The average shopper spends 79 days researching a new purchase, with 80 percent of that research starting online, usually with social media.
Because of platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, the shopper’s path to purchase, beginning with inspiration, is becoming even more self-led.
Not only that, but consumers are less inclined to blindly follow traditional advertising and are seeking the objective opinions of the people they trust, whether they have a personal or digital relationship with them.
If consumers are no longer seeking a brand’s opinion of their own products, marketers need to shift their strategy to effectively reach shoppers. That said, brands must engage with their audiences in the same places their audiences are seeking information about them: through digital influencers on social media.
When leveraged correctly, influencer marketing can work effectively with a broader social media marketing strategy to cover all of the touch points on a customer’s path to purchase.
Let’s explore the customer journey in-depth while determining the relevant and valuable points for utilizing digital influencers from inspiration to cementing brand loyalty.
Source: Bloglovin’/McKinsey Consumer Decision Journey
Stage 1: Inspiration
Social media and digital influencers pose a unique advantage to brands for inspiration. It’s no secret that influencers can create evergreen content to tap new audiences, but by focusing on influencers with the right aesthetic and storytelling ability, brands can strike a lasting impression among key audiences.
Whether it’s inspiring them to exercise more, take a trip or try a new product, influencers harness the power to impact consumer opinion. In fact, research from Bloglovin’ uncovered that 63 percent of consumers were inspired to use a new product or brand they would have not considered because of their favorite influencer.
Stage 2: Awareness and education
Most marketers know that social media platforms allow for “targeted reach at scale.” The concept can be easily recreated with digital influencers to boost awareness.
With audience-level analytics, brands can select the right influencers to partner with based on who they reach and where their audiences are, along with their brand affinity and ability to engage their audience.
Where marketers are capitalizing on influencers to leverage brand awareness, there is much opportunity to be had for using influencers to educate key audiences, as well.
Whether a brand is partnering with a food influencer to educate consumers on how to use a specific product or a YouTube beauty personality to instruct their followers on how to use the newest makeup application tool, marketers can utilize these trusted voices to impart instruction and brand values in an inviting way.
Stage 3: Consideration, research and evaluation
According to a study by GE Capital Retail, 81 percent of people look at products online before making a purchase. With consumers seeking out product reviews, brands should consider delivering content that is more informative in nature rather than promotional.
Working with influencers to develop content in the form of reviews, product information and comparisons, or instructional videos, brands can not only serve their consumers what they are looking for, but also deliver it in a practical and more objective way.
Additionally, brands can then take this informative content and push it out through search-friendly platforms like blogs and Pinterest in order to ensure added reach against gated platforms like Instagram or Snapchat.
Stage 4: Purchase decision
Now that influencers have helped inspire and educate audiences, how can brands achieve conversion?
Many brands often collaborate with influencers that are particularly adept at driving sales at this stage and arm them with exclusive promo codes. Brands can also run successful sweepstakes through influencers or use them to drive attendance at in-store events.
By ensuring that the content created for an influencer campaign is perennial, brands can then leverage the content for targeted ads on social media, furthering the potential for additional purchase decisions.
Stage 5: Post-purchase experience, repurchase and loyalty
The implication of the influencer throughout the customer journey doesn’t end with the purchase decision. Brands are also using digital influencers in the post-purchase and loyalty phase to inspire audiences past one-time purchases or impulse decisions.
Digitally savvy brands are building deep partnerships with their influencers, generating organic exposure over time and securing them as long-standing brand ambassadors. But brands are also using loyal customers as ambassadors, pulling from their everyday users and driving powerful word of mouth that is further amplified by the speed and efficiency of social media.
Digital influencer strategy has become so much more sophisticated than just a virtual stamp of approval, providing a holistic solution for brands from the awareness to post-purchase stages. With shoppers seeking inspiration and opinions around potential purchases through social media, it’s crucial for brands to begin engaging creatively and effectively with their audiences through digital influencers and their respective platforms.
Image courtesy of relif/iStock.