CEO of Marin Software, a San Francisco-based global leader in paid search SaaS technology; as president of technology solutions at Conversant, a diversified marketing services company; and as CEO of Gigya, a customer identity management platform. He has also served on the board of the Interactive Advertising Bureau and as a lieutenant and CIO in the United States Navy. 

Dave is also the author of The Partnership Economy: How Modern Businesses Find New Customers, Grow Revenue, and Deliver Exceptional Experiences, published by Wiley. The book serves as a compass for executives, leaders, and business owners navigating a new consumer-led economy built on partnerships with trusted partners, such as publishers, social influencers, and even other brands.  

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