Stacy DeBroff, CEO and Founder of Influence Central
2021 is on track to be a year of explosive growth, continued platform and streaming change, and conversion to sales in Influencer Marketing when brands do it right. Here’s what to look for a huge trends sweeping the influencer space.
Influencer-Hosted Livestream Shopping will hit the U.S.
Already a $135 billion dollar industry for e-commerce sales in China, we expect to see this grow dramatically this year in the U.S., with influencers leading the way of showcasing products while a live audience tunes in for special deals and behind the scenes product information.
Livestreaming enables retailers to leverage consumer’s higher propensity to make a purchase when tuning in real time, as it generates for them instant gratification of a cool deal. The biggest draw for consumers comes from livestreaming’s unique mix of entertainment, behind-the-scenes product info, shared commenting with others, and simple click to buy options. Viewers can ask personalized questions about the product or service or how to use it – something not possible with standard video sharing on Instagram or YouTube.
U.S. influencers are poised to lead bringing Livestreaming to the U.S. social media platforms and have already begun to kick into gear with livestreaming features on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Amazon Live, Twitch, YouTube and Etsy. It is a way to encourage shopping via social media by offering exclusivity and connection. According to an Influence Central consumer survey: The biggest consumer draws to Livestream shopping are the opportunity for live demos (70%) and a special deal, only available for purchases during the event (60%).
While only 19% of American consumers participated in livestream shopping in 2020, expect to see these numbers surge in 2021. All the major social media platforms have developed offerings for livestream shopping. Instagram Live within Instagram Stories enables users to livestream. It’s currently testing a new checkout feature to allow shopping start to finish without leaving the Instagram app. Facebook in its Marketplace Community has begun testing a new feature that will enable merchants to sell items more efficiently on a livestream. Currently the darling of livestreaming gamers, there’s development of retail centric offerings on Twitch’s fast-rising social platform. Amazon sellers can host livestream sessions on their store pages or product pages.
From Burberry launching a new fashion collection on TikTok to L’Oreal livestreaming new beauty products, influencers will lead this livestreaming surge as they convert their loyal audiences to e-commerce sales.
Surge in E-Commerce via Social Platforms
Expect a surge in direct social media shopping, with Facebook and Instagram leading the way. 54% of consumers in 2020 purchased products directly within the shopping features of a social medium platform. Expect to see these numbers soar in 2021. In a recent Influence Central consumer survey:
- 69% of consumers say they purchased directly via Facebook posts, 34% via Instagram shoppable links and 33% via swipe-up links.
- More than half of consumers have purchased products directly within the shopping features of a social media platform.
- Brand social posts and influencer content prove most persuasive when shopping via social media.
Facebook and Instagram so far lead the way for direct social media purchasing:
- Facebook Post
- Instagram Shoppable Link
- Instagram Story Swipe-Up Link
Influencer’s posts prove most persuasive to consumers when shopping via social media. And 78% of consumers expect to increase their online shopping in 2021 for:
- Health and beauty
- Cleaning products
- Toys and kids’ activities
- Home electronics
- Medicine & supplements
Creators’ Obsessive Focus on Short-Form Video
Short-form video content continued to experience significant growth in 2020 and is trending toward an upward spike in 2021. To keep up with the popularity of TikTok, Instagram launched Reels providing a very similar in-app experience. Snapchat also launched its own in-app video platform, Spotlight, in late 2020.
However, unlike 2020 being the year of the viral TikTok dance challenge, brands and creators need to find new and intriguing ways to engage with followers on these video-centric platforms in 2021.
Emergent platforms such as Twitch have seen huge success, which now offers brands additional avenues and a whole new set of influencers, from gamers to musicians, to reach consumers. Already offering followers unique content via its streaming platform, Twitch was able to reach record viewership during the Pandemic and has positioned itself as a leader in livestream events, a trend that is not going away any time soon.
The Rise of Micro-Influencers for Engagement
Looking as far back as Spring 2020 in the early days of the Pandemic, you could see the emergence of new trends in influencer content and follower relatability. These prove lasting changes that truly benefit the micro-influencer.
- Four key factors of working with micro-influencers still hold true today: Authenticity, Engagement, Cost and Content. Consumers are engaging with online content more than ever before — from comfort and entertainment to staying connected with loved ones.
Followers want to see relatable versus inspirational. People aren’t dressing up for flashy nights out or serving large dinner parties. They want to engage with their favorite influencers in a real situation and facing the same realities they’re currently facing, as well. It is harder to relate to the celebrity or even macro-influencer’s everyday life than the micro-influencer. In another survey of I-C’s consumer insights panel amid the Pandemic, consumers most valued content related to food, entertainment and escapism. The effects of the shutdowns and stay-home lifestyle on consumer behavior will be felt well into 2021 and beyond.
In addition to relatable content, micro-influencers tend to be less likely to spark major controversy as compared to a celebrity or macro-influencer. A brand can also work with a larger number of creators across multiple platforms under tighter budgets by targeting micro-influencers.
Brands Have to Walk a Fine Line on Social Issues
In 2021, brands will need to continue walking the fine line of using their voice to promote social issues and impact change, while not alienating customer bases or making a misstep in the process. In a post-election survey of Influence Central’s consumer insights panel:
- 70% of consumers say that a brand’s stance on social issues impacts their purchasing behavior.
- 78% of consumers believe that corporations should embrace social leadership right now alongside answering to shareholders.
- 75% of consumers believe brands wading into explosive social issues carries intense risk after such a fraught election.
Brands in 2021 are expected to stand for something and although consumers recognize the murky waters brands face when entering conversations on social issues, they can be equally as offput by brand silence.
To be successful in influencer marketing moving forward, brands need to double down on their vetting processes to ensure influencers align with their core values prior to collaborating. While this has always been an important factor in influencer marketing, examples like beauty influencer Jeffree Star’s relationship with Morphe Cosmetics or Amanda Ensign’s partnership with Sephora, show how being on the wrong side of social issues can lead to immediate break-ups for brands and their influencer partners, which can be catastrophic to brand marketing plans and budgets.
About the Author: Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Influence Central (www.Influence-Central.com) is a leading social media strategist and influencer marketing expert, working with over 350 national brands each year. She regularly appears on national media for her trendspotting insights on future trends. Headquartered in Boston, her company has been named to the Inc. Magazine list of the nation’s fastest-growing privately held companies 5 years in a row.