2019 Retail Trends: The Age of Influence


360-degree influencer marketing, is a huge trend coming up for us in 2019. Hey, guys, it’s Syama Meagher, CEO of Scaling Retail. And as we look to 2019 retail strategies, we really have to be thinking about influencers in a 360-degree capacity. What does that mean? Well, it means that influencer strategies are now really primarily led off by strong CEOs and strong platforms. We have really engaged employees, so that means 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, guys, we are looking at celebrities and how we are serving to activate celebrities in new ways to service influencer marketing strategies. The traditional celebrity product placement strategy is quickly becoming a thing of the past. And lastly, we’ve got the traditional key opinion leader (KOL) and the way in which we’ve been looking at influencers from a social media standpoint.

Now these five components make up an entire influencer marketing platform. This is really at a dramatic shift in what we used to think of as just using social media influencers in order to drive sales. So let’s unpack some different ways in which these different programs can help to drive your business and how you really should be thinking about planning for 2019 and beyond.

So, first, we have the CEO as an influencer. Well, a lot of statistics and reports have now shown that CEOs that have strong social media platforms actually gain the trust of the consumer about 75% higher than brands that do not have strong CEO leadership on social media. So what does that look like? That means CEOS at the forefront of the company who are on Twitter, who are on Instagram, who are talking about their businesses relating to their consumers and being real and authentic. They are taking the stages at big conferences, and they are starting to make a bigger name for themselves.

Now, CEOs as icons is really important. Certainly not every CEO is really equipped to take on that type of larger voice, and there are definitely regular CEO duties that cannot be overlooked as you build that social and as you build that visibility. However, guys, CEO leaders as influencers is a huge trend that we have to keep our eyes on the lookout for, and that brands need to start cultivating.

Now, the second big trend here is looking at employees as a major trend in consumer influence. What does that look like? Well, companies like 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.

Now you might ask yourself, why on Earth would an employee bother to post about the company that they’re working for? Well, guys, in the age of generation me, in the age of everyone being entrepreneurs, driving Uber, wanting to become little micro influencers, people are starting to commodify their branded experience of themselves. As the old phrase goes, if you do not brand yourself, you will be branded. So, obviously employees of companies like SoulCycle, Equinox, these companies that are out there that are building their own profiles, these people who work for them are building their own social media followings because, hey, they want to be recognized. They want to gain notoriety. These actually become the best people to activate as brand ambassadors for your company. So, guys, make sure that you are looking at your employees as a source of influence.

Now, the third area that we have to look at is obviously the consumer. Obviously in the past we looked at consumer marketing and said, “Hey, we want to get them into experiential.” We want to get them into pop-ups. We know that user-generated content (UGC) is really the best way in order to show that consumers love your products. So whether that is reviews, whether that is a post of them wearing your product. We know that consumers provide a very valuable touchpoint for a brand. So as we look to create more experiential and as we look to hone in on how we do customer experience, we really have to ask ourselves, what are the values that we are adding back, right? What are those Insta-bait moments?

Now, companies like Nike who opened up a store on Melrose recently in Los Angeles did a great job of creating a very digital-friendly touchpoint for those VIP consumers. Those VIPs 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 also can then get involved in getting their sneakers cleaned and a number of other customer service-centric offerings that Nike is doing to add a tremendous amount of value. This includes loyalty programs, right? When we think about other types of loyalty programs like Nordstrom’s for example, 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 that are waiting for you.

So these are the kinds of customer service activities we need to be looking at if we want our customers to 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.

All right, so moving on from customers, we’ve got the new celebrity. Now, celebrity is really, really important because the worlds of celebrities have really changed. it used to be back in the day that we would think about celebrities and we’d say, “Hey, we need to dress Nicole Kidman. We need to get her walking down the runway. We need to get her in our floor-length garment at the Oscars,” right? But we actually don’t anymore, right? The way in which we start to look at celebrity product placement and celebrity is very different.

Take a look at the recent fashion show done by Tommy Hilfiger in Shanghai as a collaboration with Formula 1 champ, Lewis Hamilton. Now this is 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. And, hey, when that product came out and when that runway show launched, not only was that product available for purchase right away, as Tommy Hilfiger has been doing recently with his fashion shows, 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.

So 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.

All right, the last thing that we look at when it comes to influencer marketing is, yes, how are we leveraging existing social media influencers? What are we doing to activate them? This is the fifth part of a strong influencer marketing program. So what are brands doing right now to really leverage and to grow that? Well, we’ve got companies like BECCA Cosmetics with Jaclyn Hill. They went into a really close collaboration as far as developing the products, showing behind the scenes, really being able to launch with an exclusive line that sold out millions of dollars’ worth of goods within 24 hours. Very, very impressive. Why was that so amazing? Well, guys, it took a lot of time and effort. It wasn’t as if they said, “Hey, Jaclyn, can we just put your name on those products? Can we just leverage your celebrity?” Jaclyn said, “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.” So 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 of that, we have companies like Benefit Cosmetics that spent $10 million on the launch of their mascara. This most recent launch leveraged influencers from all over the world. It had them come together in a mini Coachella event. It was like all sorts of events, all sorts of marketing opportunities, and they really were able to create a whole experiential platform for themselves. Now, why is that really helpful? Well, by doing an international global launch in such a magnitude, they said, hey, we’re not just giving visibility to influencers and to the U.S. market or even into the Shanghai or Asian market, but they went global. They looked at Dubai. They looked at Australia. They looked at other markets. So, guys, launches are now global. And 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.

Now, one of the best examples I can give here as far as how influencers and influence is really shaping 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 Revolve.com announced that they were going to be filing for their initial public offering, so their IPO. And in there they listed the key to their success and future success was actually 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 actually known for making Coachella one of their biggest events of the year. In fact, guys, they do more business within the few days of Coachella leading up to than they do on Black Friday- all because of their influencer collaborations and the rise of their internal brands as collaborations with influencers. So they have brands created with micro celebrity influencers that are private labels. Really interesting and exciting stuff.

So, 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. So, kudos to them for their IPO filing. I’m sure it’s going to be very, very successful.

And as we start to close in on what influencers look like and what the landscape looks like for next year and the years following, we’re going to start to see a real rise of different platforms that are creating micro influencers amongst all of us. In fact, guys, one of the big trends that we’ve been working with our clients is that really identifying who are those micro fans, who are those everyday fans that we know love us? How do we capture and activate them? How do we then capture and activate all of these micro influencers, the people between 1,000 to 90,000? And depending who you ask, the number of what a micro influencer is can definitely vary. But how do we start to activate voice?

As individuals, we each have the power to impact lots of people around us. So this is found with employees that actually espouse company values and post about companies that they work for. Actually, their voice is reached 10-20x further than brands who are posting about themselves. Us as consumers, even our voices and our authenticity reaches so much further than any type of branded post. So as we look at ourselves as consumers and as marketers and as brand owners and executives, we have to ask ourselves… the power of influence is really not only of ourselves but constantly around ourselves. How do we leverage cohesive voices and leverage all of the people and the touchpoints who are exposed to our brands to really espouse and share the same values and the same aesthetics? Because again, guys, if we do not brand ourselves as individuals, as companies, and have consistent voices, well guys, the market is going to brand us and our brand voices will no longer be our own.

So, if you guys are ready, want to take on a more concrete, cohesive perspective into influencer planning as a company, as an entity, going into 2019 and beyond? Please send us an email at hello@scalingretail.com. These five components will not only really contribute to a stronger brand and a stronger brand ethos and brand presence, but ultimately, guys, cohesive sales, consistent sales, ambassadors around your product that will translate into better ROIs in marketing and, guys, a better bottom-line.

Leave your comments below. Hope you guys stay in touch. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye.

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