Connecting the dots between consumers and influencers
What does this mean for brands – and e-commerce brands in particular? First, it’s important to note
that while search engines (34%) and ads seen on TV (33%) remain the most common modes of
brand discovery, ads on social platforms are catching up. About 27% of internet users who responded
to GWI’s survey stated that they use social media channels to find products to purchase. This is
considerably higher in Kenya (73%) and Nigeria (72%). Social media has become a space where
advertising content is expected, and possibly even desired, provided it is authentic and aligns with
Brand discovery is also shifting. Previously, consumers would use tools like Google to research
products. But research is intent-driven. You are looking for a specific brand, product or solution.
Discovery is something different, and it’s the reason that platforms like Instagram, Etsy and Pinterest
are growing bigger each day.
Scrolling through beautiful images with little to no text input on your mobile phone is key to discovery,
and it’s the reason that many consumers are finding exciting new brands to connect with. Online
scrolling is emotional and impulsive, and it centres on who people follow and engage with.
Which is where influencers once again come in, because what can be more authentic than a micro- or
nano-influencer offering unfiltered insights into their purchasing decisions and preferences?
Author Seth Godin says: “People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and
magic.” The challenge is that it’s very difficult for a brand to tell a story – brands need people to do
that for them.
For example, only 1% of millennials trust advertisements when making a purchase, but 33% of them
trust blog reviews. This stat is from a few years ago, and we know that blog reviews have largely been
replaced by influencers and social media posts.
Research versus shopping
For more than a decade, social media has been an excellent way for e-commerce businesses –
particularly smaller, independent businesses – to access consumers. Some brands, such as local
baby carrier brand Ubuntu Baba realised early on that authenticity was the way to go, and only used
real moms and Ubuntu Baba customers in its advertising and social media posts. Authentic posts
don’t just promote a product. They often educate and show potential customers what a product would
look like on their bodies or in their lives.
A study by Twitter highlights just how much of an impact influencers have on consumer behaviour:
49% of people said they rely on influencer recommendations when it comes to making purchase
decisions, and 40% admitted that they’ve bought an item from an online store after seeing an
influencer using it on Twitter, Instagram or YouTube.
There is no doubt that online research has shifted from googling a product and looking for reviews on
Hello Peter to using social media platforms. Almost half of all internet users do brand and product
research on social media channels – which is where technology is once again changing the game.
Take Instagram’s shopping feature as an example. The feature enables businesses to add product
tags in their posts, allowing buyers to click on pictures displayed in posts and instantly see prices,
fabric types, sizes – any information they need at a single click. Customers can even order products
directly on Instagram. As e-commerce grows, influencers become more important and vice versa.
Influencers and e-commerce today
Influencers use hashtags to drive traffic, they share personal and authentic experiences to win the
trust of their followers, and they often make use of promotion codes to boost sales. The challenge is
that a lot of online shopping is the result of impulse buys. This makes influencers even more critical.
They create and share the content that triggers impulse and even emotional buys – particularly when
a consumer feels affinity towards the influencer and the brand.
The next evolution will be influencers who create curated collections on their platforms that can be
purchased then and there, which is why it is critical for brands to engage influencers, build
relationships and allow influencers to be authentic in their engagements with their followers.