Marketing strategies inevitably change over time–especially when that time covers the birth of social media, a slew of technological advances and the blossoming of a new generation. Cultural shifts have led to the adoption of new customer demands and values, pushing companies to evolve towards these changes. In an effort to reach customers in a way that resonates with the current standards, influencer marketing came into existence.
Influencer marketing is a marketing strategy in which brands leverage the clout, or following, of popular social media presences to market their product or service through consumer-relevant channels. The practice has become extremely popular. A survey conducted by Influencer Marketing Hub revealed that 86 percent of marketing firms plan to dedicate a part of their budget towards the initiative this year; a percentage that has jumped by nearly 50 percent since 2017.  Furthermore, Bloomberg found that $255 million is spent on influencer marketing every month. 
So how does influencer marketing tie into the customer experience and the ultimate quest to better understand the consumer?
Hiring an “Audience-Expert”
One of the most crucial components of excellent customer experience is a deep knowledge of your customer. You must understand which channels they prefer to receive information through, the interests they have, the needs they have, the times that they are most active, their typical spending behavior and so on. The process of collecting and assessing this data can be time consuming and, sometimes, illusive considering that these isolated details seldom showcase a holistic perception of the individual.
Yet with influencer marketing, the majority of the research is already done the minute that the partnership is made. When you work with an influencer, you are essentially hiring an ‘audience expert’. In most cases, an influencer is their own brand and business. Many make a living by collaborating with companies and marketing products. That being said, it is not their first rodeo. They know who their followers are, what content they take to, how they respond to certain information, when they are the most active online, what they are interested in and their general behaviors. They also get the opportunity to interact with their followers, receiving feedback through comments and messages. Additionally, influencers understand the creator side of the platform. They are knowledgeable of the most effective ways to achieve results and they are experienced in the space that they work.
Working with an influencer gains you direct access to a niche audience while mitigating the margin of error that comes with targeting a group of potential customers. Though, one thing to note is to ensure that the mission of your company is properly promoted. Leaving the responsibility of publicly portraying and promoting your brand in the hands of someone who is external to the company poses the risk of a misconstrued perception of your brand. Make sure to clearly outline the goals of your promotion and the message of your company, and monitor the campaign with those in mind.
Building Trust with the Customer
Trust is key in any B2C customer relationship. Though, the ways of gaining trust have evolved over the years as well. In the modern age, people trust who they view as authentic and relatable instead of those with status and celebrity. A whopping 92 percent of customers trust influencer recommendations over brand advertisements or celebrity endorsements.  Additionally, Google found that 70 percent of teens relate to their favorite Youtuber versus traditional celebrities.  Furthermore, Dealsptr found that in the fashion industry, fashion influencers drive more purchasing decisions that family and friend recommendations. 
Audiences look at these people as regular contributors to their feed and to their lives. They become familiar characters in their day to day routine, building trust at every touch point. This is especially true for the influencers who communicate through video, such as Youtube stars. The influence of the relatable person is one that instills a desire to be apart of something, whereas the influence of a celebrity is focused on attaining status and “being cool”. When an influencer promotes a product, especially if the product is relevant to the customer, it validates the product and the company. As long as you provide a great customer experience, this type of marketing is beneficial in growing your customer base and increasing website traffic.
Reducing Customer Effort and Collecting Data
A key initiative of improving CX is decreasing customer effort. Influencer marketing reduces the search time that is typically required by users to locate a brand or product. Since influencers are viewed as reliable friends, influencer marketing makes it easier for shoppers to find brands that they love and trust based on the products that their favorite social media personalities have promoted.
Additionally, influencer marketing gives businesses the opportunity to segment their customers by influencer, increasing personalization and further reducing customer search effort. Once you gain experience with an influencer’s followers, you have a better understanding of their specific behaviors and values, allowing you to create a customer experience that is relevant and tailored to their lifestyle.
Instagram makes it easy and allows companies to tag their product page directly in the photo, simply requiring users to tap on the link to immediately be whisked away to the brand’s website. This form of traffic allows for companies to track where customers are coming from. Custom links can be used to keep track of the initial locations of clicks and transactions, revealing the key channels for your brand.
Influencer marketing has experienced a steady rise over the past five years, but it should be noted it is becoming a saturated practice. Users are becoming more aware of the marketing tactics that are strategically woven into their favorite influencer’s Instagram caption. That is not to say the strategy is any less effective. The key take away is to align your brand towards the customer. Traffic from social media influencers can only take you so far unless you have the product and customer experience that further drives loyalty and transactions. https://influencermarketinghub.com/IM_Benchmark_Report_2019.pdf [2,3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahweinswig/2016/10/05/influencers-are-the-new-brands/#40c0ecad7919 [4,5] https://blog.crowdfireapp.com/how-your-brand-can-overcome-millennials-dwindling-trust-in-influencers-95983ded7825
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