Commerce and the New Frontier of Influence

By On Influence and Influencers Archives
Cover image for  article: Commerce and the New Frontier of Influence

Social media as a channel to influence purchase decisions and drive sales is a tried and true strategy.  Influencers are a natural conduit to connect brand messaging to engaged audiences and marketers are well aware of the potential. The medium and the messengers are now the same, as influence is the final frontier in the quest for seamless consumption.  Shopping is the perfect petri dish toward this end and any path that shortens the time between search and conversation will be the most desired.  Influencers and commerce are moving in unison to create a frictionless shopping experience online.  

Instagram is already a destination site for those looking for inspiration and thirst traps.  The challenge of keeping their audience engaged and on the website is critical to the long-term success and continued growth of the platform.  The shift to an e-commerce site began in earnest this past March with Instagram’s announcement of a shopping option onsite.  People interested in a product in their Instagram feed would no longer have to leave the site to make a purchase. Influencers were an essential part of the program, as it would go live with a few high profile names and brands before going into full release. The circular model of influencers promoting products and leveraging their audience now has the inevitable result of direct consumption.

Commerce, for so long the de facto goal of the influencer ecosystem, is now undeniably front and center.  Interestingly, influencer marketing has often been plagued with a lack of transparency.  Were influencers compensated for content?  If so, to what degree?  Even with a push for clear standards, drawing the line on what is an advertisement and what is authentic content remained blurry.  The ethics might still be hazy but the desire for people to make that final click to purchase has never been more apparent.

Fashion Nova, one of the top online fashion stores, has been a leader in connecting influence to commerce.  Its most recent fashion line release with Cardi B was instantly sold out, further illustrating the power of a connection with a leading influencer.  This type of organic buzz that drives sales is precisely what makes marketers anxious to push their chips to the center and cash in on high stakes bets with influencers.

What Fashion Nova recognized is there is an advantage to being nimble and establishing credibility with influencers in an authentic way.  Fashion Nova has accomplished off-the-charts engagement via earned media due to its influencer relationships driving commerce.  Celebrities, everyday fans -- otherwise known as #novababes -- and a spotlight on diversity are all contributing factors to the new marketplace of influence and commerce.

The economic need to give people the content they want and drive them to the point of sale is set to explode in this new environment.  Sifting through a reality where anything is an ad and finding the target audience is more than daunting and will require bleeding-edge solutions.  Tech/AI company WowYow is one of the leaders in doing the data-intensive work that will benefit publishers of content, influencers and advertisers.  There is value to be unlocked in being agnostic, as WowYow doesn’t dictate what people will interact with, but rather capture the curiosity within the search that ultimately drives commerce.

Co-founder Jarett Boskovich discussed WowYow’s AI for Images and how these tools will add benefit to the content commerce supply chain.  In a recent conversation, Boskovich said, “The opportunity is to create a marketplace based on visual data.  What Google and others did for keyword search is now possible for images and video.”

The new marketplace imagined by Boskovich is made possible by at least two relevant factors.  First, humans process visual data better than any other type of data; 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual. Second,  customers overwhelmingly (74%) agree that text-based keyword searches are inefficient.  “Visual search drives engagement and there are many brands that want to connect to that interaction and monetize influencer content,” Boskovich explained.  “But there is also added context within visual search that gives valuable information to consumers.”  Unlocking that information suggests depth to these connections that can extend beyond clicking and moving product through a checkout queue.

Instagram's increasing emphasis on the e-commerce/shopping experience is just scratching the surface of the commerce opportunity.  The less friction that exists between seeing an item and purchasing that item the better to  unlock value to all participants.  Discovery can lead to conversion, but the more significant game changer is for visual curiosity across all media to flourish.  “In a perfect world, you would be able to search everything you see,”  Boskovich said.  “When you do that, you can unlock content’s true potential and empower the full curiosity of consumers and creativity of influencers in tandem."

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