In response to a growing conviction amongst marketers that traditional forms of advertising are ineffective against ad block technology and consumer ad fatigue, eMarketer announced in a public blog post the release of its “Influencers in U.S. Retail” report (paywall) on the newfound popularity of influencer marketing within the retail industry.

Influencers have exploded onto the marketing scene in the last few years, providing the human touch that advertising has lost in strategies like paid social placement. Although retail is coming a little bit late to the influencer marketing party, the industry is now capitalizing the most on the evolution of influencers as a strategy.

While other industries have used influencer marketing as a “top of the funnel” tool to gain mass awareness via a celebrity or social media star, the retail industry is now using social influence throughout the funnel and spectrum, and at every point of the decision making journey. As noted by eMarketer: “Increasingly, however, retailers are working with influencers who have less reach but greater relevance for a select group of shoppers.” The report features Mavrck co-founder and CEO Lyle Stevens on the value of micro-influencers in a influencer marketing strategy.

As e-commerce has grown in popularity and size, the incorporation of influencer marketing to retail strategy reflects the overall shift of the industry into the digital realm as consumers make the entire decision journey online. A consumer survey by PWC revealed that over 75% of consumers polled will spend time browsing and looking into products online before they make an in-store purchase.

The “Influencers in U.S. Retail” report breaks down the influencer hierarchy within a retail context, analyzing the various attributes of influencers, and the ways in which they are helping brands to combat an increasingly fragmented purchasing climate online. Influencers are defined by three pillars: reach, measured by the number of social media followers; relevance, or how trusted the person is on a specific topic; and resonance, a measure of “the frequency, length, and intensity of the social conversations triggered by the influencer.” Resonance is the secret sauce that determines whether the influencer will actually drive sales or just make a ripple of soft metrics like impressions.

Here are some key insights from the study:

 Power-middle influencers (those with thousands of followers, but not millions) combine relative reach with resonance (respect by segments of a brand’s desired customer base) to drive influence in the form of measurable conversions, rather than just spreading awareness. Additionally, these influencers are more easily convinced to partner than macro-influencers; a sample exchange could be a branded gift card provided in exchange for them posting a picture of the outfit they bought. 

 Micro-influencer marketing is growing in popularity in the influencer space, as the value of everyday consumer influence becomes more popular in the digital landscape. Of U.S. female internet users polled, 43% of respondents said the most credible piece of product information were recommendations by people they followed, or that they believed were like them.

 Younger and wealthier consumers are more likely to say that digital consumer-generated content influences their offline purchases.

 Consumers trust user-generated photos more than professional ones. More than half (55%) of consumers polled believed in CGC photos, vs. 45% who trusted professional ones.

 Bazaarvoice found that the majority of millennials polled in April 2015 said that digital CGC has an influence on offline purchases.

eMarketer’s “Influencers in U.S. Retail’ report is just another sign indicating the growth of this strategy within mainstream marketing practices. As social media channels like Facebook and Instagram begin to integrate with the retail industry further, it will only be more important to brands to engage users within their news feeds, and not in a banner to the right.