Who has influence, in Amazon’s opinion?
All Amazon customers.
As such – how Amazon does influencer marketing is much different than how most marketers approach influencer marketing today. Where most brands are managing one or two word-of-mouth marketing programs on average (influencer, advocacy, referral and/or loyalty), Amazon is executing four, and then some. From Amazon’s Influencer Program to Amazon Prime, there’s a program for every Amazon customer that provides relevant opportunities for each to tell their world about Amazon products in the ways that are most influential – and it’s not mutually exclusive. Amazon is as much a bonafide, self-sustaining word-of-mouth machine as it is an e-commerce, search and advertising powerhouse.
And these programs that are key to powering Amazon’s success. While its growth may be plateauing according to recent reports, Amazon Prime alone is expected to reach 50% U.S. household penetration by the year’s end – with more than 70% penetration among U.S. households with over $120k avg. HHI.
Prime members spend nearly 2x more than non-members, and shop the site twice as often. They also serve as a veritable farm league for its other word-of-mouth marketing programs. Only Prime members can contribute to Amazon Spark, its owned social community. Members who leave the most helpful reviews, as voted on by other members, are then invited to Amazon Vine.
Whether you are just starting to implement an influencer marketing program or looking to expand or scale your current word-of-mouth programs, here are five tips marketers can learn about Amazon’s influence ecosystem that separates it from the rest.
1. Always On
Content is the only constant. To stay relevant, content from Amazon’s word-of-mouth programs support both its seasonal campaigns around high-shopping cycles (ie. B2S, holiday), cultural, and categorical events – including its own Prime Day – as well as its everyday promotions, giving consumers any number of opportunities to shop and providing consumer-generated content for thousands of SKUs. Almost everything about Amazon is “always on” – down to its incentives and rewards structure. So long as its consumers are performing to the given program or community standards – they continue to reap the benefits from being a member.
Make it Work: Align your influencer, advocacy, referral and loyalty program communications plans and editorial calendars with your enterprise, brand communications roadmap and campaign calendar to identify your campaign flights and always-on content cycles, as well as opportunities to reinforce key messages and products (get started by downloading our template here).
As we mentioned, there’s an influence-led program or initiative for every consumer – even casual shoppers are asked to submit ratings & reviews. You won’t see Amazon ‘renting’ out influencers any time soon (at least, publicly) – its programs are relatively self-sustaining, with each one a natural progression to the next (with more exclusive benefits), based on social capital and performance: Prime Members who reach a spend threshold are accepted to join Amazon Spark; those who leave the most helpful reviews are accepted to join Amazon Vine; with application processes and exclusive rewards in place for its most valuable programs – like Amazon Influencer Program (curated recommendations).
Make it Work: If you currently rely on an influencer marketplace or database to power your campaigns, start by inviting your own consumers to a lower tier of your program (think advocacy or referral), recruiting from an existing subscriber base, membership program or CRM. From their, establish tiers and incentives based on activity (for influencer tiers) and performance (for consumer-based tiers), that naturally feed each other. Once established, set up always-on acquisition and recruitment opportunities at relevant touchpoints – such as referral widgets on your brand.com; review prompts post-purchase; and emails to submit UGC.
A single product review has the potential to increase sales lift as much as 92% on average. With thousands of SKUs to cover – how does Amazon scale its influencer marketing efforts? Amazon’s influencer marketing programs are not only integrated together as we mentioned above, but they’re also integrated within the customer journey via its owned and affiliated assets. For instance, on any given product search, you can consult no fewer than three types of customer sources – influencer recommendations, poll the Spark community, and read reviews – with both Spark and reviews combining user-generated photos and text.
There’s a reason there are at least 12 displays of social proof are embedded on any given Amazon product page – the level of transparency and trust is nearly indisputable, ever more important now that Amazon bookends the beginning and end of the majority of consumers’ path-to-purchase. Influencer-generated content is exponentially more powerful when combined.
Make it work: Product reviews in particular can come in many forms – an influencer recommendation on social; a user-generated photo; a star rating; a blog post; a written review on a product page. First take inventory of your current SKU coverage – how many products have zero reviews? How many have tens or hundreds? Are you repurposing influencer-generated and user-generated photos across your brand.com and appropriate product pages? Products that have generated a significant number of reviews should not only be prioritized for influencer campaigns, but also, those reviews should be displayed on your homepage. And it’s not just about repurposing assets – but aligning strategies: for instance, high-priority search keywords should also be mentioned in influencer creative briefs for social and blog content.
In its quest for retail domination, this is how Amazon becomes bigger than itself. Influencer-generated, inspired, and validated content is created for and repurposed across owned, earned, and paid channels. Amazon brings new meaning to ‘shop the feed’: Vanity links enable Amazon influencers to share their curated product recommendations with their audience anywhere – even Instagram. Customizable widgets enable consumers to shop countless blog posts. And in case you didn’t know – Amazon is among the largest spenders on Facebook ads.
Make it work: High performing influencer-generated and user-generated content should be repurposed across paid and owned assets, and in turn – highly searched for and reviewed products should be core products featured in influencer-generated content – both reinforce consumer trust in that product across the customer journey. Imagine if a consumer saw a product in an influencer’s YouTube video, only to find it had zero reviews? Certainly, a product so desired would have at least one review – maintaining and reinforcing consumer trust is critical to accelerating the decision to buy in the moment.
Amazon leverages its intricate, proprietary shopper algorithms, recommendation engines and embedded widgets to repurpose and integrate relevant influencer-generated and user-generated content at every customer experience touchpoint, based on over 30 consumer data points, including: search history, purchase history, social data, and loyalty points program (owned or partnered). Each one is designed to accelerate the path-to-purchase and bridge the trust gap by removing doubt in the process.
Make it work: Personalization is more than a first name and product search history. A quick survey can reveal the product lines they want to receive updates about, the common influencers they want to receive product information from, and the friends they’re most likely to share product information. Imagine that rather than products, it’s their best friend or favorite influencer recommending similar products in re-targeted display ads? Leverage this data to make your messaging, your emails, your display ads not just personalized – but relevant and compelling.
For more tips on how to operationalize and scale your own influencer marketing programs to replicate this success, check out our latest playbook, Accelerating Trust & Transparency in the Customer Journey Through Influencer-Generated Content. Learn how to adapt to today’s shortened path-to-purchase and deep dive into why Amazon’s influencer marketing strategy makes its e-commerce dominance possible, with a step-by-step guide and template to design an influence-led communications roadmap, editorial calendar, and influencer-generated content briefs.