The influencer marketing space has grown a lot within a relatively short timespan and eCommerce businesses have had to learn quickly how to adjust to an ever-evolving market.

It all started with consumer expectations kept getting higher. Confronted with soaring demand for peak convenience and next-level customer experiences, the eCommerce channel grew at an unprecedented rate, an effect that was compounded by retail brands’ desperation to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Influencer marketing was very much driven by the same shift; expectations changed and brand loyalty and the old ways of shopping began to phase out. Soon consumers stopped wanting to hear from brands, demonstrating less and less interest in traditional advertising. This was when smart brands (often digital-first, eCommerce brands) began to land on the power of influencer marketing as a way to achieve the peer-to-peer effect at scale.

Today, influencer marketing is no longer a nice-to-have as a tack-on to your wider marketing strategy. Instead, influencer marketing departments are leading the charge for a new age of consumer relationships, growing in number of employees and budget allocation within many eCommerce companies. And with 35.3% of marketers believing that influencer marketing is the most effective digital marketing channel, we can only expect that to continue. In fact, if you consider the ballooning value of the industry as a whole, which has more than doubled in size since 2019, the power of the channel becomes quickly apparent.

However, the evolution is still in process and consumer expectations continue to shift. While influencer marketing may have started out with traditional gifting programmes or affiliate links, eCommerce brands today have to engage much more deeply and strategically with the channel if they want to stand out, leading to a preference for always-on and data-driven activations.

What are the new trends in social media?

Right now, one of the biggest trends we see is the shift away from mega and celebrity creators towards smaller accounts, in particular micro-influencers which make up 90% of the influencer landscape. This may come as a surprise to anyone still tethered to the early days of the channel where Kim K was our patron saint and the bulk of the content we were exposed to was centred around very aspirational, luxury lifestyles.

In our own research carried out in 2022, we surveyed over 1,000 consumers and found that the qualities they’re looking for nowadays are mainly ‘enjoyable’, ‘informative’ and ‘authentic’. ‘Aspirational’, on the other hand, was actually the quality they prioritised the least when looking for influencer content.

Further to that, we found that 33% of consumers actually don’t care in the slightest what size following an influencer has, and a further 35% actively prefer to follow smaller accounts. Yet this is an area in which we still see a lot of brands getting it wrong, with the majority still putting the bulk of their budget into mega-influencers.

This disconnect presents smart eCommerce brands with a valuable opportunity for two reasons. Firstly, worrying about securing the budget necessary to recruit these celebrity creators to post a TikTok collaboration with your brand won’t be an issue, since the more affordable influencers (the micro ones) are where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck. Secondly, since the majority of eCommerce brands’ product ranges are based on much more everyday needs (and everyday bugets), micro-influencers are much better suited to make genuine product or service recommendations that will relay believable preference to your target audience. Again: authenticity over aspiration. And this is something that should extend to the content influencers publish on your behalf. Make sure you’re giving the influencers enough freedom to promote your products in a way that feels authentic to them and viewers will respond much more positively than if you force something hyper edited