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Social media influencers drive retail sales in the pandemic

Sumner Park
·5 mins read

Influencers are shaping the way people shop during the pandemic, as more people spend time on their phones and online.

In a year marked by working from home and staying inside, the influencer sphere has adapted to meet followers where they are. Influencers, or content creators who have built a reputation and following for their knowledge or expertise on a niche topic, have tapped into a new type of brand: relatability.

Gone are the days of travelling to luxurious resorts or dining at extravagant five-star restaurants.

Enter the era of dressing up living spaces, trying new home workouts and finding the best skincare products. Instagram photos of designer-label handbags and matcha lattes from the local barista are being replaced with yoga pants and home-cooked meal ideas.

Now that everyone can live like an influencer, platforms such as LiketoKnow.it, which rely on influencers to pick favored items, are gaining more traction than ever before.

“Our class of 2020 influencers have actually been the most successful we’ve had ever,” co-founder and president of rewardStyle and LiketoKnow.it Amber Venz Box told FOX Business. “It’s not only that they’re taking this financial opportunity seriously, but they’re more relatable than ever when everyone is needing an influencer as their guide.”

The influencer-powered shopping app has grown its content by an average of 43% from last year. Owned by blogger monetization platform rewardStyle, the app hosts 100,000 content creators who power sales for more than 5,000 retailers ranging from Walmart to Ulta, Apple and Chanel.

According to Venz Box, when thousands of stores closed down due to the global shutdown, influencers slid into the role as retailers’ key distributive sales forces. And the most successful brands were able to “flex their influencer muscle” and drive relevant product sales through major influencer channels.

NYC lifestyle and fashion blogger Shelby Vanhoy has seen her Instagram story views and post impressions climb threefold since before the pandemic. As the creator of the “Pretty in the Pines” blog, which has an Instagram following of 134,000, the influencer has been on the forefront of the social media ecommerce boom.

“Sometimes I feel like a coworker and a virtual sales associate all in one, helping answer questions about sizing, suggestions for home decor, or just a friend needing to chat,” Vanhoy told FOX Business.

When the world moved to work from home in March, influencers responded by shifting the types of products that they were talking about or featuring.

Some of the categories include beauty, home fitness and home design.

Despite reports about a mass decline in makeup sales, skin care is up on her site, according to Venz Box. Sales volume has soared 140%, driven by influencers and beauty brands hosted on the app. The number of people talking about skin care has nearly doubled and now actually converting to and driving sales towards those brands, including the likes of Ulta, Glossier and Sephora, among others.

“It’s less accepted to have a ton of makeup and look all done up on a Zoom call now, but it’s cool to have great skin,” Ven Box said. “Or from a fitness standpoint, you’re not allowed to go to a gym but people still need that release whether it’s building a home gym or finding ways to get exercise.”

At-home projects have also seen a boost. On the LiketoKnow.it platform, home fitness sales ticked up 150% with a 50% increase in conversion. Brands like Lululemon, Nike and Adidas were the direct beneficiaries. Vanhoy of Pretty in Pines also noticed a large uptick in home-decor sales through her affiliate links.

“With people spending so much more time at home, I think they started to realize all the changes they wanted to make in their houses,” design blogger and creator of Design Chic Kristy Harvey told FOX Business. “Not to mention that everyone was suddenly in need of a home office. Design and home furnishings have just exploded these past few months.”

Harvey, a bestselling author and curator of design content, debuted a series of “virtual vacations” complete with videos of home and porch tours when travel restrictions took effect.

“During a time where so many others were also staying at home with more time to invest in home projects, all things home-decor related became very popular, especially the more simple home updates,” Vanhoy said.

Influencers are not only shaping what consumers are shopping for, but also how they are doing it.

“Customers used to shopping online were now buying everything online,” Venz Box of LiketoKnow.it told FOX Business. “And then you had people who had never before shopped online being forced to do it and try it.”

The Dallas-based company generated more than $500 million worth of product sales in the first half of the year due to the growth of influencers. Consumers are buying 42% more per post of content than in the year prior. And compared with last year, consumers are 84% more likely to purchase products that they click with sales per click up about 58%.

“We have shifted our business model slightly, but, for the most part, I think our growth can really be attributed to people having more time with and interaction on sites and accounts they already followed and more of an inclination to spruce their spaces,” Design Chic’s Harvey said.

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