Today, we’re thrilled to announce the release of our Influencer Program! Along with our Rewards Program, Referral Program, and Newsletter Signup tool, the Influencer Program forms the fourth pillar in Swell’s increasingly robust incentive marketing platform.
Influencers and other prominent brand advocates are becoming an increasingly important component of an effective incentive marketing strategy. From our perspective, there are a couple of major trends in the e-commerce space which are contributing to the movement:
- Traditional customer acquisition tools (e.g. Facebook Ads) are becoming more expensive and less effective.
- Customers increasingly trust their interactions with individuals more than they do with brands.
As part of our big announcement, we’ll dig into each of the above factors, and then shed a bit more light as to why the Swell platform makes for a great hub for your influencer program if you’re a Shopify, Shopify Plus, BigCommerce, or Magento store.
Trend #1: Customer Acquisition is Getting Harder
In a March 2018 article, Marketing Land dug into the current Facebook ads landscape. In the article, they quoted a Recode story from around the same time period which summarized the Facebook ad landscape succinctly:
“Facebook CPMs — the cost of a thousand ad impressions — was up 122 percent year over year. In February, CPMs were up 77 percent. It marked the two highest year-over-year jumps in ad prices for Facebook over the past 14 months.”
Put simply, the cost to put your brand in front of 1,000 potential customers on Facebook continues to rise each year.
This trend isn’t new (or perhaps isn’t surprising to those of you who actively manage your company’s Facebook ad spend). Here’s a chart from the same article showing the year-over-year change by month from January 2017 through February 2018 (for example, the January 2017 bar is the change compared to January 2016):
Let’s leave no room for doubt: Facebook will be a critical way to earn new customers for quite some time moving forward. However, the consensus amongst advertising technology experts is that a consistent ad spend budget will deliver fewer impressions than it used to.
The bottom line is that each year, it’s getting more competitive – and more expensive – to get the same number of new customers from traditional ad platforms. Moreover, this trend is similar for a number of key ad-related metrics, including clickthrough rate and cost per click.
Why the increase in CPM (cost per thousand impressions), you ask? The answer is somewhat complex, but with more brands entering the market to buy ads, the demand for each potential customer’s eyeballs is only increasing. When the number of users of popular ad platforms such as Facebook and Google doesn’t increase as quickly, demand far outstrips supply, which pushes prices up in turn.
Trend #2: Customers Trust Messages from Each Other
According to a now-popular 2013 study of 58,000 people from Forrester, consumers trust brand or product recommendations up to 7x more than they trust similar messages from brands themselves.
Over the years, brands have attempted to adjust to this trend in a number of ways, including additional use of video, viral content, and more native-feeling ads.
Over the same time period, however, many brands have also taken note of the ability of “influencers” –individuals who typically represent a certain lifestyle or demographic with large bases of social media followers – to drive significant amounts of traffic to particular companies which they believe in (and which reflect well on the presence they’re trying to cultivate on social media).
If you’re used to buying ads on social media networks, then the rise of influencers comes at a particularly good time! To make sure that their users don’t grow tired of seeing too many ads, social media networks such as Facebook are actually making it harder for regular ads to reach the end consumer – and showcasing posts from individuals instead. Facebook, for example, made the news early in 2018 for major changes to their algorithm which deprioritized posts from brands.
For companies which can cultivate a substantial group of influencers, this is a great opportunity to earn a significant number of impressions on social media, all at a much lower cost than buying ads directly.
For those two reasons and many more, influencer marketing has become a core component of many marketers’ toolkits.
That being said, running a seamless influencer program in an e-commerce environment (keeping track of influencers, managing each individual’s offer, and knowing when customers have made a purchase because of them) can be a lot of work. But that’s where Swell comes in!
Why Swell Is a Great Location for Influencer Management
At Swell, we strongly believe that having a focused set of incentive marketing tools makes our platform much greater than just the sum of its parts. We’re proud to add our influencer program for that very reason.
When the Influencer Program is enabled in your Swell admin, you can now manage every step of the influencer journey alongside your existing rewards and / or referral programs. That means determining the incentives provided to influencers (and those they influence), reviewing cash payouts to those influencers, managing the communications sent to those influencers, and more.
The new “Cash Payouts” section in the Swell admin allows you to review pending cash payouts to influencers.
We believe that the amount of time saved by being able to manage multiple programs from the same admin provides an incredible amount of benefit to our busy clients! Rather than having to visit a number of separate programs to manage your incentive marketing activities, you can now manage more from a single location.
But the benefit to running an influencer marketing program for an e-commerce merchant from Swell goes far beyond the “one-stop shop” benefit. In particular, marketers will now benefit from 1) seeing more of their incentive marketing data in the same place, and 2) being able to identify what we call “hidden influencers”.
In the Customers section of your Swell account, there’s now a wealth of data about each current and potential influencer. As a marketer, you can see and manage each customer’s:
- Point balance
- Point redemption history
- Purchase history
- Referral link / discount code (including the ability to edit the code)
- Influencer status (i.e. make them an influencer or remove their status)
- Influencer payout percentage
- Cash payout history
Here’s just an example of some of the highlights:
The new Customers section of your Swell account allows you to gain visibility into the multitude of ways in which customers and influencers are interacting with your rewards, referral, and influencer programs.
Core to our improved Customers section is the belief that influencers are not a one-size-fits-all group. While some may simply be interested in representing your brand, there are likely a number of would-be influencers in your existing customer base who you haven’t yet discovered – Swell allows you to unlock and recruit these “hidden influencers”.
What data in Swell might you use to determine what a hidden influencer looks like? We recommend starting by looking at a combination of:
- Purchase activity
- Participation in social media-oriented loyalty campaigns (e.g. Share on Facebook)
- Successful referrals
With data in hand, you can then send emails to a targeted group of existing customers (or set up an automated workflow in your Email Service Provider) to invite those individuals to your influencer program. Once you’ve determined that they’re a good fit, making them an influencer is as simple as clicking a button in your Swell admin:
Following the initial roll out of the Influencer Program, Swell will release an even wider array of tools which make it easy for you to identify the hidden influencers in your existing customer base.
From a technical perspective, the Influencer Program is very similar to Swell’s Referral Program – each influencer is assigned both a unique link and discount code, and marketers can choose to provide either (or both!) to the influencer. Once the influencer shares her link or code and customers use it to make a purchase, the influencer is granted a cash payout based on a percentage of that new customer’s purchase. Payouts can be made on a rolling 30-day basis, on the first of the month, or even upon manual review of each payout.
Currently, the Influencer Program is available to merchants on both our Platinum and Enterprise plans. Please reach out to your Client Success Manager for more information on pricing, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more!