Jason Jay Sharma, Vice President of Product, CreatorIQ comments on a few best practices and trends driving influencer marketing in this chat with MarTech Series:
Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Jason, tell us more about yourself and your new role as VP of Product at CreatorIQ…what are you most looking forward to here…
For the past 15+ years, I’ve spent most of my time working with startups throughout Silicon Valley, building up products that often focused on the social media side of things. I was building out services or products or tools to help brands, retailers, or publishers push out new content. That turned into building out tools for the creators and influencers directly.
So, whether it’s working with social networks, or the user-generated content that the creators are making now, or even monetizing that content for both influencers and brands through social commerce… it’s been really exciting. I’m pretty fortunate to work in a space that I truly enjoy.
At CreatorIQ, my focus is going to be working with e-commerce and affiliate and attribution activities… building a creator-centric focus for the brands we work with and helping them uplift their business goals around both influencer marketing and actual conversion and sales as well, using these new creators that are out there.
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Can you share a few thoughts on the growing impact of influencers in e-commerce Marketing today?
I would actually say that we’re probably much further into it than most people know. Over the last year and a half, we’ve seen a lot of changes from the pandemic. It’s changed the ways that brands are approaching things. But the truth is, a lot of brands and businesses have been leaning into e-commerce and affiliate marketing for a long time. The same thing is true of creators and influencers—bloggers that have been using affiliate links to drive sales for brands for more than 10 years now.
It really wasn’t at the forefront of people’s awareness, but there has been this subgroup of influencers who for years have been playing it so much smarter for such a long time. They’re creating original content, almost like their own publication, that engages audiences, which they monetize through affiliate links. They’re making millions of dollars, just like any large publication, but they’re doing it in such a more efficient manner because they have such small, nimble teams. And they have a niche audience that trusts them and believes in them, who come back because they’re the point of discovery for a lot of those products.
E-commerce has become a $4.28 trillion industry, which represents a massive shift and opportunity for brands. Influencers and affiliates have also proven to be one the most effective ways for brands to drive sales in this new landscape.
How have you seen top global brands use influencer marketing in e-commerce to drive better outcomes, can you share a few examples and takeaways?
Talking specifically about brands is always a little hard because it is often so different based on different regions. Even global brands have different affiliate groups for different regions, and one is going to perform differently than others. They have different departments and different teams managing different aspects.
But there are sectors where we’ve seen a lot of significant success. If you think about a retailer that’s working with creators and influencers today, and they have been for years successfully, you look at something like Nordstrom in the U.S. They rely on influencers to drive a lot of their traffic, especially during peak times like anniversary sales or holiday seasons. We also see retailers like Saks, when it comes to more luxury-level items, that work with creators as well.
Both are partnering with influencers and individuals they can rely on and work with time and time again who are driving a lot of traffic and conversion, because they have this trusted, niche audience that really believes in the content.
If a brand is jumping into this space now, and they’ve waited like five years to really explore this opportunity, they actually have an advantage because they can see what has worked with other brands who kind of went through all the hurdles. They may not yet have the resiliency to adjust to the rapidly evolving social space and will have to wait for someone else to come up with a plan to mimic as things change. But they can get the basics done now.
How do platforms like CreatorIQ enable better influencer marketing support in this diverse and evolving market? Can you talk about the future scope of these technologies in the market?
Taking a step back, 10-15 years ago, social media was something a lot of brands didn’t really know what to do with. They thought maybe it was a trend or a fad. They didn’t really know how much they had to play in that space. Social media was just sitting under a generic marketing team. And then eventually it fell into an online marketing team. And then eventually it went into an original content team. Then there was digital content. But now there are Facebook-specific teams, Instagram teams, TikTok teams.
I think we’re in the same spot when it comes to working with creators and influencers on the e-commerce side. Brands are discovering that they need to lean into working with influencers and influencer marketing to drive a lot of their business goals, whether it’s around brand awareness, or whether it’s around actual conversion and sales and, and budgets and targets for those actual dollar amounts. And what we’re seeing now is that brands need to lean into running their own influencer and creator programs.
And that’s where companies and tools like CreatorIQ come in. We can help brands measure these affiliate networks and attribution pieces from beginning to end, and really own their campaign opportunities and programs.
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In what ways do you feel e-commerce marketing trends will evolve in the future and how can marketers prepare for this?
The businesses that will survive will be the ones that embrace e-commerce now and think of it seriously. But the brands that go on to thrive will be those that fully embrace the digital transformation to e-commerce and affiliate links. That will take really embracing influencers and creators as their megaphones, or their partners, or their storefronts going forward. That’s where you’re going to start the sale, or the sales funnel, and that’s where you can go to help communicate with customers.
What are some of the influencer marketing challenges that you still see marketers/brands struggle with today and what best practices would you share?
A lot of brands still take a one-and-done approach. They run a campaign with an influencer, it’s successful, but then they move on to the next influencer. They never collaborate again with the first influencer. So they never really get to know who they’re working with, or why they’re working with them.
If you find an influencer that drives results for your business, come back to them and work with them again. Create long-term partnerships. Spend time trying to find lookalike influencers or creators, because that’s what works for your brand. Remember, people don’t really follow brands. They follow people. The best way for brands to personify themselves is to work with a community of people.
Some last thoughts and takeaways?
A lot of times, you hear these jokes about influencers, like they’re just posting glamor shots to get free vacations. And some are. But there are many others building highly profitable businesses. They’re entrepreneurs, and we should be applauding them.
This group is using the traditional affiliate business model in a smarter way than anyone else has online so far to become their own brand and online publications. Those glamor-shot influencers aren’t actually doing the publisher-like content creation and planning around monetization like the affiliate-based influencers do.
Most notably, many of these creators and entrepreneurs are women. There are first-grade teachers I’ve worked with who have been able to create a multimillion dollar business, and they can provide for their families. There are other women who went from struggling while self-employed to having an assistant and 15 other editors and publishers work with them.
So a lot of times when people make these jokes online, the real truth is that we’re helping people build their business. It’s really exciting to see.
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CreatorIQ is a trusted software that helps unify and power advanced influencer marketing for some of the world’s most innovative enterprises.
Jason Jay Sharma is the Vice President of Product at CreatorIQ, the leading influencer marketing platform powering global efforts for brands like Airbnb, Calvin Klein, CVS, H&M, and Sephora. In his role, Jason will continue to expand CreatorIQ’s commerce and affiliate offerings, as brands and agencies turn to influencers to drive business outcomes during the e-commerce revolution. Prior to joining CreatorIQ, Jason served as Head of Product and Success at ShopStyle Collective, a Rakuten company, where he led a cross-functional team covering product management, design, marketing, and user success.
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