Does influencer marketing have an impact on actual sales?

The importance of influencer marketing is becoming crucial in the advertising industry.

84% of marketers plan on executing at least one influencer marketing campaign during the next 12 months
— Forbes, 2016

This presents a big opportunity for retailers seeking new, digital and innovative types of exposure and advertising in order to reach customers faster and more efficiently.

However, some key questions remain unanswered. Are there tangible reasons for a retailer to choose for influencer marketing? And what is the real impact of an influencer campaign?

The current state of the market has proven several determining factors of influencer marketing. However, the impact on actual sales, one of the most important metrics for almost all retailers (predominantly, in the fashion space), remains an untouched and blurry topic.

Does one Instagram post of an influencer really lead to an effective increase in sales of my newest line/product?
— Retailer

This is what I will be researching in the coming 5 months through working at The Cirqle. By analysing real time sales data of our partners/clients and by connecting these results to influencer campaigns that the Cirqle teams runs through the platform.

Let’s start with a set of facts that have already been proven:

1.    Social-media marketing affects brand awareness and purchase intentions

The use of social media for marketing purposes is effective only in cases where a brand uses it’s own social media channels. This is also referred to as own-channel advertising. Yet, when a retailer makes use of influencer marketing on social-media, this goes through channels that he does not own (Balakrishnan, 2014 and Hoffman, 2011).  Is the ownership of the channels then a determining factor of purchase intentions? I am curious to find out!

2.    Paid-marketing affects brand awareness

Paid-marketing such as paid search ads or display ads are widely known as increasing brand awareness. This is also why retailers would pay for it in the first place. However, with the ever-evolving advertising landscape, paid-marketing does no longer limit itself to traditional SEO and display advertising (Colliander, 2011). New, innovative advertising approaches such as influencer marketing are taking a growing space in the marketing budgets of retailers. This market transition from traditional to new ways of paid-marketing therefore also needs to be tested in terms of brand awareness.

3.    Earned-media affects purchase intentions

Earned-media, such as online word of mouth, is the most validated cause of purchases in retail (Tseng, Kuo, and Chen, 2014).  In fact, building up online trust is the only way you can convert virtual communities to online consumers. In fact, word of mouth certainly is a part of influencer marketing but it being paid, this still does not make it earned-media.

The ambiguity of influencer marketing in terms of market positioning is undeniable. This leads me to look for compelling evidence of influencer marketing’s impact on brand awareness and purchase intentions. Stay posted for future updates and discoveries on the growing significance of influencer marketing!