What is Fashion Week if not the epitome of influencer marketing? Such is the draw of the personalities who design looks we love, and those who have wardrobing in their DNA.
It’s a roped-off VIP scene, so all praise goes to digital tech that’s bringing Big Fashion to the small screen (smartphones) with the power of content creators and social media influencers who can move merchandise and create revenue streams by mixing content with commerce.
With fashion’s creator economy blowing up, Kit Ulrich, general manager of consumer platform and experience at LTK (formerly rewardStyle & LIKEtoKNOW.it) told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster that shopping with creators and influencers is how the rest of us get past the VIP velvet rope.
“Shopping is just better when you do it alongside a creator who you trust,” she said in the “Digital Payments Flip the Script: 10 Merchants and 10 Visions for Digital Transformation” series, a PYMNTS and PayPal collaboration. “I’m hoping consumers will come to LTK, not know who they should follow, and we will introduce them to great creators that we think are right for them and try them.”
In a word: influence.
Describing LTK as a three-sided marketplace of consumers, creators and brands, Ulrich said, “Once a brand is on LTK, then any of our creators can work with that brand and sell those products. We help onboard and create the opportunity for creators to use all those brands, and likewise help brands set commission rates that make it compelling for creators to test and try.”
Ecosystems structured in this way have their own flywheel effect, curating looks and getting vitals like size and color correct so that influencers can show the right pieces, assuring sales.
Much of it centers on trust, which translates to confidence in the business of social selling. Creators and influencers invest enormous effort in knowing their followers and their tastes.
“One thing that we talk about quite a bit at LTK, and this is true across all of retail, is bringing purchase confidence to consumers,” she said. “The way I think of purchase is confidence, is that moment, as a consumer, when you pull out your credit card.”
Without it, either items don’t move, or platforms end up drowning in returns.
“The amazing part is how creators solve purchase confidence in a really unique and valuable way because they’ve already tested and tried all the products, and they’ve done that curation for you.”
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With inflation appearing in every other headline this year, many shoppers are looking to trusted influencers for inspiration on a budget, and it’s a role LTK takes to heart.
Noting that LTK users are seeking both value and style, Ulrich said, “I’m thinking of Amber Box, our co-founder. There’s this great H&M coat she found that I think was around $100. She’ll pair it with a very expensive $500 Valentino belt. She’ll show you … the Valentino belt … but then here’s three other lookalike belts that are not in the same price category if you want.”
No one size fits all, and that’s the superpower of curation and personalization. Data is extremely helpful here, and the platform is putting its data to work in three-sided ways.
Recalling that brands that saw potential for influencer/creator marketing early on had little data to work with, she said, “LTK is one of the only platforms that can give brands and marketers a return on ad spend in the influencer and creator marketing space because we actively track conversions that come through those creators.”
“We’ve become the go-to advertising platform in this space because we have the data behind it,” she added.
Data helps identify product trends earlier in the cycle, demand peaks and valleys, and points the way to the influencers with the style and service that fashion-lovers love to follow.
“We can use that to be very smart … about casting great creators on brands,” Ulrich said. “We’re very good at helping identify the best creators to move the needle on whatever that brand wants to move. Whether it is top of funnel awareness and brand perception, all the way down to very direct conversion-oriented metrics.”
She said this involves “a rigorous application process and review process” for creators to join, and most don’t make the cut.
“We look at the data of how creators are performing,” she said. “Are they creating a full shop and a great experience for their consumers? If so, there’s ways to get into higher discovery flows and be in front of more consumers over time.”
How does that vetting impact conversion rates?
Ulrich said LTK is averaging 3.5% higher conversions “than other ecosystems,” adding: “It stems from … the relationship with the creator, and that you’ve already gone far down the funnel with purchase confidence that when you get to that point, you’re truly ready to make that purchase and have it show up at your door. The LTK app has been a game changer for us.”
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Standing out in the increasingly crowded social commerce space on what Ulrich called “noisy” social sharing platforms is a function of curating style differently, and showing an Amazonian efficiency on the back end, especially when it comes to processing influencer commissions.
Using a $100 jacket for easy math she said, “Let’s say the brand that sold this jacket set a 10% commission. That’s what’s flowing through us. The jacket gets sold through LTK, that’s the gross merchandise value that’s going through us.”
“Then we have the commission which is getting paid out to the creator,” she continued. “We collect those dollars from the brands and then pass along the commission’s payouts to the creator. We run that transaction flow.”
What’s beneficial about that is not only the data generated, but what LTK does with it.
Taking sales and influencer data back to brands is advocating for creators to keep commissions attractive and inspiring, drawing more new creators and helping those already selling.
“We’ve been able to show some really amazing brands — and I love this part of our business — that when you increase your commission rate on products, you get creators testing and more involved, which is such a great ecosystem,” Ulrich said.
“It’s such a great advertising source,” she added. “We see immediate response from things like that.”
Where it goes from here is new features like in-stock and out-of-stock alerts, where scarce items can be found, and “features that will make it more seamless for creators on LTK.”
While the company has no plans to create its own line as it doesn’t want to step into the territory of its creators or brands, it wants to connect the dots for all three sides.
Its first marketing campaign to introduce the world to its creators, influencers and brands has launched, Ulrich said, “to really claim the space and make sure that people who have not heard about LTK yet know that we’re a destination for the next better way to shop online.”