Arjun Jolly, the COO and co-founder of adQuadrant, the USA-based digital marketing agency focused on eCommerce, shares his insights on the rise of the hybrid shopping model and its impact on online ad spending to in-store purchases. In an interview with Archana Mishra of affable.ai, Jolly discussed the current state of affairs and made predictions for 2023.
Jolly believes that influencer marketing should be an integral part of an omnichannel approach, with influencers introducing a brand's product during the research stage of potential customers. He also highlighted the importance of shoppable posts in driving conversion, with brands providing guidelines to influencers while allowing them to communicate with their audience in their unique way.
Jolly stressed that brands must have exceptional shipping, fulfillment, and return mechanisms to capitalize on this trend, which will increase demand for their products. He also emphasized the importance of data transparency in influencer marketing success as digital privacy continues to evolve. Jolly believes that marketers, brands, platforms, and creators must work together to provide the necessary data to define success or failure in influencer marketing.
Q1. You have extensive experience managing brand and digital marketing for various businesses. In the last decade, you have also worked with numerous eCommerce clients, providing insights into an ever-growing sector with unique challenges. How do you help these clients navigate the complex landscape of eCommerce and succeed in reaching their goals?
A. Building a successful e-commerce brand is complex, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution or process. We take a holistic approach to solving the individual pain points experienced by each of our clients to build their brands - in other words, we act as fractional CEO. Whether strategizing the synchronicity between full-funnel creative and digital media, navigating inflation, or the ability to make zero and 1-st party data actionable (and beyond!), we provide the expertise necessary to unlock rapid growth opportunities for the brands we choose to partner with.
Q2. If we talk particularly about online shopping since the Covid pandemic, how has it changed? What are the common marketing techniques online retail brands use to capture potential customers' attention across various channels?
A. One of the most important things to remember about e-commerce is that it's always changing. But, speaking about the Covid pandemic specifically, it accelerated the timeline of the consumer's need/desire to shop and purchase almost everything online from the comfort (and safety) of their own homes. Over the last half of 2022, we saw a little shift to a hybrid shopping model where consumers would search for information about a product online and then go into a physical store to purchase that product. It has created a huge problem for brands in terms of being able to attribute the sale of an item back to the ad dollars spent to promote that product, which just so happened to occur as digital privacy continued to evolve - already making attribution a nightmare for a lot of brands.
Q3. With the shift towards a hybrid shopping model, how can eCommerce firms make the most of influencer marketing to increase actual conversions?
A. Influencer marketing allows brands to communicate with their audience through someone who’s already earned that audience’s trust. At its most effective (a seamless brand x influencer partnership, for example), influencers have the ability to communicate effectively with a brand’s audience at every stage of their buyer’s journey.
Specifically speaking to conversions - at this stage, it’s incumbent on the brand to ensure an optimal fit between the influencer and its business. The brand should also be willing to provide the influencer with the ability to take part in developing the content strategy. No one knows their audience better than an influencer, and their ability to deliver upon a brand’s goals is only possible if the message comes across as authentically as possible. Getting to that stage can be tricky, but it’s worth it for many reasons beyond the obvious (ROAS, CPA, etc.).
Q4. Since customers are conducting more research before the purchase than ever, how has influencer marketing been helpful in this process? And how small eCommerce companies can draw inspiration from Amazon and other big retailers using IM in their marketing strategy?
A. Brands should look at influencer marketing as part of their omnichannel marketing strategy. Identifying the stage(s), IM will be most beneficial to the brand and ensure that campaigns are optimized toward meeting the brand’s specific goals. In the research stage of the funnel, influencers can be utilized to show their audience how a specific product adds daily value to their lives. Shoppable posts should also be considered as the influencer looks to drive the audience closer to conversion.
When it comes to Amazon and other big retailers using IM in their marketing strategies, brands of all sizes simply need to understand that their competition is likely generating revenue via influencer marketing… if it’s being done correctly, of course.
Q5. Talking about influencers driving potential customers to conversions, several data reports show that people above 45+ are still not actively using social media to buy a product. What strategies should eCommerce brands use to connect with them, and what role does influencer marketing play?
A. If the data supports more upper-funnel brand engagement for people above 45+, then there is ample opportunity for brands to generate awareness and drive interest at scale. Influencer marketing can be a great, cost-effective vehicle toward accomplishing these goals for brands, and it should always be to achieve more. For example, s strategy is designed not just to garner audience interest but to usher the audience along from interest to the next stage in their buyer’s journey (consideration and conversion).
What your brand says and how it’s said matters a lot in the awareness/interest stages of the funnel. Ultimately, you’re trying to communicate a reason for your audience to be aware that your brand even exists, then you’re trying to make them care that it’ll do so for a long time. Influencer marketing can act as a warm introduction offered by a trusted source within a community (your audience). Provide the influencer with your brand’s guidelines (as a reminder of the rules!), allow them to speak to their audience the way they know how and brands will achieve their goals.
Q6. Given the constant shift in consumer behavior, how do you envision Social Commerce evolving over the coming years?
A. Shoppability will continue to increase as more and more consumers take the path to purchase of least resistance. Brands looking to take advantage will need to make sure that they’re supported with incredible shipping, fulfillment, and return teams capable of helping them navigate a shift that will increase demand and innovation from those areas of the business.
Looking for a cost-effective method to amplify your brand’s ability to achieve the above? Use influencers to communicate your message to audiences in the consideration stage and showcase another reason they should purchase your product.
Q7. Among the cost-effective methods, many brands have started to recognize the importance of community. But organizations and brands commonly encounter difficulties when attempting to implement it. What approach do you think is the most effective for locating these communities and collaborating with them?
A. Established, legacy brands have a much easier time tapping into communities because they've often created their own. It can be difficult for newer brands to create their communities, but they can tap into the leadership of existing communities via influencer partnerships. Long-term influencer partnerships are specifically helpful in cases like this. They provide a brand with opportunities to tap into the influencer's community more and more, which will inevitably lead to creating the brand's community as time goes on.
Q8. What top trends and innovations do you see making a big impact in the eCommerce sphere?
A. We’ve already touched on shoppability, but we think demand will increase significantly. We think that augmented reality will continue to distance itself from the threat of virtual reality, if for no other reason (but quite a few more!) than their respective barriers to entry.
Personalized marketing communications will be the biggest trend in 2023 (and beyond). Almost three-quarters of consumers expect it, over 75% of marketers think they’re delivering it, and less than 40% of customers agree. Marketers have a lot of work to do to make their customers happy, and the work to get there is already taking place. But, it’ll take time and lots of zero and 1st-party data.
Q9. Any brand(s) that come to mind when you think, “what a great way to market to consumers”?
A. Of course, so many come to mind. The ones that stand out can communicate that they understand their audiences. These brands align on value, identify pain points and add value to their consumers’ daily lives. These are the brands that will be successful today and for many years to come.
Q10. What does the future of influencer marketing look like to you, especially in light of recent discussions about influencer marketing in the metaverse?
A. It can be a positive future, but like all things in the ad world, the data must prove the method's effectiveness. Attribution continues to be troublesome as digital privacy evolves, so marketers, brands, platforms, and creators must work together and provide the data necessary to define influencer marketing success (or failure!). Like all strategies, nothing is etched in stone - everything is fluid. Test influencer sizes and types, try out different platforms or types of communication at different levels of the funnel and optimize accordingly. If brands can forge mutually beneficial influencer partnerships that are an extension of their authentic entities, the future of influencer marketing is as bright as any advertising medium.
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