street style, coronavirus

Influencer marketing proves extremely powerful in times of crisis if managed well and with significant expertise.

Influencers can create persuasive content to help brands in their digital efforts to hold onto customer trust, loyalty and purchase, especially during times where purchasing habits and needs are ever-changing. They can drive e-commerce sales as consumers find themselves in a new, extended stay-at-home economy. Influencers have the unique ability to reach brands’ audiences on the very devices and platforms they are turning to for information, enjoyment and connection.

Influencers offer brands a way to assure consumers they can continue to have access to products and services they rely on while staying safe and following CDC guidelines. Content from influencers will be increasingly impactful in marketing efforts, leveraging their earned emotional connections and recommendation reliance with people who comprise their audience.

The Stay-Home Economy

The spread of COVID-19 will continue to profoundly shift consumers’ shopping behavior with long-term repercussions even as the virus’ spread diminishes. As this new normal of the stay-home economy emerges, Influencers are uniquely poised to capture consumer’s attention: from what to order and where to shop online; great pantry meals at home; entertaining and teaching kids out of school; how to dress in a time of economic austerity; saving money, and thousands of other emerging thoughts and anxieties in consumers’ minds. More than ever, consumers will turn to social media for content, comfort and creativity.

We’ll see a strong increase in online shopping and digital media consumption as consumers try to keep themselves and their kids fed, entertained and educated in the confines of their homes. Plus, we’ll have millions of workers adjusting to remote work, often with the added distraction of circumstance they typically leave at the door each morning. Increasing numbers will also face unemployment, both from the inability to do their job remotely, but also due to the lasting impact, these closures will have on businesses across the country. Whether at high risk or not from COVID-19, everyone will face major disruptions for an undetermined amount of time.

We’re now living in a time where it feels as if “life Is canceled.” People truly need and almost feel desperate for content to absorb that serves as a counterpoint of normalcy. Ask your family and friends, and you’ll see most raising their hands on that one. At a time like this strategy is more important than ever.

Many brands will be reluctant to spend on traditional or social media advertising, especially if supply chain issues delay or stop their products from getting to market. Keeping brand affinity strong with these consumers will be paramount. It is equally (possibly more) important to maintain the relationship with consumers as it is to see products fly off the virtual shelves. Brands need to respect that in order for consumers to respect them.

Brands Want to Stay in the Conversation but Not Be the Conversation

Brands do not want to go dark in the consumer conversation either but wrestle about how they can smartly weave themselves back in. That’s where influencers will play a huge role. That’s also where strategy, expertise and collaborative teams working with Influencers will really show value. Having a team or an ally in this landscape provides a sounding board that a singular person or system cannot duplicate.

We’re already seeing brands increasingly turn to influencer marketing as a way of sustaining brand loyalty, affinity and purchase intent.

Street style at Paris Fashion Week Fall 2020

The author said everyone faces “major disruptions for an undetermined amount of time.”  Kuba Dabrowski/WWD

E-commerce

Online shopping, as proven by Amazon’s dominance, remains incredibly convenient and will now emerge in consumer’s minds as essential. As Amazon hires 100,000 new employees to support their warehouses and deliver goods to consumers; and other food delivery services lower commissions, we’ll see the strong emergence of a gig delivery economy. Outside of an imposed curfew, we’ll see Uber and Lyft drivers recommissioned to deliver groceries, take-out food and online orders. Amazon’s talk of drone deliveries suddenly becomes more than merely a sci-fi concept to the every day consumer.

Influencers powerfully drive online sales and will prove a key component as brick-and-mortar stores and malls temporarily close for foot traffic during this social distancing period, as well as shutter their retail doors permanently.

Food

Big chains like Walmart have been passionately focused on online grocery pick-up, and this will likely become more normative as consumers stay in their cars while grocery store workers load the goods previously purchased online. This will calm anxiety about exposure in the stores, as well as the ability to get perishables such as produce, dairy and fresh vegetables. Instacart has reported a tenfold increase in sales, seeing numbers 20 times higher than average in states like California and Washington.

As restaurants close their doors to patron dining, we’ll see continued interest in take-out. OpenTable has shared a 42 percent drop off on restaurant dining, and these are early days. We’ve already seen a big trend over the past year for restaurants to create separate facilities dedicated to take-out only, and this will only accelerate this trend. Online delivery companies from Uber Eats to Grubhub have suspended their commission fees to help smaller restaurants out of bankruptcy. Out of increased social responsibility and solidarity, many people will get takeout and buy gift certificates to local restaurants to help keep them afloat.

Food and recipe bloggers have started to see a dramatic rise in traffic and engagements around their posts. This will only grow stronger as everyone cooks the majority of their meals.

Trends and Coming Together

Today, we’re fielding an extensive survey to our influencer community — all highly vetted and with long-standing relationships to our team. I’ll next shortly what trends emerge from their vantage point- from impression and engagement surges as everyone tunes in to social media, to the changing patterns of brand partnerships.

In the meantime, expect to see the emergence of feel-good stories of society coming together even in our isolation, and companies helping out the communities they serve.

Stacy DeBroff is the founder and chief executive officer of Influence Central. 

For More WWD Business News:

Can Your Business Thrive Despite Economic Challenges Like Coronavirus?

Understanding Consumer Shopping Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Harris Poll: COVID-19 Instilling Fear in Consumers

WATCH: Can Fashion Influencers Be Sustainable?

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