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For brands looking to reach Millennials – the largest generation in the US with an annual spending power of $600 billion – they need to look to Instagram, the most popular social channel for Millennials. Like Generation X before them, Millennials are wary of ads, particularly in their social feeds. They are, however, more likely to purchase products and services based on trusted recommendations from friends and people they follow, whether they’re famous or just Insta-famous. In fact, 92% of Millennial and upcoming Gen Z consumers believe influencer recommendations are more authentic than ads.
Savvy retailers, CPG manufacturers and travel and hospitality brands have successfully been leveraging influencer marketing on Instagram for the past few years. However, we haven’t seen many loyalty program-specific marketing campaigns take advantage of this medium. Influencer marketing is a real opportunity for brands as they share the same fundamentals for connecting with consumers by forming a unique relationship that stems from authenticity, and that is relevant and reciprocal. Loyalty is an opportunity for brands to show how well it understands its members, since they’re collecting priceless data on their members at every interaction. This data exchange also helps brands round out their loyalty strategy: Millennials are no longer swayed by monetary reward programs or those with cookie-cutter points-based structures. Rather, they’re attracted to programs offering a special relationship based on VIP experiences and personalized offers within the program.
An interesting example of influencer success is RewardStyle, a business dedicated to connecting influencers with fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands. This site has driven significant referral traffic to retailers and their rewards programs: 34% at Revolve.com, 24% at Amazon’s Shopbop.com, and 22% at Sephora.com. Nordstrom’s loyalty program, leveraging RewardStyle influencers, saw a 74% increase in August 2018 from mobile traffic referred via bloggers and influencers Nordstrom members regularly follow.
Similarly, Verizon leaned on a popular lineup of superstars including Justin Timberlake, Luke Bryan, Demi Lovato and many more to promote their new Verizon Up loyalty program. Beyond offering exclusive show experiences as a reward option, Verizon Up members are reminded of the close partnership between the telecom provider and music powerhouse icons seen in the social promotion of their new program. The hashtag #VZUp is front and center in Instagram captions posted by Saints Quarterback, Drew Brees, amounting to 153,000 views and Justin Timberlake’s stage photo racking up 348,000 likes. Verizon is capitalizing on the musical stars followed by Millennials and Gen Zers to effectively promote its Loyalty Program and incorporate the VIP experience of fanhood through reward redemption opportunities.
Key to Verizon Up’s success was getting these icons on board to promote the program beyond the short campaign timeline. Worldwide music icon Slim Jxmmi, of Rae Sremmurd, understands the value and bottom line of Verizon Up’s endeavor saying, “Teaming up with Verizon Up is like a big thank you to our fans. Now we can get them closer to our music and bring them the best of SremmLife.” While the “Sremm Life” may be foreign and bi-lingual to some, it sure is the long-lasting language that telecom powerhouse, Verizon, knows will grab a large portion of its young customers and program members earning and redeeming time and time again.
With the increased revenue and the consumer connections brands are seeing from influencer marketing, it’s a natural fit for loyalty programs to leverage quality influencers to promote their programs. However, brands must keep in mind this tactic is only effective if it’s done in a way that feels natural to users. The relationship between a brand and an influencer needs to be more than just the business contract. Both should align on values, vision and lifestyle to make influencer marketing seamless.