Is the impact of influencer marketing overblown?

influencer with laptop and books

After the high-profile Fyre Festival disaster and the introduction of new rules around social media paid-for posts, influencers have dominated the headlines recently. Yet new research suggests the scale and impact of influencer marketing are exaggerated.

A study by Fresh Relevance, a real-time personalisation platform, reveals that only 22% of retail brands surveyed use influencers as part of their web and email marketing strategies. Moreover, only one in ten UK consumers have purchased a product based on a recommendation made by an influencer.

The study combines consumer research conducted by One Poll and desk-based research of 50 leading UK retailers. It highlights that nearly two thirds (62%) of consumers don’t actively follow influencers and less than a third (32%) would actually be more interested in a brand if they were using influencers to promote their product.

Fresh Relevance suggests that retailers who use influencers as part of their marketing strategies could be impacting performance and their customer relationships, as almost half (44%) of respondents said they wouldn’t trust any product information being provided by influencers.

Influencers may have a different impact on shopping behaviour depending on consumer generation. Over half (60%) of Generation Z surveyed (18-24 year olds) and a similar number (52%) of Millennials (25-34 year olds) are more interested in a brand using influencers, compared with just 14% of the Baby Boomer demographic (over 55s). Generation Z are particularly receptive to influencer marketing when it comes to their look, with 30% actively following beauty and another 30% following fashion influencers.

Mike Austin, CEO & co-founder of Fresh Relevance, comments: “Influencer marketing has been on the news agenda for a while now, but it’s not an accurate account of what’s happening in the retail sector. Our research indicates few retailers are actually using influencers to engage consumers, and only a small proportion of shoppers are interested in seeing influencers promoting products.

“Social proof is a powerful part of brand marketing, and consumers see it as an important aspect of their decision to purchase, but this doesn’t mean retailers should be automatically adopting celebrity or influencer endorsement within their marketing strategies. Where a celebrity might be relevant and beneficial for certain brands, in other instances using an influencer could even have a detrimental impact on building consumer trust.”

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