Every company has had the opportunity to adapt to these new consumer behaviours. But despite the fact that consumers have embraced mobile technology and social media for over a decade – most corporate leaders do not feel urgency to compete differently.
This is a huge problem for marketers.
From product reviews to influencer recommendations, content created by consumers – regardless of where they fall on the spectrum of influence – is the new currency of social capital and brand trust, and it’s critical to keeping (and gaining) market share and competitive advantage in 2018.
To understand how this works, you need to look no further than Amazon. There are few companies that so consistently integrate dimensions of social proof into customer experience touchpoints as Amazon, and fewer still with anywhere near its platform capabilities for creating, cultivating and repurposing influencer-generated and user-generated content across its entire brand experience..
On the long scroll down to read a review on any given Amazon product page – now most likely to be the first and last touchpoint on any given customer journey – consumers have the opportunity to engage with no fewer than 12 different indicators of social proof, varying from recommendation widgets displaying influencer- and user-generated content to average star ratings.
Not one. Twelve.
And while Amazon is thriving – its revenue has increased 5x to $80bn since 2010 – the other side of retail isn’t so hot. Since 2016, there have been 18 retail bankruptcies; hundreds of store closings from former anchor stores like Macy’s, Sears, and JCPenney; with even new-era retail darlings like Lululemon and former hipster-fave Urban Outfitters’ stocks reaching new multi-year lows in 2017.
Most marketers understand that it’s no longer enough to compete on products or services alone – Amazon has made sure of it, almost systemically rendering entire industries obsolete through elevated experiences, prices, and customer service – and in doing so, it’s changed customer’s brand expectations fundamentally.
This type of disruption is known as the Amazon Effect – and it has every brand and its marketing team on notice. If you’ve ever found yourself two years deep into reviews or seven products beyond an influencer’s curated Amazon shop, you’ve felt its impact first-hand.
Here’s how we’ve observed Amazon doing influencer marketing – and it’s quite different from how most marketers are doing influencer marketing today.
Chances are, your current influencer marketing workflow looks something like this: once the campaign strategy and brief is already baked, a marketer decides the type and category of influencer they want to work with, typically based on reach, engagement rate, or CPE. They then choose a tool to help with at least one of the following: one that searches for relevant influencers, via a database/marketplace or social listening; another that manages communication and activation of those influencers; and another that that measures the results of activating those influencers.
This approach often leads to any number of content challenges, primarily:
- Difficulty finding the right influencers who align with your planned campaign strategy
- Influencer-brand dissonance in the creative process, resulting in influencer-generated content that is off-brand, off-campaign and/or inauthentic to the influencer’s aesthetic
- Lack of scale – at the end of the campaign, still lacked the volume social capital assets required for significant measurable improvement to the bottom line.
What separates Amazon from the rest, in its ongoing disruption of every industry from fashion to food, is not only how it has designed its influencer marketing programs to overcome these challenges – but how it has scaled its influencer marketing strategy in its use of influencer- and user-generated content to establish trust, affirm consumer trust, and communicate transparency at every touchpoint, in multiple formats depending on consumer context.
Amazon is as much a bonafide, self-sustaining word-of-mouth ecosystem as it is an e-commerce powerhouse. From Amazon Vine, which provides free products to consumers selected by Amazon to review, to its recently launched Amazon Influencer Program that rewards qualified social media influencers for their curated product picks, Amazon has integrated influencer-generated content at every customer experience touchpoint, while providing influential customers across the spectrum of influence every opportunity to tell the world about the products they love.
Amazon is able to achieve scale by creating and integrating owned, influence-led marketing programs that feed each other and generate the content required to impact consumers’ path-to-purchase.
The result, is that Amazon not only has the Influencer-generated content to cover the massive breadth of its SKUs, but it’s also able to scale its influencer marketing programs in a way that makes each touchpoint more personalized and contextually relevant to its consumers, by combining them.
And Amazon isn’t alone in expanding the tools and technologies available to better capitalize on the wealth of influence consumer social capital can create.
Both Facebook and Instagram have introduced tools designed to amplify influencer-generated content, crowdsource recommendations and feedback from friends and family, and develop influencer relationships to create video content.
So how can you operationalize and scale your own influencer marketing programs to replicate this success? Download our latest playbook, Accelerating Trust & Transparency in the Customer Journey Through Influencer-Generated Content, to learn how to adapt to today’s shortened path-to-purchase and the five factors critical to Amazon’s influencer marketing strategy, with a step-by-step guide and template to design an influence-led communications roadmap, editorial calendar, and influencer-generated content briefs.