The recent Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, as well as the looming rollout of GDPR, are sending the marketing world into a speculative tizzy. There are a few early ramifications that have been starting to come to fruition that are having a material impact on the ability of brands, publishers and influencers to conduct business in the way they are accustomed and, more importantly, sell stuff and make money.
One of the most recent examples of this change affected LIKEtoKNOW.it, the ground-breaking and virtually ubiquitous shopping discovery app that displays influencer Instagram content. A registered LIKEtoKNOW.it user used to be able to simply “like” a fashion and lifestyle influencer’s post that was tagged with #LTK or their icon and an email that included links to purchase the products featured was sent directly to their inbox.
They have been massively successful at delivering ecommerce sales at scale for brands, retailers and influencers alike. Research recently showed that four out of every five of Nordstrom’s mobile web visits coming from referral traffic are driven by influencers and 79 percent of that came from rewardStyle (LIKEtoKNOW.it parent company) and LIKEtoKNOW.it in 2017. The Gen Z and millennial shopper in particular prefer this very seamless experience from discovery to purchase informed by the influencers they love.
As of last week, like-based shopping will no longer be permitted by Instagram, and LIKEtoKNOW.it users will only be able to shop using the screengrab functionality, which is great, but not nearly as frictionless as using Instagram likes. This will likely have a tremendous impact on both influencers’ ability to be paid as affiliates and fashion brands/retailers’ cost per conversion through influencer marketing.
This is an all too painful, albeit familiar (Facebook circa 2014), reminder that we don’t control what we don’t own.
Many brands, publishers and influencers have built their business or commerce experience on top of other people’s platforms (aka Facebook, Google, Amazon, Walmart, Sephora, etc.) because of the immediate scale and efficiency they deliver. But scale does not exist without risk because we are relying on a technology that is wholly owned by someone else who can make changes at will and without notice.
So how do we balance control and scale within the commerce ecosystem? Diversification.
It’s critical for brands and influencers to invest in their own digital commerce destinations in addition to selling their products on third-party sites. Influencers should make sure to not only be Instagram famous but also invest in their blogs and offer an option on their site to shop their Instagram. Influencers can also use cross-promote content to diversify their footprint on to multiple social platforms. While they may have a primary platform, it is still recommended to try and build up engagement on multiple destinations.
Brands and retailers should modernize their ecommerce experience and, whenever possible, bring their technology to the ecommerce party through direct integration instead of only building on other platforms’ tech. This may be a daunting task due to legacy systems and siloed marketing organizations, but it will go a long way to reducing exposure. There are several established software providers that can help you design your own storefront to be both user-friendly and socially optimized.
This is only the beginning, and we know more oversight and data protections will be put into place in the very near future that will impact the features and functions of the platforms we currently rely upon. In short, don’t put all your eggs in one basket—especially if it is someone else’s basket.