How Retailers Can Leverage Influencers, Video and Live Commerce to Build Trust and Community This Holiday Season

It's time to move beyond offering deals and focus on elevating the online experience

Retailers have always used the holiday season to maximize sales through events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But as ecommerce matures, deals won’t be enough to entice consumers to venture beyond the retailers and brands they’ve come to rely on during the pandemic.

Retailers need to elevate online experience by adding much more engaging live shopping or video experiences, tapping trusted influencer voices, and leaning into community to build engagement. Only then can they turn the virtual shopping experience into the fun and family-friendly entertainment experience that it is in the physical world. Here’s how retailers can use this holiday season as a jumping off point.

Where do retailers begin?

Communities form around shared passions and interests. Retailers can support and engage with those communities by leaning into media. That can take many forms, from programmatic buys on niche publishers to investments in social. But ultimately, the communities retailers build themselves will yield the best results. To do that successfully, retailers should focus on two growth areas: micro-influencers and live commerce.

According to a recent ANA blog post, 92% customers trust micro-influencers more than a traditional ad or an endorsement from celebs, while 82% of consumers are likely to buy something a micro-influencer recommends.

You won’t find micro-influencers through an agency (they’re too small for that), but you can find them leading conversations around niche passions. Typically, those niches are a specific product or a narrow product category. Start by asking micro-influencers how you can support their communities. Maybe it’s a social media shout out, newsletter mention, samples, a discount code or a sneak preview of a new product. Usually, these engagements can be activated faster than a campaign, which makes them ideal for deployment this holiday season. Eventually, as retailers continue to engage more micro-influencers, they’ll scale their own communities, build consumer trust and earn customer loyalty.

Another growth area to focus on is live commerce, which combines the power of live streaming video with the convenience of ecommerce. According to a McKinsey report, two-thirds of Chinese consumers bought products through live commerce in 2020. And the consultancy predicts that live commerce could account for as much as 20% of all U.S. ecommerce by 2026. There’s a big opportunity for retailers who start now, but it’s important to remember that live commerce will take time because retailers need to build infrastructure and U.S. consumers need to warm up to the idea.

How can retailers jumpstart live commerce this holiday season? Chances are, retailers already have employee influencers who are using TikTok and Instagram. While it’s important for retailers to set clear ground rules for employee-influencers, it’s equally important to encourage experimentation. Consider this holiday season a learning experience. Encourage employee-influencers to go live on TikTok and Instagram with holiday gift ideas, tips for holiday shopping and positive stories about the holiday shopping season. As retailers develop expertise in live video content, they can begin to add in commerce functionality. But for now, focus on building those trusted relationships and learning what those communities are all about.

Everything old is new again

Trust and community are core to the retailer’s DNA. The first department stores and mail-order catalogues weren’t just places to shop for a better deal, they were trusted communities built around shared passions and interests. That’s how catalogs and department stores launched a retail revolution that lasted more than a century. Technology has changed a lot since the days of department stores and catalogs, but the retailer’s mission remains the same. That’s why investments in trusted communities will pay dividends next holiday season and beyond.

Inder Singh is the SVP of commerce at InMobi, where he leads strategy, product and technology.