It’s both a new year and a new era for retailers and their dependence on social media brand ambassadors and advocates of all types.
Total retail sales will reach over $5.5 trillion this year, according to eMarketer, while e-commerce sales will grow 15 percent to make up over $605 billion of that amount. This continued consumer shift towards digital channels for commerce has ensured that digital’s offspring, social media, has a greater influence on purchase behaviors than ever before. Indeed, over 80 percent of Gen Z consumers and nearly 75 percent of Millennials say that social media influences their purchases these days, per Yes Lifecycle Marketing research.
If we look at how that social media influence happens for retailers, well, that’s changing dramatically, too. Brand ambassadors and social media influencers, who have promoted retailers and their products historically via both online and offline channels, have evolved. Today, advocates can be anyone from paid influencers and endorsers to employees and partners, to passionate customers, and they use social media as their central communications hub. They’re the rising stars of retail content now and with good reason, as we’ll see.
New Ways to Connect
Retail brands are looking for new ways to connect with consumers in 2019, particularly younger consumers who are still establishing their brand loyalty and product purchase behaviors. For example, many companies are increasing personalized approaches, experimenting with experience-based shopping environments, and integrating social media with in-store activities.
Amidst all of this, retailers are rethinking how they can get the most from their existing brand ambassador relationships, particularly via social media, to captivate their target audiences. Whether retail companies have been in business for 100 years or one, have many physical locations or only digital touchpoints, optimized brand ambassador programs are going to be critical to consumer outreach efforts going forward.
Meanwhile, social media managers at retail brands everywhere are buried by the daily demands of creating and sharing multi-platform content that gets audiences to engage with their offerings and move forward on their purchase journeys. The resources needed to keep up with producing this content, amplifying it and measuring it can be overwhelming.
It’s tough to go it alone, so savvy retailers and consumer products companies are turning more to their brand ambassadors to share their brand stories and reach consumers, along with cutting-edge technology to help manage these ambassador communities and their content effectively.
If you’re a retail brand not keeping up with these trends, you’re already starting the year behind.
Let’s explore further how social media is shaking up the retail landscape, the different types of brand ambassadors that resonate with today’s consumers, and how to optimize your existing brand ambassador program to boldly step into the new era of retail.
The Changing Landscape for Retailers
A Shareablee study found that shoppers who engage with a retailer via social media are apt to spend nearly 20% more than the average consumer. The top reason U.S. social media users engage with retailers on social media? Yes Marketing research says they want to share a product update or sale with their own followers—great news for brands everywhere.
Retailers are finding that with the shifting industry landscape, consumers not only are flocking to digital channels to do their shopping —they’re flocking to other people. Advertising trust and influence is waning, while close social media circles and communities have become a primary influence vehicle for discovery and recommendations.
Moreover, as social media marketing gets more advanced and complex, retail companies are challenged with meeting daily (even hourly) expectations for fresh content. In doing so, they need to connect with their audiences where they are and stay a step ahead of their competition — and do all of that in a cost-effective way. Many brands are realizing that the answers to their content problems are closer than they think, and reach farther than they ever could alone.
Ever-Evolving Social Media Brand Ambassadors
The power that social media brand ambassadors have to represent brands and add a human touch to brand content is growing as social media channels have matured. The ambassador role can take many forms today; the most well-known are social media celebrity endorsers and macro-influencers, who have a direct path to millions of potential consumers.
As transparency, authenticity and quality control issues among macro-influencers grow, however, more companies are shifting their ambassador programs toward micro-influencers and beyond. Athletic apparel brand Lululemon famously has a multi-tiered ambassador program featuring global yoga ambassadors, athletes and local community micro-influencers to reach audiences.
Some brands are turning even further inward to their employee communities, many of whom are micro-influencers with passionate followings as well.
These valuable and vetted internal voices are in the ideal position for creating and sharing timely content from in-store promotional events and product launches across their networks. Research has shown that employees have strong social networks, and those contacts are more likely to convert when content is shared among them. Collaborating with employees also helps reduce marketing and production costs as more companies tighten their budgets, and avoids the time needed to send crews across the globe to shoot and edit highly-stylized videos and photos.
Macy’s, for one, established its “Style Crew” program to tap into the creativity, authenticity and passion of its influential store associates and stylists for social media content. Over 300 of these employees are now a part of the program, and they’ve created and shared thousands of social posts for the brand to their followers.
There are challenges to working with retail brand ambassadors and building content with them, however. Many social media teams struggle to mobilize, organize and manage ambassadors and their content assets efficiently, and lack streamlined communication channels to request and share content from these groups. Technology available today can help. Let’s take a look.
Maximize Your Brand Ambassador Relationships
If you’re wondering how to optimize your brand ambassador or social media influencer program amidst this dynamic environment, Greenfly can help.
The Greenfly software platform makes sharing media to every individual ambassor easy. It’s a central hub for your marketing or social media team to organize large communities of ambassadors and collaborate with them to both create videos as well as create guided social media posts they can share on social networks. This content could include everything from “sneak peek” photos of upcoming products to behind-the-scenes videos at in-store events.
Brands can segment ambassadors into groups and outreach to one or many at one time. Say “Goodbye” and “Good Riddance” to the era of days-long text and email chains and Dropbox. Say “Hello” to streamlined organization, communication and automation.
The platform also enables brands to create Galleries—unlimited collections of photo and video content that can be easily accessed and shared by ambassadors on the fly. In a few simple clicks, brand teams can request or share content with their ambassadors and see a fast return on requested actions. Say “Basta” to chaos and high content costs, and say “Bienvenue” to higher engagement and reach.
To boldly step into the future, reimagine what your retail brand ambassador program can be in 2019. Think about all of the different communities your brand has—not just macro-influencers and celebrity endorsers— and engage them fully to disseminate your brand stories across social channels.
Are you looking to collaborate with your social media brand ambassadors? Contact us at Greenfly.
For more social content and marketing insights, subscribe to our blog.