The evolution of the relationship between retail brands and influencers

The pandemic accelerated the shift to online, as more people relied on online grocery shops, eCommerce, and online services than ever before. With lockdowns forcing many shops to shut their doors and trade exclusively online, retailers were forced to get creative with how they engaged and communicated with consumers.

Whilst many brands were already working with influencers, the pandemic increased the volume of brands interacting with content creators and the scale of the briefs. As in-app e-commerce features advanced and with creators investing more time in their channels to produce high quality visual content, influencers started to become key players in driving sales and engagement during the lockdown.

With the growth in online retail seemingly a trend that will outlast the end of lockdown restrictions, we look at how this relationship has evolved over time and what the future holds for retailers and influencers.

Retailers and influencers – the relationship

High street retailers and fast fashion brands originally dominated the influencer partnership space. Love Island contestants often secured major deals with brands after they left the villa because of their newfound influencer status. This relationship has developed even further with influencers now being hired to fill creative positions with these commercial retailers transcending traditional roles as models.

High-end brands have also started working with influencers. It’s clear many brands see the value in working with influencers and that the relationship will continue to flourish.

E-commerce and social commerce tools – helping to change dynamic

As influencer marketing rises in popularity, social media apps have introduced new features to facilitate influencer-brand partnerships. In-app payment features enable users to shop seamlessly in the app in real-time. For example, Instagram’s shopping tab allows users to explore different Instagram shops and influencer pages which are personalised to their own taste, making discovery of new influencers and brands easier than ever before. Shopping features on social media have revolutionised an influencer’s job from being a model/brand ambassador to becoming an exclusive, personalised online department store.

So, what does the future hold…

While influencers can run their own online store, it may be possible for real-life ‘influencer stores’ to surface in the future. With a lot of empty physical retail spaces, rent decreases could mean influencers could fill a pop-up shop with their favourite brands and items and invite their followers to visit their physical shop.

Calls from influencers to be given even more autonomy over branded content is also now being increasingly entertained by brands who are seeing the creative benefits it offers. As a result, TAKUMI recently introduced a new initiative, TAKUMI X, which partners brands and creators together and offers creator consultation on creative strategy. Influencers are moving away from being another marketing channel brands use to being actively involved in the creative strategy a brand deploys.

With physical retailers’ future still uncertain and influencers becoming savvier at selling brands’ products via their social channels, the future looks bright for retailers that choose to work alongside influencers. The future looks even brighter for influencers who can partner with retailers whilst also starting to operate within the retail space themselves. It will be excited to see what the future holds for retailers and influencers.

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