By Aimeé Howells, Managing Partner at TAKUMI
All industries have felt the hit of the pandemic to some extent. Retail and hospitality businesses faced various lockdown restrictions, limiting their trading capacity. Travel bans impacted hotels, airlines, and tourist attractions and the marketing industry was forced to grind many of its Out-Of-Home activations to a halt. Yet, the pandemic gave way to new ways of working. The travel industry shifted its attention to promoting the famous staycation. And the lack of in-person marketing opportunities allowed digital marketing channels to flourish.
As a result, marketing managers have upped their influencer marketing spend since the start of the pandemic because of the growing opportunities in this space. So, what trends has the pandemic driven and what can we expect to see from influencer marketing sector in the future?
Influencer marketing trends in the pandemic era
The Covid-19 pandemic made it hard for brands to produce high quality branded content. With classic photoshoots off the cards due to restrictions, many marketers looked to creators. Creators were given creative license to interpret a brand’s brief and then produce branded content. Our whitepaper, Influencer marketing in the pandemic era, which analyses the priorities and expectations of over 3,300 consumers, marketers and creators in the UK and US, found that seven out of ten marketers are now more likely to use creators for brand campaigns compared to pre-pandemic times.
The pandemic also saw more ‘alternative’ sectors starting to see the benefits of working with creators, with our whitepaper finding influencer marketing budgets increased most among marketers in the ‘manufacturing & utilities’ with 76% agreeing. NatWest and Wickes are examples of brands outside of those sectors traditionally associated with influencer marketing which have recently explored creator partnerships and run successful campaigns.
The pandemic has provided creators the space to demonstrate to brands across a variety of sectors, their ability to create good content and drive brand awareness, an opportunity that would arguably never have been present pre-pandemic.
What we can expect from influencer marketing in the post-pandemic era
The pandemic highlighted consumers’ frustration with the lack of representation in the influencer marketing world, with less than a third (28%) of consumers believing brands’ influencer marketing content adequately represents diversity in society.
This has led marketers to act. Brands such as Starling Bank have launched marketing campaigns specifically targeting those with disabilities, with this action supported by data from our whitepaper which found over two thirds (67%) are now using influencers from more diverse backgrounds in campaigns compared with pre-pandemic. It’s likely we’ll see more representative influencer marketing campaigns in the post-pandemic era.
Prioritising mental health
The pandemic also pushed mental health and wellness into the spotlight, with our research finding nearly a quarter of UK and US consumers (23%) believe social media platforms are most responsible for supporting consumers’ mental health on social media content. Social media platforms are already starting to introduce features to safeguard users’ mental health, such as having the option to remove likes and comments from their feed posts. It’s unlikely concern around mental health will tail off in the future and we’ll see social platforms, brands and creators all working to promote better mental health amongst users.
Continual growth of social commerce
During the pandemic social media platforms grew and now aide most online activity – from news, entertainment and communication. They’ve also become a shopping hub, with new shopping and in-app payment features helping to make the whole experience seamless. Instagram launched shopping tags, allowing influencers to tag the brand’s features in their feed posts, and in August 2021, TikTok launched its own Shopping feature. The new feature lets users with a TikTok For Business account add a shopping tab to their TikTok profiles.
These new features are not going to waste, with our study finding a third of creators surveyed (31%) have said they’ve increased ecommerce integration in brand campaigns compared to a year ago. With creators willing to increase ecommerce integration in their content, social commerce could become more popular than standard ecommerce in the post-pandemic world.
The pandemic has been the driving force behind a lot of common influencer marketing trends. It provided marketers and creators an opportunity to work closely together and also encouraged sectors, that wouldn’t typically engage in influencer marketing, to invest in it. As we start a new year, we’ll see new trends emerge as a result of the pandemic, such as more diversity in influencer marketing, social commerce to continue to grow in popularity and the importance of protecting users’ mental health.