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2019 Retail Trends: The Age of Influence

2019 Retail Trends: The Age of Influence

A new trend, 360-degree influencer marketing, is a huge development in 2019. Retail strategies in 2019 mean thinking about influencers in a 360 degree capacity.
What does that mean? It means that influencer strategies are now really primarily led by strong CEOs and strong platforms. We have really engaged employees, who are taking to the streets and being activated and serving as ambassadors to the businesses they work for. We’re also seeing a different approach to consumer engagement, and leveraging consumers as influencers. Also, how celebrities are activated in new ways to service influencer marketing strategies. The traditional celebrity product placement strategy is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Last, we’ve got the traditional key opinion leader (KOL), and how influencers work from a social media standpoint.

The CEO as Influencer

The previous five components make up an entire influencer marketing platform. This is a dramatic shift from how social media influencers were used to drive sales. How can these different components help your business? First, we have the CEO as an influencer. The CEOs that have strong social media platforms actually gain the trust of the consumer about 75% better, than brands that do not have strong CEO leadership on social media. That means CEOS at the forefront of the company are on Twitter and Instagram, they’re talking about their businesses relating to their consumers, and they’re being real and authentic. They are taking the stages at big conferences, making a bigger name for themselves. Certainly not every CEO is really equipped to take on that type of larger voice.The CEO leaders as influencers is a huge trend that we need to watch, and that brands need to start cultivating.

Employees as Influencers

The second big trend here is looking at employees as a major trend in consumer influence. What does that mean? For example, Macy’s had activated a Style Crew, which is basically a team of their store associates that are now posting on Instagram, and starting to earn rewards for that. They’re starting to earn income for being brand ambassadors for the companies that they work for. Would an employee post about the company that they’re working for? The current generation is entrepreneurial, and tries to make something from branding themselves.
As the old phrase goes, if you do not brand yourself, you will be branded. Obviously employees of companies like SoulCycle and Equinox, where these companies are building their own profiles, their employees are building their own social media followings, because they want to be recognized. They are the best people to activate as brand ambassadors for your company.

Influential Consumers

The third area that we have to look at is the consumer. In the past, we wanted consumers in experiential and in pop ups. We know user-generated content (UGC) is really the best way to show that consumers love your products. That can be reviews, or a post of them wearing your product. Consumers provide a very valuable touchpoint for a brand, so create more experiential and hone in on how to use customer experience. In doing so, we really have to ask, what are the values that we are adding back? What are those Insta-bait moments?

Nike opened up a store on Melrose recently in Los Angeles, and they did a great job of creating a very digital-friendly touchpoint for those VIP consumers. They can now purchase products, come directly to the Nike store, go to a locker, get their products out of the locker, and never really have to engage much with the store. They’re also getting their sneakers cleaned and other customer service-centric offerings from Nike that add tremendous value.

This includes loyalty programs. With loyalty programs like Nordstrom’s, you can now have the opportunity to work with a sales associate, so by the time you get in the store, you now have all of your products waiting for you. These are the kinds of customer service activities needed if our customers are really become part of our core influencer network. How do we get them to create content for us? Well, we give them great experiences to create content around.

The New Celebrities

Celebrities are really important because the worlds of celebrities have really changed. There was a time when we would dress Nicole Kidman and get her walking down the runway, in our floor-length garment at the Oscars. But that’s not done anymore. The way in which we start to look at celebrity product placement and celebrity is very different. The recent fashion show by Tommy Hilfiger in Shanghai is a great example. It was a collaboration with Formula 1 champ, Lewis Hamilton. This was a really amazing collaboration because he was able to spend some time working with the design group, being able to really cultivate those products. Their partnership looked nothing like the celebrity product placement strategy of yesterday, we’re talking bona fide teamwork. Also, when that product came out and when that runway show launched, not only was that product available for purchase right away, but they also had a number of different kinds of celebrities there. Not only key opinion leaders but also celebrity models who weren’t walking the show, as well as other types of socialites.

When we start to think about celebrity, it’s not just how do we get someone who’s a movie star to wear our goods? We have to really look at celebrity product placement as, who are the people who are garnering the most attention? Who are the people in your industry or in your market who are actually getting the visibility? Who is going to create noise? Could I have ever guessed a Formula 1 champ would have been that person? No. But does that make for great press? Does that make for something that’s newsworthy? Absolutely.

Social Media Influencers

How are we activating existing social media influencers? What are brands doing right now to really leverage and grow these relationships? Companies like BECCA Cosmetics have Jaclyn Hill. They had a close collaboration developing the products, showing behind the scenes and launching with an exclusive line that sold out millions of dollars’ worth of goods within 24 hours. Very, very impressive. How was that done? It took a lot of time and effort working with Jacalyn. Shesaid, “I have a strong following. I am known for this. And if we’re going to go into a collaboration together, we actually need to have something that’s authentic to my brand.” Brand collaborations are a lot more important now than just taking someone’s name, and adding it to an influencer strategy.

On the flip side, Benefit Cosmetics spent $10 million on the launch of their mascara. This most recent launch leveraged influencers from all over the world in a mini Coachella event – all sorts of marketing opportunities – and Benefits Cosmetics was able to create a whole experiential platform for themselves. How is that helpful? By doing an international global launch in such a magnitude, they said, hey, we’re giving visibility to influencers around the globe.

By leveraging celebrity and influencer celebrities within these different demographics and regions, you’re actually going to be able to capture that audience all at once, and really get their attention. One of the best examples of how influencers and influence really shape the way we even look at business in the future, is that social media influencers and the rise of that commodification is now making its way into IPO filings. Most recently announced that they were going to be filing for their initial public offering. In the IPO, they listed the key to their success and future success was working with influencers. They listed that almost 79 times.

Right now their biggest platform has really been honing on the U.S. market. They’re known for making Coachella one of their biggest events of the year. In fact, they do more business within the few days leading up to Coachella leading up to than on Black Friday- all because of their influencer collaborations, and the rise of their internal brands as collaborations with influencers.

They have brands created with micro celebrity influencers that are private labels. When we think about how companies like Revolve are using social media influencers, we not only see that as a strong driver for sales and marketing but also as a way for them to really legitimize what they’re doing, and leverage that on a much larger scale.

One of the big trends with clients is identifying the micro (everyday) fans. How do we capture and activate them? How do we then capture and activate all the micro influencers? But how do we start to activate those voices? As individuals, we each have the power to impact lots of people around us, and this is found with employees that espouse company values and post about the companies that they work for. Their voices reach 10-20x further than brands posting about themselves.

How do we leverage cohesive voices and leverage the people and touchpoints exposed to our brands to really espouse and share the same values and aesthetics? If we do not brand ourselves as individuals, as companies, and have consistent voices, the market is going to brand us, and our brand voices will no longer be our own.
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