As the next generation of bloggers heads toward the big time — and earnings of more than $1 million —the ecosystem of companies that helps them convert their clicks into dollars is growing more sophisticated.
ShopStyle, a shopping search engine, will today unveil a new version of its influencer and blogger affiliate network, ShopStyle Collective. The six-year-old program, which was formerly called ShopSense, already works with over 10,000 active publishers and is looking to put talent front and center, highlighting individual bloggers and their posts on Shopstyle.com.
Melissa Davis, executive vice president and general manager of ShopStyle, said the site would drive $1.2 billion in retail sales by the end of 2015 and already features 12 million products from 1,400 retailers, garnering five million searches per week.
“People who are shopping from these bloggers’ sites convert more quickly than average shoppers,” Davis said. “Seventy-six percent will convert within two days — and [buy] from trendier brands like Asos, H&M and J. Crew.”
Shopstyle-parent Popsugar teamed up with CJ Affiliate by Conversant to look at the effect bloggers had on consumer behavior online, studying 2,500 Popsugar and ShopStyle visitors during the fourth quarter.
The research showed that three out of four people in the sample visit blogs at least once a week for inspiration and seven in 10 said that blogs are an “essential part of their shopping process.”
Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed use blogs to seek out new items and 85 percent to consult or read product reviews before buying an item. More than nine out of 10 said that blogs introduce them to products they wouldn’t have found on their own and readers they wound up purchasing something they were on the fence about after reading a positive review or opinion on a blog.
“As a marketer, when I think about blogs and influencers it seems top-funnel and awareness-driving, but the fact that these influencers are helping convert is a piece of data that I haven’t seen,” said Anna Fieler, executive vice president of marketing at Popsugar.
All of that adds up to more opportunities for bloggers to bring in big bucks.
Davis said some of ShopStyle’s top influencers bring in six figures per month, making for annual gross earnings of at least $1.2 million, before income from brand partnerships or advertising.
Salt Lake City, Utah-based Christine Andrew of Hello Blog said that 30 percent of her revenue comes from affiliate earnings, or “just clicks” through Shopsense or its business-to-business competitor RewardStyle, with the rest from brand partnerships. Andrew, who has 311,000 followers on Instagram, declined to say how much she makes annually, but a source close to the blogger said she is on track to make in the high six figures this year.
Brands clearly get something out of their association with bloggers.
For instance, one sponsored post from Andrew generated $35,000 in sales on the featured brand’s site over one week, and $81,790 in 30 days. The retailer’s return on investment would also include additional in-store purchases that the post generated.
Lunchpails & Lipstick, a blog run by friends Lisa Harris and Jenna Crandall who have six kids between them, is also slated to generate in the high six figures this year, from a combination of affiliates and brand collaborations. Like Andrew, they use a combination of Shopstyle Collective and Rewardstyle’s Instagram monetization tool, Liketoknowit, to get a cut of the sales online that they help influence. Seventy percent of their affiliate earnings come from ShopStyle via products featured on their site.
Affiliate earnings are expected to make up 70 percent of Harris and Crandall’s income this year.
They have just signed with talent agency Digital Brand Architects, or DBA, to help propel their blog.
“We would like to be in the seven figures by 2016. That’s our goal,” Harris said. “They are the ones who can get you the big campaigns.”
For two women with fewer than 64,000 Instagram followers, this is impressive.
There are also bloggers with more earth-bound earnings.
Jeanette Johnson of J’s Everyday Fashion, just celebrated the five-year anniversary of her blog, and maintained that even though she might never make it to multi-million dollar status, there is still a lot of opportunity in the blogosphere.
“People don’t realize that even if you don’t have five million followers on Instagram you can make a really good living,” Johnson said, noting that she has just 32,700 Instagram followers. “Sometimes it gets overlooked because people figure you’re making either $9 million or nothing. Amen, Chiara [Ferragni] broke the ceiling and it means that it’s possible. [But] there is something more midline that is totally attainable.”