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COVID, Consumers, and Influencers: An Evolved Relationship

14 Sep 2020 Elizabeth McHugh

in Digital, Social Media, Glimmer

Ecommerce sales increased by nearly a third in Q2, as consumers’ shift to digital continued. Between lockdowns and health concerns, in-store browsing has plummeted, which is significant when it comes to discovery: pre-pandemic, 57% of women found new beauty and personal care products through in-store browsing. While in-store shopping will likely return, the increase in ecommerce means a rise in discovery through digital, and influencers—particularly microinfluencers—are partially filling the void. While at the start of the pandemic many felt that influencer marketing had ceased, instead time spent with the social channels where influencers are most popular has exploded, and 47% of women surveyed report relying on influencers more since the beginning of the pandemic.


“I always rely on YouTube influencer reviews before I buy a product.” -Glimmer Community Member 

In a study conducted by Harris Insights and Analytics, 46% of US adults were using social media more in March than pre-pandemic; by May, that figure had increased to 51%. As screen time limits have been all but abandoned, 96% of U.S. and UK consumers who follow influencers report to engaging with them more or the same than pre-pandemic. 25% of U.S adults also significantly increased their time on YouTube, 23% on Facebook, and 19.5% on Instagram. Social media is providing entertainment and escape (the rise of TikTok exemplifies this perfectly) and also a remedy for loneliness; influencers are helping consumers feel like they are a part of a community.


I've been relying on influencers a lot more when I'm not familiar with a product or service and want to educate myself on it. I am picky about them, though, and always check to see if they’ve been paid for their views or not. That's one of the reasons that I like smaller influencers or "microinfluencers." They are a great resource when you want the good, bad, and ugly on a large or expensive purchase.” -Glimmer Community Member

A caveat is that influencers must appear more authentic than ever. Content focused on excess—unboxing videos, as an example—or that ignores the stress and challenging conditions of quarantine will severely miss the mark. Describes Mintel, “As relationships become more dependent on technology, the value influencers provide increases exponentially. This is why we’ve seen more public “cancellations” of influencers during COVID-19, while others receive praise.” Influencers that ignore the economic and societal inequalities exposed by the virus and continue on a content diet of pure aspiration will lose in this moment. Meanwhile, those that offer diversity, reality, and imperfection will be of value to consumers. In the beauty world, 61% of consumers who follow beauty influencers want to see more influencers that look like everyday people. A user in our community wrote: “[I’d like to see] more realness and less scripted videos—honesty.”


In response to: are you relying on influencers more now? 

“Yes, definitely. Because of COVID it’s hard to go into the stores to shop, so I’ve been online shopping more and it’s always great to have someone else’s opinion/review before you buy and are disappointed. I’m finding online forums extremely helpful.” -Glimmer Community Member

Pre-pandemic, 70% of consumers who followed beauty influencers had purchased products recommended by an influencer. With reliance on influencers—and ecommerce—increasing, consumers are turning to influencers for purchase recommendations and assurance more than ever—and not just in beauty. Influencers are introducing products while providing the trust required for consumers to try something new—even in the current recession. Writes another community member: “I am going online looking for influencers. COVID-19 has made it less likely that I will shop in-store, so I start on Facebook and Instagram to see what people are saying about shopping and deals.”


In response to: are you relying on influencers more now? 

Not really. I mainly rely on my family and friends for recommendations and I read reviews and get samples to try products and then leave my honest review.” -Glimmer Community Member 

“I rely on them less often. I don't have interest in as much products since I’m shopping less often and not using products as much as before.” -Glimmer Community Member 

Time and again we have seen that a recommendation from friends or family is the top reason female consumers try a new product. Many consumers will only rely on those that they are closest to—and an economic downturn will only sharpen that preference. Influencers who have any impact on this type of consumer will likely be those with smaller followings, but whom that consumer might even know in-person or regard as highly authentic.


At Stella Rising, our Glimmer Community of everyday influencers can help drive word-of-mouth and brand legitimacy. We also excel in driving brand growth and revenue via paid social. Looking to engage consumers in our new environment? Connect with us.

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