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In an age where we all indulge in mass social media usage, we are well aware of the rise of the influencer. In the last few years, influencers on a whole host of social media platforms have managed to make an entire living out of having a huge following to boost sales of a product. By working with brands, they advertise certain products as companies work to promote their goods authentically. But is that an effective marketing strategy? A new report by Feefo would suggest not.

Feefo has recently published a report that found that fewer than 1 in 5 say if they don’t like the celebrity/influencer this will create a negative perception of the brand, while only 12% say that if they like the celebrity influencer, the brand will benefit from a positive association. Companies would do well to take heed of these stats given the significant rise in influencer marketing. The sector is currently estimated to be worth $5.5bn, with forecasts of growth in the region of $22.3bn by 2024, according to Markets and Markets (2019).

In fact, Jonathan Emmins of Amplify claims that:

“It’s no surprise that the power of celebrity and influencer marketing has waned. Celebrity still has a role to play in marketing, in much the same way as bombarding audiences with advertising does. Both celebrities and advertising can help put a brand on the map and guarantee awareness. But we can’t automatically assume that being on the radar in this way translates into influence, affinity or propensity-to-purchase.”

How companies should invest in their brands

So bearing in mind that influencers only influence a small amount of people, how should companies promote and strengthen their brand? Feefo’s report points to being more socially responsible. Feefo’s research suggests that consumers spend 61% more money with socially responsible brands that they respect. The report states that ‘this level of consumer trust makes it clear that brands need to place a large emphasis on investing in purpose-led business strategies’.

It also suggests a number of ways to improve customer experience, and therefore strengthen a brand. They found that the biggest brand turn-offs were:

  • Slow response to inquiries (29%)
  • Spam email marketing (29%)
  • Annoying advertising (23%)

Damien Fisher of Fishtank points out that the digital experience is a key way that companies can set themselves apart – without the need for a celebrity influencer.

“The digital experience is scrutinised more than ever before, and depending on the sector, various touchpoints require consideration.

“Graphic real-estate and call-to-action touchpoints are crucial to the customer journey and ultimately deliver on results. The product is good, and the price point is enticing — so what will get the consumer over the line?

“When selling online, everyone is time-sensitive and with cyber-crime at an all-time high, visible trust recognition indicators such as Feemo are key validators to consumer perception and loyalty. Having chatbots visible 24/7 to answer any consumer queries without moving from page to page, as well as trigger points such as email/sales numbers, helps deliver buyer confidence as it suggests the online retailer is happy to take calls and values customer satisfaction.”

Being socially responsible

While the report strongly points to brand values helping to stimulate sales, John Galpin of Design By Structure looks beyond this and highlights why being socially responsible in business is so important.

Consumers hold power in their ability to vote with their feet. If they don’t like what a brand does, represents or aligns with (influencers/ambassadors) they simply won’t purchase, or more importantly repeat purchase — that’s real power.”

Feefo’s report encourages engaging with customers to fully understand their socially responsible needs so that they can be met. It promotes making use of review websites and customer experience platforms to provide key insights as to how to continually improve a company’s service and communication.

Doing so is a key way to ensure that repeat consumer and brand loyalty is well and truly established. In the last 12 months, since the pandemic, brand loyalty has been harder and harder to achieve as consumers have had a wider choice of products that they are happier to spend time researching – all at the click of a button.

Jonathan Emmins of Amplify says: “It was already a challenging time for retail pre-pandemic. Whether through choice or necessity, the past 12+ months have pushed brands to be creatively brave, innovate and create rich yet seamless, omnichannel retail experiences. To be successful, brands need to take into account the entire customer journey: before, during and after purchase. This way, they can both lean into the richness and tangibility of the physical, as well as the efficiency of the digital. The trick is for retailers to identify how best to use what’s in their armoury to deliver that customer experience… and ultimately sales.’

Differentiating a company with a brand that is authentic is one such way a business can drive those sales. Particularly with the end of pandemic restrictions in sight. John Galpin of Design by Structure asserts that

Online has seen exponential growth driven by the pandemic and lockdown which has accelerated online purchasing behaviours. Those retailers who didn’t adapt quickly have suffered, even the big brands such as Arcadia.

However, with the imminent ease of lockdown, we should expect to see a return to the high street, initially for the novelty but then we will see the return of activity that combines online and offline behaviours, such as the return of ‘webrooming’, ‘showrooming’ and ‘boomerooming’, which are about the physicality of brands and price comparison.

‘webrooming’ – researching online and then buying in-store.

‘showrooming’ – viewing in-store and then buying online.

‘Boomerooming’ – researching online, touching, and feeling in-store and then buying online.’

Given Feefo’s findings, it would appear that understanding these behaviours is crucial as they are a way that brand values can be consolidated. As celebrity endorsement is no longer as effective as it once was, it is vital that marketers find ways to establish their brand that is the one to head to above all others.

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Robin Hood

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