When it comes to marketing, there’s a lot to love about Instagram Checkout. By providing consumers with a more seamless, one-click purchase experience without having to leave their Instagram feed, the new program helps retailers increase conversions and sales volume. Brands will also be able to give influencers access to the same convenient shopping functionality, helping them extend their sales reach and increase the return on their influencer marketing campaigns. That’s good news in and of itself, but the promise of Instagram Checkout goes beyond sales.
To date, social platforms have seen little reason to allow third-party measurement for direct response sales. As brands put more dollars into the influencer marketing space to capitalize on the Instagram Checkout channel, platforms like Instagram may finally decide to invest in conversion tracking after all, enabling marketers to take a more holistic approach to influencer marketing through a combination of brand advertising, direct response and paid media amplification.
Measuring The Influence Of Influencers
Today, brands generally leverage influencers for awareness, supplementing the influencer’s own traffic with paid media amplification. But there’s an important piece missing from this model: measurement. Without a way to dig deeper into the raw numbers pulled by the influencer, a brand has no way of knowing whether it’s their own audience who is seeing the content or how that visibility translates into conversions. For influencer marketing to reach its next stage of evolution and impact, social platforms need to step up and provide insight into the performance of native content for direct response.
Before the introduction of Instagram Checkout, consumers inspired by an influencer’s post to make a purchase have had to follow a clunky, duct-taped process. In one scenario, you click on the influencer’s profile, find the retailer’s URL, click the link to launch the retailer’s website in a browser, enter your billing information and finally make the purchase. Some influencers also create private shopping networks, making most of their money by having people send their credit card information via email, text or a messaging service like WeChat.
In either case, any of these steps can be enough to dampen the enthusiasm of the would-be buyer, transforming a potential impulse buy into a “maybe later.” If the purchase does go through, the retailer attributes the sale to the influencer and pays the appropriate commission under the usual affiliate model.
Instagram Checkout solves the pain of this process for consumers — so, why doesn’t it also address the needs of marketers for more accountable influencer campaigns? To date, social platforms have had little incentive to invest in the monetization of influencer content for a simple reason: They don’t make any money that way. Currently, the only platform making money from influencer campaigns is YouTube, which gets paid a share of the brand’s revenue.
Instagram isn’t directly involved in that dollar flow; influencers are paid by the brand, and that’s as far as it goes. However, Instagram does make more money when brands pay to promote the content of their influencer partners. And that’s where Instagram Checkout shows real promise. If a more seamless experience leads brands to expand their social platform spend, companies like Instagram will have more of a reason to increase the effectiveness of that investment and that includes acceding to the demand for measurement.
By allowing pixels on native content and making conversion data available to brands, social platforms like Instagram can become a more effective part of a balanced digital marketing strategy encompassing both awareness and direct response. As Instagram Checkout increases the sales volume on social channels, marketers may finally get the accountability they’ve been hoping for.
Don’t Wait For Instagram
While we can hope for Instagram to move on conversion tracking at some point in the near future, there are plenty of things marketers can already be doing to measure the impact of their influencer campaigns. For example:
• Give each influencer you work with a unique code to share with their audience so you can break down their conversions as part of your direct sales tracking.
• Conduct a brand lift study with a third party like Nielsen. This type of survey can capture granular insights into campaign performance and help marketers understand exactly how their influencer deals are shaping perception among key targets.
• Dig deeper into the reality of reach and impact. As fraudulent activity such as bot accounts and buying likes continues to rise, while organic reach declines, the raw numbers provided by social platforms are less and less meaningful. Instead of focusing on likes, use sentiment analysis to evaluate the comments on branded content and measure how positive, negative or neutral the engagement actually was. If you don’t have an in-house sentiment analysis capability, find a third party who does.
• Make sure to select influencer partners who are not participating in fraud. You can conduct a fraud check by following the practices and guidelines released by the Influencer Marketing Council (IMC), which include tactics like assessing follower patterns and engagement spikes. As a corollary measure, a brand affinity study can help you identify creators who have already favorably mentioned your brand as part of your talent selection process. Again, this can be done either in-house or with a partner.
Given the popularity and momentum behind direct response sales on social media, it’s clear that this is the direction the industry is going. Instagram and other platforms can take the lead on this evolution or they can scramble to catch up. Either way, there’s no need for marketers to wait around. Conversion tracking will make a great channel even better, making this is an opportunity worth ample attention and investment today.