Chinese influencers work quite different to the rest of the world. Source: Shutterstock

Chinese influencers work quite different to the rest of the world. Source: Shutterstock

Why Asia needs to follow China’s lead in influencer marketing

INFLUENCER marketing is a billion dollar industry, with everyone from movie stars to micro-bloggers cashing in on the growth of platforms such as Instagram and Taobao.

In the US, EU, and most of Asia, influencer marketing is popular but returns on investment are hard to quantify. It’s definitely a strong marketing concept and does produce great returns, but popular platforms such as Instagram and YouTube don’t provide options to track how many views or likes convert into sales.

That’s not the case in China, however. In the People’s Republic, influencers are a strong force in the market — and thanks to the platforms they use, are also able to quantify results for brands they’re working for.

Merchants, for example, on China’s Taobao, hire “familiar faces” who resonate with a particular target group or can bring their own followers to see what a product can do and make a purchase if they like what they see.

Organizations are quite interested in bringing their products to life with help from such influencers.

The fact that purchases can be immediately and directly tagged to spends on the campaign, there’s practically zero resistance from decision makers when marketers approach them to have big-ticket spends approved.

Data, transparency, and accountability

In the digital age, the exciting thing about marketing is the fact that those spending on campaigns are in control of not just who they target but also get an incredible amount of data about what was achieved using a KPI-based approach.

Outside of China, success with influencer marketing is quite difficult for brands to measure.

“I have other channels that I invest in where I get very concrete measures for what success looks like. I’ve put all this money into branded content and is it working? I need to know,” Neutrogena Director of Global Digital Transformation and Sustainability Edlynne Laryea told Vogue Business.

Luckily, this is changing quickly. Instagram is working on integrating access to data and bringing in more transparency and accountability for brands dealing with influencers.

The Facebook-owned social platform is not only making sure that influencers disclose when a post has been sponsored but also providing better access to data for brands wishing to evaluate reach once campaigns have run their course.

Further, the recent announcement that the platform making “Checkout” a built-in feature is quite exciting because that’s a step in the right direction for brands looking for a more defined and targeted approach to their campaigns.

When you tap to view a product from a brand’s shopping post, you’ll see a “Checkout on Instagram” button on the product page. Tap it to select from various options such as size or color, then you’ll proceed to payment without leaving Instagram.

You’ll only need to enter your name, email, billing information, and shipping address the first time you check out.

Once your first order is complete, your information will be securely saved for convenience the next time you shop. You’ll also receive notifications about shipment and delivery right inside Instagram, so you can keep track of your purchase.

Initially, just about 20 brands, such as Adidas and Zara, will try this feature and will restrict use to US customers, but Checkout will soon debut in other markets too.

At the end of the day, following in China’s footsteps to tie the value that an influencer brings to the actual sale they can drive is quite important for brands — because creativity is cool, but commercial success is driven by measurable yardsticks and benchmarks.