Here at SARAL, we believe that influencer marketing is the best alternative to running barely profitable ads or waiting for your email list to grow.
So over the past few months, we spent ~223 hours studying the influencer marketing strategies of the best ecommerce brands. After all, it's better to learn from the best and implement what's working.
In this list, I'm sharing with you the 17 strategies I identified from more than 10 ecommerce brands.
Whether you are already running influencer marketing or planning to do it, you can learn a lot from this list. Let's dive in!
Top 17 Influencer Marketing strategies from successful ecommerce brands
The strategies I list here are not in any specific order. To compile this list, I went through the case studies I collected and hand-picked the most interesting or most used strategies. Under each strategy, you will find information about what it is, which brands use it, and some screenshots showing you the strategy in action.
1. Build a dedicated landing page to attract inbound interest from creators
Brands create a landing page or a separate website that promotes their influencer marketing or ambassador program. This generates inbound interest from creators, and you don't have to do extensive outreach to find creators to work with your brand.
Ambassador landing pages have the following main sections:
- Introductions about the ambassador program
- Criteria to qualify as the brand ambassador
- Perks and rewards
- Creator testimonials about how it is working with the brand
- Application process
- Call-to-action leading creators to apply for the program
2. Create a unique promo code for the creator’s audience
When the influencer is pitching your product to their audience, an exclusive discount or offer at the end gives people a reason to buy and gets you more sales. To make it easy to redeem the discount, you can create a unique promo code for the creator that they can share in their post, newsletter, or in messages with friends and family.
Here are some tips for creating a promo code:
- Keep it short, simple, and easy to remember and spell. Including the creator's name and the discount offered in the code is always a great idea. For example, ANKI20, for a creator named ANKI, and your offer of 20% off.
- Don't be stingy with the offer. Give your influencers better discounts than can be found elsewhere. If your website shows a 20% discount, give creators an extra 10% off so their audience feels like it's a great deal that they might not find anywhere else.
Promo codes provide two main benefits:
- You can track how many sales each a particular creator is bringing in.
- Influencers look like heroes to their fans, offering them exclusive discount opportunities. This acts as an incentive for the creator to work with the brand for the long term.
- Discount codes & the influence of the creator nudge 'on the fence' people to finally make a purchase from you. It makes people feel good that they've found a 'good deal' and creates a sense of urgency as well.
3. Whitelist your ads on the creators' account
Influencer whitelisting means running paid social ads for a brand using a creator's account instead of using the brand's owned accounts. Beauty company Kiss found that whitelisted video content resulted in a 30% engagement rate and a 0.25% click-through rate.
Here's some examples of whitelisted content by Athletic Greens:
Whitelisting benefits brands because they:
- Can access creators' organic posts and optimize them for us using the best practices which the creator might not be aware of
- Don't have to create any in-house content, which saves time, money, and effort.
- Are able to tap into a larger audience pool, such as with lookalike audiences that may otherwise be unreachable.
When choosing creators for whitelisting ads, instead of being bedazzled with the number of followers, choose creators who fulfill the following criteria:
- Audience: the people they cater to can be potential customers of your brand
- Authenticity: the type of content they put out is relatable, entertaining, or educational.
- Quality: there is a creative appeal in the content they post
- Reliability: their communication style, commitment, and turnaround times help you move forward.
4. Re-purpose creator content for testimonials, social media, banners, website, and more
Amateur brands think of influencer marketing as a way to generate awareness or sales. But that's not all.
Your partnership with creators can also be a way to create a library of high-quality creatives and content at a fraction of the cost of traditional content development.
Sometimes the content produced by an agency or in-house lacks individuality and uniqueness and is not as authentic as it should be. But when you source content from multiple creators, you will get diverse content that appeals to a larger pool of audience, especially for social media.
Here's an example of Bang Energy's TikTok feed. Every piece of content is unique and from a different creator. This keeps the audience engaged and hence connected to the brand:
Apart from social media, influencer-generated content can be leveraged as testimonials on the website. Here's what Athletic Greens does:
Have your creator-partners recorded a video of how to use your products? Plug that in your email newsletter or on the blog. Did the creator share good shots of your product? Use them on your product page.
You can even go a step beyond and use the creator's content for your in-store display, like how Pura Vida did here:
5. Partner with your customers who have an influence
Are you always struggling to find the right creators to work with? Are you not comfortable with someone endorsing your product even without using it?
Then it's time to look into your customer list and find people who have an influence over the audience that you would like to get attention from.
Because they've used your product and love it, they would be able to promote it authentically. Most of the time, they would already be recommending it to their friends. So the idea of getting free products or monetary compensation in exchange would be fantastic for them.
In the Leveling Up podcast with Eric Siu, Athletic Greens COO Kat Cole mentions that they only partner with creators who are also their customers.
Tim Ferris, a long-time advocate of the brand on his podcast, says that he recommended Athletic Greens in The 4-Hour Body book in 2010 and did not get paid to do it. But now he is one of their influence partners.
This is about choosing influence over an influencer.
If someone asks a creator — 'Is this real?', they should be able to confidently say "yes! It does work, and it's real."
6. Send people to creator-themed product pages
The most common mistake brands make is sending the creator's audience to the main website or a generic page with all their products listed there. This reduces conversion if the creator is promoting a particular product. When a potential customer comes to the website, they get distracted. Hence, the sale is lost.
A better way to maintain the customer experience and improve sales is to send people to a creator-themed landing page. The page highlights the creator endorsing the product or their favorite choices.
When Tim Ferris promotes Athletic Greens on his podcast, the audience doesn't land on a generic page but a Tim-themed landing page. It shows his testimonial and the unique offer they created for his audience.
7. Use a tiered-reward structure to keep creators motivated to promote your products
A tiered reward program offers increasingly attractive benefits or status upgrades at higher levels of sales brought in.
It benefits brands because:
- Creators are motivated to promote the brand and move up in the reward system.
- It retains top creators to continue to work with the brand.
Pura Vida's tiered reward structure:
Experiential rewards create an emotional connection that goes beyond what transactional rewards can offer. That's why, sometimes, you don't even have to give out actual monetary benefits for bringing in more sales. A recognition, a shout-out, or a handwritten note can also keep creators motivated.
Some tips for creating a tiered reward system:
- Brand your tiers to make them more prestigious. Pura Vida has given different names like 'Sand' and 'Surf' to its ambassador levels.
- Each tier should offer something unique and more valuable than the lower tiers.
8. Do product seeding; it's (almost free) marketing
If you are tight on budget and can't afford to pay creators for a shout-out, try product seeding. Product seeding is the practice of sending out your product to your favorite creator but then merely asking (or hoping) for a post or shout-out on social media.
The core philosophy of influencer marketing is building relationships with people who have influence. So to start the relationship, you need to build it on giving rather than asking.
At the beginning of Gymshark, Ben watched YouTube videos about fitness, gym culture, and exercise. He compiled a list of his favorite YouTube personalities to learn from. As a fan, he sent these creators Gymshark apparel as a token of appreciation for their content and channels. When these athletes wore the clothing in their videos, their subscribers took notice and wanted the same apparel. The only cost to Ben was the cost of the items and shipping.
Product seeding will help you get word-of-mouth referrals and valuable product feedback and create authentic and organic influencer-generated content.
Check out our masterclass on how to do product seeding.
9. Give shout-outs to creators on the brand's social media channels
Giving shout-outs to influencers on a brand's social media channels is a great way to build relationships with them and gain access to their audience. Here are 2 main reasons why a brand should give shout-outs to influencers on social media:
- Increase visibility: Shout-outs can help to increase a brand's visibility, as such things are usually reposted by creators. Brands would benefit from their content getting exposed to the creator's audience. This can help to drive traffic to the brand's website and social media channels.
- Build relationships: By giving shout-outs to influencers, a brand can show that they appreciate and support the influencer's work. This can build positive relationships with those influencers and potentially lead to future collaborations.
To give shout-outs to creators on social media, you can share the influencer's content on your own channels, with a mention or tag to the influencer. You can also retweet, repost, or share a link to the influencer's content. Brands can also leave comments on the influencer's posts, praising their work and thanking them for the inspiration. It shows your support and builds positive relationships with those influencers.
Pura Vida selects a creator every week to feature on their social media.
10. Collaborate with creators on new product launches
This is probably one of the most creative ways to engage influencers — collaborate with them on a product level.
If you can't launch a whole product line with influencers, you could offer to rename a product after them. Are you feeling generous? Dedicate an entire collection to them!
When you engage creators in the product development stage, you can get feedback from them, and they can also tap into their audience to generate ideas and feedback even before the product is launched. Creators will be excited to promote products with their own names on them and will be able to do it more authentically and without any nudge from your end.
In 2018, Pura Vida collaborated with creator @DreamingOutLoud to launch a new bracelet pack.
Gymshark collaborated with a creator to launch a new collection of workout clothes for women
11. Host creator-exclusive events
Events that are created just for your ambassadors are a great way to:
- Get people to collaborate with each other
- Provide various props and opportunities for photogenic shoots with your branding
- Connect with ambassadors to hear their feedback about your brand and influencer marketing program
- Share your brand values with creators and make sure they are aligned with them
Revolve hosts not one but three events in a year where Revolve ambassadors are invited from all parts of the world. These events range from multi-day trips to one-day meetups.
You can also host these events when you onboard ambassadors in the form of a launch party, as done by Sephora
Lululemon also hosts an onboarding event where they conduct a 3-day workshop for all ambassadors.
12. Focus on creating entertaining content rather than just sales pitches
People are naturally drawn to content that is entertaining and engaging rather than content that feels like a sales pitch. Entertaining content captures people's attention and holds it, whereas a sales pitch can often feel impersonal and pushy. People are more likely to share entertaining content with their friends and followers, which can help to increase their reach and visibility.
When you create content that can go viral, it helps raise awareness of your brand and drive engagement and conversions. So when working with creators, you can keep your product in the background and make entertainment, education, or information the highlight.
An example of this is content created by Bang Energy creators. QPark is a popular South Korean-American content creator (3.6m Followers on TikTok) who creates videos of him dancing in public. And when promoting a product, he would use it as a prop but focus on creating entertaining content.
Bang Energy regularly partners with him to boost brand awareness.
13. Build long-term relationships with your ambassadors
Influencer marketing can be a cost-effective way to reach a targeted audience. And by building long-term relationships with creators, you can create a reliable and consistent source of promotion for your brand.
The goal is to treat creators not as sales machines but as humans that would like your support & appreciation for what they bring to your brand. This will turn creators into your true ambassadors.
Partnering with an influencer for a long period means they will share more content with their audience over time. This repeated exposure can help in brand recognition and convincing followers to make purchases.
Here are a few offbeat ideas for building long-term relationships with creators who you already work with:
- Collaborate on a unique project or campaign that aligns with both of your brands. This could be something like a joint product launch or a charity event.
- Offer to host the influencer at your office or factory for a day and give them a behind-the-scenes look at how your business operates. This can help to build trust and strengthen the relationship.
- Invite the influencer to be a guest on your company's podcast or webinar series. This can provide them with exposure to your audience and give them a platform to share their expertise and insights.
- Collaborate on creating educational content. For example, if you are a makeup brand, you can do makeup tutorials, or if you sell coffee, you can do a series on how to brew the best coffee. This can help to establish both of your brands as thought leaders in your industry.
- You can also offer to co-host an event together to bring together your audiences and build credibility.
14. Leverage creator bio links
Gymshark encourages & incentivizes creators to put their trackable links in the bio. That's a brilliant strategy because a bio link would be a 24/7, everyday marketing of your brand to anyone who visits the creator's profile vs. a one-off post that gets lost in the feed most of the time.
For every touch point with the creator or between the creator and their audience, think about how you can build a long-term strategy rather than getting small, quick benefits.
Think about other ways you can optimize a traditional influencer marketing campaign to build a long-term partnership and get maximum benefits out of
15. Explore beyond Instagram or TikTok
Gymshark leverages Spotify to create motivational, creator-themed playlists. Some playlist names focus on the creator with their name and image. First, they benefit from being in front of their audience not only on social media but also in the Gym. Second, they showcased their association with names that fitness enthusiasts can trust, building credibility.
Gymshark Spotify playlist
💡 Here's a lil homework for you or your team: Figure out where your audience hangs out other than the usual channels (Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter) and find ways to mix influencer marketing and the platform's content. Brainstorm this for 10-min in your next marketing meeting.
16. Create a video-worthy unboxing experience for your creators
When you send your product to creators, how can you make sure they get impressed or curious about your brand? — with a great unboxing experience. The unboxing experience is the initial exciting and emotional experience associated with unwrapping a new item.
Here's why you should aim for a great unboxing experience when sending gifts to influencers:
- It makes a great first impression and shows your appreciation for their work and willingness to work with them.
- Unboxing an exciting, memorable package creates an incentive for influencers to share their experiences with their followers.
- A great unboxing experience establishes your brand as highly professional, reliable, and of the highest quality.
Pura Vida sends free gifts to its ambassadors when they progress to a new tier. The gift box has — a card that tells their status, ambassador stickers, and a card to promote their code. All of this comes in nice packaging with bright colors, and everything is as customized as possible.
Sephora sends a big swag box to every new ambassador.
17. Offer perks that go beyond just monetary benefits
Giving influencers perks for working with you helps to build trust and loyalty. The perks show them that you value their work and appreciate their willingness to promote your brand and increase your reach. Almost every brand that we studied provided creators with much more than just commission, one-off payments, or discounts.
There are a variety of perks you can give influencers while working with you. These can include special discounts, exclusive access to events, or even free samples or goodies. You can offer professional workshops or personal advice that can help influencers grow and develop their own brand.
Here are some ideas from Pura Vida
Notice how these perks from Sephora are more than the monetary benefits — which are harder to get!
If you are tight on budget and time, traditional ways to market your product via ads, email marketing, or waiting for word-of-mouth to kick in are not the best. You need the business to grow profitably in the next few months. And that's where influencer marketing can help. You can start with a very little budget with product seeding and tap into the ready-to-market-to audience built by creators.
A lot of brands want to run influencer campaigns but need help figuring out where to start. So, here are some tips for creating an effective influencer marketing strategy:
- You can get Jay-Z or Kim Kardashian onboard to promote your products if you have that kind of dough, but if your audiences don't align, you'll waste some serious $$. Focus on a strategy that can limit your downside but boost your upside (hint: barbell strategy).
- Once you have the audience dialed in, figure out how much you have to spend. Social media posts can range from $10-$1m+. If you use a tool like SARAL, you will get an estimation of how much worth a creator's post can be.
- Set your goals next. Goals can range from testing a new product on a new audience to increasing brand awareness in a new market. These will determine how you negotiate with influencers.
- Next comes finding and contacting influencers. This is one of the most painful things about influencer marketing, especially when you want to work with a niche set of creators. Using a platform like SARAL will make things a breeze. Or you can do it via spreadsheets (which we don't recommend).
- Keep up with the trends. An important fact about influencer marketing is that it always changes, which means it's important to keep up with the trends. For that, you can sign up for our Influence Marketing Letter and get the latest updates and blogs in your inbox.