By Vinod Varma
It’s not a secret that social commerce is on the rise. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the way we live, shop, and engage with others has shifted. The social media platforms right on our smartphones have provided us with a sense of community, forcing brands to pivot their marketing strategies. As a result, more and more brands have turned to influencers to connect with their consumers. According to eMarketer, the U.S. social eCommerce market skyrocketed by almost 38% to $26.77 billion in 2020 and is expected to surpass $50 billion annually by 2023. (Yes, you read that right: $50 BILLION!)
COVID-19 wasn’t the only challenge the social commerce world faced recently. When Apple announced the iOS14 update, it brought changes to how marketers could target social media ads. The changes limit the ability to reach, understand, and engage with consumers across mobile devices and the Web. More specifically, it impacts how marketers measure social media ad reach and reduces the ability to predict and optimize budgets and spending.
Things are changing. While advertising challenges are a significant consideration in how we engage with social media in the future, influencer marketing becomes a more valuable resource. What once was as simple as a trade-off of free products to influencers in hopes of a stellar review to a couple of hundred fans has turned into so much more. Some influencers are signing contracts with brands for hundreds of thousands (even millions) of dollars; partnerships rooted in the hope that their followers will believe in the brand as much as the creator does and in turn make a purchase.
What is Social Commerce?
It’s simple really, social commerce is the method by which brands sell products through social platforms. The buying process takes place on a platform that’s not owned by the seller or brand, differing vastly from the retail world we were once used to. Just how typical are these types of purchases? Well, according to eMarketer more than 55% of consumers between 18-24 years of age reported making at least one purchase via a social channel. And although age affects the likelihood of buying from a social platform, 34% of consumers over age 65 have made such a purchase, making the impact of social commerce undeniable.
Social commerce thrives on word of mouth and the work of influencers. In the past two years, it hasn’t been uncommon for an influencer campaign to sell out a product completely. Today, influencers can be anyone, and the role is becoming more and more respected. It can now be regarded as a trusted marketing source; when it’s done right.
Why are Micro Influencers More Valuable?
Passing are the days when brands would try to get the top A-list celebrity to sponsor their products. We know that more and more brands are turning to micro influencers than ever before, but why? Influencers have spent time engaging and building up their communities of followers. Their followers trust them; they often see them as knowledgeable individuals in a particular niche and therefore trust their purchases too.
If you see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (we’re big fans!) on a commercial, claiming a sports beverage is his new favorite workout drink, some may assume he doesn’t even like that sports drink, it’s just an ad! If an influencer you follow makes a post about the same sports beverage, you might be more inclined to buy-in. You follow that influencer, they share their day-to-day life with you, and in some way you feel connected to them. They’d never promote something they don’t believe in! That’s the power of micro influencers and that’s why brands are investing in these new marketing strategies.
Where Does it Go From Here?
As more creators enter the social commerce space, the harder it is for companies to come up with a clear strategy. We have seen many highly successful influencer campaigns just this year, but it’s not something you can just copy and paste. Matching the right influencer with the right product is one of the keys to a successful campaign. Finding an influencer with a solid foundation of trust from their community will also lead to more success.
For creators, brands are expecting more ROI, very clear deliverables, and successful results. Therefore, as an influencer, you want to be sure you’re aligning with the right products. Ones that you can actually get your followers to rally behind and ones that don’t make you seem scammy (unless you want to lose followers and have an unhappy client).
Both parties need to be sure they’re protected contractually. Most of these contracts don’t require the influencer to reach a certain number of people or to sell a set amount of products. They’re solely based on the content the influencer is providing and sharing. That’s another reason it is so important for brands to do their homework and really find the best influencers to work with, or they could be throwing money right out the window.
Finding platforms where you can connect directly with influencers is invaluable in this market. Brands want to be sure someone is vetting them and evaluating their following by more than just the number of followers they have. Knowing what categories an influencer caters to and their typical engagement rate can help a brand measure potential success.
About the author
In 2016, Vinod Varma founded Creator.co, and currently serves as the CEO. Vinod is passionate about bringing brands and influencers together. He has years of experience in creator marketing and branding expertise and focuses on driving results for brands. A creative and enthusiastic leader, Vinod empowers his team to push the boundaries of what a creator platform can be.
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By Alexandra Forsch, President, Awin US
Consumers are understandably skeptical about politicians’ and businesses’ efforts towards more sustainable practices. Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg summed up this collective feeling beautifully with the above response to the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference.
And yet despite the skepticism, sustainable commerce drives more customer choices every day – from where they shop to the specific products and services they choose. According to recent research, 53% of shoppers say sustainability is a driving factor in their purchasing decisions. Furthermore, 73% of Gen Z and 68% of millennials report they are willing to pay more for sustainable goods. These figures make every savvy retail CMO take notice.
As a retailer, how do you appropriately join the sustainability movement? Many well-intentioned companies tread lightly around green topics and eco-commerce initiatives. The challenge with pursuing a sustainability agenda or talking about your ecofriendly practices is the terms can be ambiguous.
Should you be a registered Bcorp? Is it enough to offset carbon footprint by planting trees? Should you only buy local, or is it better you buy from businesses eradicating single-use plastics? These questions are complicated further by accusations of corporate ‘greenwashing.’ And sustainability is just one part of a broader discussion around what it means to be ‘ethical’ today. Environmental concerns coexist alongside other vital social issues: diversity of representation, inclusivity, accessibility.
Transforming to a more sustainable business
For today’s consumers, conscious commercial actions speak louder than words or labels. Shoppers want brands to proactively demonstrate commitments through how they conduct business. They want to see you do.
That said, consumers aren’t looking for a grand gesture. Loose change can enact big change and there are several small steps you can take for great impact.
One way is to collaborate with manufacturers and suppliers to identify ecofriendly products on your shelves and sustainable swaps you can make. In the food and beverage sector, for example, retailers are placing additional focus on ensuring sustainable, local growing practices. And in consumables, several merchants are stocking lower-impact ‘refill’ packages that customers can reuse instead of single-use containers. While this step might seem like a daunting task, it isn’t a shift that needs to happen overnight. Look at leading retailer The Body Shop. Currently, more than 68% of its packaging can be recycled. With a goal to have all products fully-recyclable by 2025, it’s conducting a review of The Body Shop’s whole product portfolio to explore how to increase this percentage in the future – becoming more eco-conscious smartly versus quickly.
Another way to reduce your company’s carbon footprint is across shipping operations. Many brands are collaborating with logistics partners to deliver more sustainably. These innovations include lighter and compostable materials, product packaging that doesn’t require an additional box for shipping, reversible mailer sleeves that double as return packaging and ‘green delivery days’ in which they transport multiple packages at once instead of making a series of trips to the same location.
One final way you could improve your brand’s sustainability is by offering on-premise receptacles to collect disused items (regardless of whether they were initially sold by you) to be recycled or repurposed – especially e-waste, beverage containers and clothing. The partnership between Madewell and Cotton is one successful example of this practice, transforming donated denim into housing insulation and offering customers $20 off a new pair of jeans as a thank you.
The new wave of partnerships
As a for-profit company, becoming a more sustainable enterprise can’t be at the expense of your bottom line. In fact, adopting more ecofriendly practices opens up avenues to connect with that 53% of consumers driven to make sustainable purchases. So how do you reach them?
One of the best ways to engage with this target audience is via affiliate marketing partnerships. A growing number of affiliate partners (think influencers, bloggers, media houses… even cashback sites and coupon portals) specialize in sustainable and eco-conscious topics, curating recommendations of brands aligned with positive values that consumers can trust to buy from. They see the flexible, controllable nature of the performance-based affiliate marketing model affords a chance to monetize traffic with like-minded retailers while fulfilling their missions.
In these partnerships, you and your team collaborate with these trusted authorities by offering a commission for accountable customer sales and leads, creating relationships that reward sustainability partners when they drive business results for you and help fulfill both their mission and yours.
Such partnerships help shoppers feel part of the drive for a more sustainable world. They empower customers to express their values in their everyday purchases. By buying from you, they demonstrate a commitment to a more eco-conscious future. And this ethical ‘alliance’ helps drive increased purchases and shopper loyalty over shared values in how you drive future growth.
Putting a strategy into practice
The first step in pursuing these new eco-partnerships is to acquaint yourself with the many partners anxious to collaborate on a performance basis and whose eco-objectives and equities align with your own.
If you have an affiliate marketing team, they may already be familiar with some of these businesses. Further, your larger marketing team might have someone passionate about these initiatives who can help guide your efforts.
If your company’s sustainability efforts focus on something other than environmental issues, there are partners also supporting other worthwhile causes. For example, you can work on a performance basis with groups that support active-duty soldiers and veterans, promote universal healthcare access, fund better education, empower individual-level charitable giving, etc.
Whatever your goals, there are partners ready to help you take action. They align investment with your values, help your business grow and make your customers not only feel better about the initial purchase they make with you but help keep them coming back for more.
About the author
Alexandra Forsch is president of leading affiliate marketing platform Awin. As a seasoned online marketing professional with over 20 years of experience and a proven record of outperforming corporate goals, Alex has a strong background in performance marketing, media planning and buying, online marketing solutions, strategic and financial planning, team building and client relations. She started her journey with us in 2011 as Head of Account Management for buy.at and quickly progressed to lead the full North America operation, developing a high performing team and successful partner network as well as overseeing the US migration of buy.at to Affiliate Window, and later the rebrand to Awin in 2016. In 2019, Alex was appointed President of all US operations when unifying leadership of Awin and ShareASale, with goals to expand upon our strategic solutions offered to clients across both platforms in North America.