The emergence of professional influencers across platforms like Instagram and YouTube has reshaped the way we consume digital content — and how we shop.
Amber Venz Box, the co-founder and president of the influencer marketing companies rewardStyle and LIKEtoKNOW.it, joined The Final Round on Friday to offer her predictions on the future of the influencer industry, the digital retail revolution, and how companies like hers are just getting started.
Why your favorite influencer is ‘your salesperson’
The concept of rewardStyle emerged when Box herself was struggling to launch an online business.
“I started a blog back in 2010, and when I did, I had moved my personal shopping business from offline to online — but there wasn’t a way for me to make money online,” she explains. “[My boyfriend and I] started a company called rewardStyle, that was meant to take that old-school, offline model, online. The whole mission of rewardStyle is to make influencers as economically successful as possible.”
That mission was carried into her next venture: LIKEtoKNOW.it. The app connects consumers and retailers with the influencers who peddle your favorite content, who Box says are the digital generation’s salespeople.
“Think of our influencers as a distributed sales network. The same way you would walk into a Nordstrom store and someone might help you find that dress, we’re doing that online for you, and with people you’ve chosen to follow,” explains Box. “Maybe there’s an influencer that you’ve chosen to follow that in your feed, they’re showing a dress — they’re your salesperson. When they take you to checkout at the online site, we’re actually tracking all of that, giving them the tools to connect you, billing the retailer when you purchase the dress, and then paying the influencer. It’s at no cost to the customer.”
‘Nation of niche’ allows micro-influencers to thrive
When discussing well-known influencers, names like Kylie and Kendall Jenner or Kim Kardashian may come to mind. They command hundreds of millions of followers across a variety of social media platforms, earning enormous sums of money via sponsored posts and lucrative brand collaborations.
But smaller influencers also have power online. A “nation of niche” has emerged from apps like Instagram, says Box — that is, the deliberate curation of our social media feeds to reflect our interests.
For example, with only ten thousand followers, a ‘micro-influencer’ might seem no match for an account that boast millions. But what a such an influencer lacks in reach, they make up for in trust: their followers are more active and loyal, and therefore, more likely to buy directly from their posts.
“They’re not household names, but they’re household names to the people who follow them,” Box says of smaller creators. “Our feeds have made it such that we, as a nation of niche, are able to find these people who really speak to us. For influencers, what’s exciting is that there are a lot of people like them, especially new [people] that are coming into the system.”
And despite the glut of apps that now make it possible for influencers to connect easily with a broad consumer base, Box is confident that the market for companies such as her own remains wide open.
“There totally is [room for more apps],” she says. “We’ve built our tools so that they’re completely platform agnostic. If you have the LIKEtoKNOW.it app, you can actually screenshot content on any platform [and upload it to the app to find where to buy similar products] — including platforms going forward, and those that haven’t even made it into the United States — so Asian platforms, that are completely closed-mobile ecosystems...we’ve prepared for that.”
Olivia Balsamo is a writer and producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @BalsamoOlivia.