How To Use Influencer Marketing For Ecommerce

February 17, 2022

Marin Perez

Picture of an influencer on social media

Have you started using influencer marketing for your online store, or are you considering it? In this guide, we cover the ins and outs of influencer marketing, including what influencer marketing is, the types of content influencers create and what’s best for your brand, and how to measure ROI.

But first, let’s get into definitions.

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What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is a strategy of partnering with content creators who have a large, relevant audience congruent with your brand. The influencer recommends or endorses your product to their audience. You compensate them financially, either by sponsoring them, hiring them as a spokesperson, or hiring them as an employee.

Influencer marketing is content marketing strategy. But instead of creating the content yourself, you leverage the content and audience of third-party creators.

The influencer, or content creator, mentions your product in the context of the content they create on a regular basis for their fans. Because of this, it’s naturally integrated into the content.

There are many benefits of influencer marketing, but the most important benefit is the added exposure it gives you. Influencers have a built-in audience. If you can find content creators with the same audience as you’ve identified for your product, you can immediately boost brand-awareness and product sales.

Some influencer marketing Ecommerce examples

Let’s look at some examples of influencer marketing.

Here, you can see watch maker Daniel Wellington’s Instagram influencer program:

The history of influencer marketing

In the 1920, Charlie Chapman was an early celebrity influencer, endorsing chocolate and cigarettes. And in the decades that followed, brands sponsored television and radio programs to leverage other celebrity endorsements.

In 2004 to 2005, the first internet influencers were bloggers. The mommy blogger movement is one of the more well-known examples of influencer trends.

With the growth of social media, many influencers have amassed massive audiences on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and now TikTok and Clubhouse.

This infographic by Vamp highlights the history of influencer marketing:

Why influencer marketing for Ecommerce?

Independent content creators who become influencers have a perfect combination of authority, celebrity, and loyalty that makes them the ideal marketing channel for ecommerce brands.

Authority influencers that audiences look to for advice

Authority influencers have deep knowledge in a specific topic area. A perfect example of this type of influencer is podcaster and author Rich Roll

Named one of 2009’s 25 “Fittest Men in the World” by Men’s Health Magazine, Roll has amassed a massive following. Attracted to his vegan, athletic, alternative lifestyle message, they look to him for recommendations on plant-based, healthy alternative foods and supplements. 

As he says in his press kit, Rich offers a “unique and bankable high value-add opportunity for like-minded corporate entities seeking to cost effectively expand their marketing reach across the LOHAS / wellness / athletic market demographics.” It’s hard to argue with his 11+ million downloads, 

Celebrity influencers that provide an aspirational message

Celebrity influencers take a different approach. They seem to live their life in front of the camera for all to see. They produce more aspirational content that inspires people to fantasize about the life they could be living.

A great example of this kind of influencer is David Dobrik, the young Slovak-American personality. With his influencer friends, The Vlog Squad, he creates fun, yolo-type content that generates FOMO with his audience. 

Ticket-selling app SeatGeek has established a very profitable relationship with Dobrik. It started with an episode in which Dobrik gave an old friend a $4500 ticket to the 2016 World Series.

Dobrik’s fans wish they could live his life. So when Dobrik recommends a product like SeatGeek, his fans flock to buy that product. 

Teaching Influencers make product recommendations part of their learning

Similar to authority influencers, teaching influencers create how-to content. Their audiences want to learn a skill or improve on skills they already have. Because they respect the influencer’s skill, they hang on the influencer’s every word. Their goal: that one tip that will change their gaming-, career-, or dating-life forever.

Erik Anders Lang fits nicely into this category. His hipster-style tutorial videos for golfers has attracted 204,000 YouTube subscribers and built a profitable relationship with golf ball and golf accessory manufacturer Vice Golf.  

But a quick word of caution: If you’ve allocated lots of budget dollars to your influencer marketing program but your checkout system is subpar, you may be throwing good money after bad.

Imagine hiring a minor celebrity in your niche. They get their audience excited about your product. They flock to your store the day they kick off their campaign with you. But when they hit your online store, they have difficulty entering their credit card. As a result, abandoned cart rates will go up because you don’t have a one-click checkout system that remembers your customer’s data. 

Bolt Remote Checkout makes it easy to turn social media feeds into one-click checkout surfaces. This simplifies checkout, dramatically reducing cart abandonment.

Does influencer marketing work for ecommerce?

In their 2021 Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report, Influencer Marketing Hub reported that brands have continued investing in influencer marketing despite the onset of COVID-19 in 2020. And they’re seeing success with their campaigns.

Out of 5,000 respondents, 90% said they believed influencer marketing is effective. 75% said they planned to continue investing in influencer marketing.

In previous years, very few brands measured sales and conversion as a metric for ROI. But in the most recent study, brands have decided that measuring sales and conversions as a result of their influencer campaigns was the best way to measure ROI. (We cover more on how to measure ROI below.)

Types of influencer campaigns

What are the types of influencer campaigns you can run? We’ve identified ten.

1. GIveaways/sweepstakes

The word “free” is one of the most popular words in marketing. Having the influencer you’ve hired run a giveaway or a sweepstake for their audience is like setting out honey for Yogi Bear.

2. Contests and event activations

A content or a brand activation event is when an influencer organizes a one-time event designed to get their audience involved with your brand in a fun and engaging way.

Examples of fun brand activation events are the Warby Parker pool party or Bloomingdale’s scavenger hunt.

3. Social media takeovers

A social media takeover is a time-limited takeover of one of your social media channels by an influencer. 

The person taking over your social channel creates all the content during that time, and attracts their audience to your channel. At the same time, they provide entertainment for your regular audience.

4. Affiliate marketers

Affiliate marketers can be bloggers or YouTubers who teach on a relevant topic. They make commissions by sharing a personalized link to your ecommerce site with their audience.

Examples include: 

5. Sponsored posts

Sponsored posts, also known as native content, is when you contribute an article or blog post to a popular publication. The article looks like other content on the site, but there is a disclaimer either above or below the content that identifies it as sponsored content.

6. Sponsored blogs

Sponsored blogs are like sponsored posts. But instead of one-time or sporadic posts, you can sponsor a whole blog or microsite on a popular publication like Forbes or the New York Times.

Forbes IBM Brand Voice is an example of a complete sponsored content micro-site to promote IBM.

7. Unboxings & reviews

These are very popular on YouTube, but you can find them on Amazon and other ecommerce sites as well. Products range from high-end athletic footwear to cameras, stereo equipment, and gaming monitors.

8. Guest blogs

Guest blogs are an unpaid form of influencer marketing. A popular blog or digital magazine agrees to let you contribute an article because they need the content.

The Content Marketing Institute and the Relevance blog have grown huge audiences with their guest blogging programs. 

9. Brand ambassador programs

Many consumer or aspirational brands have instituted brand ambassador programs by recruiting passionate and influential customers to represent the brand when they’re out and about in their day-to-day lives.

 Maker’s Mark whiskey offers their ambassadors access to events. They even offer to place the ambassador’s name on a barrel of whiskey.  

10. Pre-release campaigns

Many brands hire groups of influencers during product launches. They ask them to talk up the brand and launch ahead of the actual launch date. This is a common practice in online course launches but can work equally well with physical products.

How to get started with influencer marketing for ecommerce

Let’s look at a few ways to choose the right influence and then approach them with your partnership proposal.

Audience/product fit

First, you need to nail down your ideal customer or your buyer persona. This is marketing 101, so we assume you’ve already done this. However, if you haven’t, the Buyer Persona Institute has a lot of good advice on the topic.

Next, you need to identify influencers who have a similar audience to your buyer persona. Golfer Erik Anders Lang was a natural fit for Vice Golf. David Dobrik was a good fit for SeatGeek, since they both appeal to young audiences who like to live life large and experience sporting events and concerts.

Brand voice

Next, you need to see if the influencer you’re considering is a good fit for your brand. Does their style jibe with your brand voice?

Again, let’s look at Erik Anders Lang and Vice Golf. Lang is sort of a hipster golfer, and Vice Golf is an edgy brand with attitude. Their brand voice and Lang’s hipster persona are a perfect match. 

But let’s imagine for a moment a Vice partnership with professional golfer Jordan Spieth: not a good fit.

Brand goals

Finally, what are your goals as a brand? Do you want to drive immediate sales as part of your influencer campaigns? Or are you more interested in building brand awareness and engagement?

Influencer marketing is not a great approach if direct response is your aim. Most influencers create content on social networks like Instagram, which have much lower conversion rates than email. (Optinmonster says email conversion rates are 6.05% vs. 1.9% for social media.)

How to measure influencer marketing ROI

Measuring influencer marketing ROI depends on your goals. Influencer Marketing Hub found that:

  • 38% of respondents measure conversions and sales
  • 32.5% measure engagement and clicks
  • 29% are interested in views, reach, and impressions

Measuring conversions

Measuring conversions is as easy as providing your influencers with special discount codes for their audience to use during the checkout process. New York University professor Scott Galloway, on his Prof G podcast, regularly provides audience members with discount codes and personalized links.

And if you want to track conversions effectively, you need a one-click checkout system like Bolt. The last thing you want is for an influencer’s referrals to abandon your shopping cart because they had to enter their credit card number for the umpteenth time this week!

Measuring engagement and clicks

Measuring engagement and clicks are best for product launches, according to the Influencer Marketing Hub survey. The best way to measure engagement or clicks is by using a UTM tracking code for your influencer to share with their audience. Then you can track pageviews in Google Analytics.

Reach and impressions

Finally, to measure reach and impressions on social media, you can look within the insights pages of each social media platform, including the number of shares, likes, comments, click-throughs, and engagement rate.

If your brand is just getting started and you don’t have an audience and customer base yet, you can drive considerable growth through Influencer marketing. By partnering with content creators who have built a large audience over years, you can instantly tap into an engaged and relevant market.

But the trick is to let the influencers talk about your products in a natural way. Giving somebody like David Dobrik a 10-point messaging guide probably won’t work. They have to sound natural when they’re talking to their audience.

How Bolt empowers your influencer marketing efforts

Solutions like Bolt have a variety of ways to help you maximize your influencer marketing efforts. Bolt One-Click Checkout lets you take advantage of the traffic influencers are driving to your store by making purchasing a seamless experience.

Bolt has also built tools for influencers to turn every digital surface into a point of purchase. This means you can get that amazing one-click checkout experience everywhere influencers are: on social media, in digital publications, in apps and more.

Bolt One-Click Checkout

Start treating millions of shoppers like returning customers and make their checkout easier than ever.

Try Bolt Today
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