The start of the new year signals a time of renewal and new opportunities for influencer marketing in 2021. It’s no understatement to say we’ve seen some big changes to the influencer marketing landscape over the past 12 months. During the coronavirus pandemic, influencer marketing has become an increasingly important digital marketing channel for driving sales. But let's look forward now, to how new trends and opportunities will be shaping the future of the influencer marketing industry.
At KonekTwa, we’ve identified 6 key focus areas that marketers should prepare for: more industry growth as e-commerce becomes the dominant retail channel; new influencer niches; the leading role of authenticity; the importance of long-term partnerships; AI & data, and the value of video content.
1. The industry is going to get bigger, and here’s why
Brands will continue to spend big on influencer marketing this year. The industry has matured and delivered results, attracting more investment. By 2022 we can expect brands to be spending $15B on influencer marketing. We saw a huge movement in online activity both from a marketing perspective and sales. Allocation of budgets dedicated to online communications and e-commerce soared. As e-commerce penetration grows exponentially, so too has the importance of influencer marketing as a key channel for generating online sales. The performance metrics of the industry will reflect this change. It’s no longer about follower count. Engagement rate will in time make way for conversion rates, GMV and ROI. In 2021 and beyond, brands will be looking for influencers that can deliver sales, rather than likes. New consumer shopping preferences are here for the long-term, so brands shouldn’t be implementing online sales and marketing measures with an interim mindset.
2. New influencer niches to suit every brand
The last few years have witnessed the rise of the micro-influencer, but in the future, we’ll see even more niches emerge. Influencer types have proliferated and diversified, catering to every industry niche. The appeal of working with mega-stars has waned as their prices have jumped, encouraging brands to seek out specialist influencers, and influential individuals within their networks. Creators with a smaller following such as pico (>300) and nano (>3K) influencers have established themselves as experts in their niche area of interest, yielding better results, while being less resource-intensive, driving higher ROI for brands than larger influencers ceteris paribus.
So, with increased variety, brands have the opportunity to work with more influencers, rather than putting all their effort (and budget) into one larger influencer. This is proving to be an increasingly smarter approach to influencer marketing for many reasons, some of the biggest being how far a brand’s budget can go when invested into several smaller influencers and how much higher the return through organic engagement. More influencer choice also means brands can be more particular with their partnerships. Rather than hoping a general influencer (or one with impressive vanity metrics) has a few interested parties within their following, brands can now pinpoint influencers and creators that truly align and dive into increasingly precise niches.
3. Authenticity will lead the way for better partnerships
Authenticity goes a long way in influencer marketing. In fact, it’s what sets the best influencer partnerships apart from the rest. Working with influencers who are genuinely fans of your brand is a win-win for both businesses and influencers. It saves time and resources on negotiation and on-boarding. Brands’ budgets will go even further with influencer content based on real affinity. Influencers will also see stronger engagements from followers who relate more to their authentic content. Where better to find authentic advocates than within your own brand networks? We’ll see more brands looking to recruit influential brand ambassadors from their customer base. Matching impressive social reach and genuine brand affinity will lead to better results all round.
4. It’s all about long-term partnerships
The age of the one-off Instagram shout-out is over. In marketing the law of repetition is king, and influencer marketing is no exception. Influencers posting several times about the same brand over time will have a much bigger impact than one-off posts that get lost in a sea of content. Not only does it yield higher post-performance, but it also amortizes your marketing overheads over larger volumes, bringing marginal costs down, and ROI up.
The trend for long-term partnerships will grow as brands identify their best-performing influencers and decide to keep working with them. When it comes to maximizing ROI, investing in influencers with a proven track record is the best strategy for building long-term partnerships.
Partnerships are no longer purely transactional either. Creators are looking to work with brands they can identify with and that value them. The industry is embracing new models, incentivizing influencers, and minimizing risks for brands. Revenue-sharing programs increase influencers’ earning potential and overall sales performance, aligning the interests of all parties involved for success.
5. Make way for AI & machine learning
To get the most from influencer marketing in the future, marketers need to embrace advances in AI and machine learning. Influencer marketing software will be revolutionized by new developments improving influencer matching thanks to AI analysis of written and visual content. The crucial stage of influencer selection will be infinitely more efficient thanks to new data insights. Machine learning and automation will optimize campaign workflow and save on the manpower of marketing teams.
6. Video content is the future
Video has been on the rise for a while and it’s now the most popular way to consume content online. It will make up 82% of internet traffic by 2022. Video content is leading the way, and social media has embraced this trend. YouTube has 2 billion monthly average users, whilst the latest video platform TikTok will reach 1.2B users this year. The video capabilities on all social channels have expanded, driving more video formats in influencer campaigns including short-form, live streams, stories, and live social shopping. There’s no shortage of influencer creativity when it comes to helping brands leverage new video-based formats.