With its constant crisis-level landscape and ominous “adapt or perish” theme, you could say that 2020 has been one of the most challenging years for brands and businesses. But smart brands are realizing that changing consumer patterns due to the pandemic and heightened awareness of social injustice and systemic inequality have resulted in new opportunities to drive connections with consumers—and new research from marketing technology and consumer engagement firm Valassis finds that influencer marketing has emerged as one of the most viable strategies for doing so.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March, 21 percent of consumers have made an influencer-motivated purchase for the first time. Valassis’ recent Consumer Intel Report found that 35 percent of consumers made an unplanned purchase based on something they saw on social media as consumption of these channels has increased during the pandemic. The firm surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers to gain insight into what motivates them to engage with social influencers, a market that is expected to grow to $15 billion by 2022.
Additionally, the heightened awareness around social injustice has impacted the way consumers engage with influencers
For example, 36 percent of influencer-following consumers say they are following a more diverse set of influencers than before, and 32 percent surveyed have purchased more products/services from businesses that are endorsed by influencers from different racial and cultural backgrounds.
Emphasizing the importance of engaging the right influencer, the research found that 40 percent of consumers are more likely to trust a brand that features an influencer they know. Twenty-five percent say their perception of brands is shaped by the influencers that endorse them and this is more evident among 25 to 34 year olds, with 39 percent agreeing.
A rigorous vetting process for influencers and content creation is critical to maximize a brand’s effectiveness and reputation
According to the survey, 65 percent of consumers say they would stop following an influencer if they do or say something that does not align with their personal ethics and values. This is important for marketers as value alignment also contributes to loyalty and sales. Previous research shows 43 percent of consumers are more likely to buy products from companies whose values match their own.
“Influencers humanize brands, providing a unique opportunity to make a genuine connection with consumers,” said Sinead Norenius-Raniere, vice president of influencer marketing and paid social at Valassis, in a news release. “The interplay among consumers, influencers and brands suggest the purchasing journey is highly emotional, spurred by real-time online conversations. Knowing which content performs best through rapid influencer media testing is essential to bring influencer content to life across smarter, multichannel campaigns that also include print, display, email and in-store advertising.”
AI-powered technology can help identify influencers whose brand and interests align with campaign objectives
This can be done based on purchase patterns, retailers, brand and product affinities, Norenius-Raniere pointed out. Equally important in the campaign process, she said, is building sophisticated custom audiences, based on predictive consumer intelligence and influencer look-alike audiences.
The opportunity to engage consumers is growing. According to the survey, 51 percent of consumers have purchased a product or service after seeing it used or promoted by an influencer in the past two years.
Valassis surveyed 1,000 consumers to understand their engagements with influencers and the impact of influencer marketing. All respondents were located in the United States and were over the age of 18. The survey was conducted in August 2020.