How to Use Influencer Marketing for Your Retail Business

how to use influencer marketing

One of the hottest marketing trends for the coming year is something called “influencer marketing.” Basically, influencer marketing means working with influencers — people who have a large social media and/or real-life following and are able to influence their followers’ purchasing decisions.

If you’ve ever bought something as a result of seeing a blogger wear it, use it or review it, influencer marketing has worked on you. How can influence or marketing work for a retail business? Here’s a guide to getting started.

Set Goals

As with any type of marketing campaign, you need to specify your goals for your influencer marketing effort before you get started. In most cases, you’ll want to do more than attract more likes or followers to your social media accounts. You want to drive real-life actions, such as visiting your store, visiting your website or making a purchase. These should be measurable goals.

Find Your Influencers

You’re probably already aware of influencers in your retail niche, whether that’s baby clothing, gardening supplies or women’s apparel. You can also use hashtags or keywords to find influencers in your niche and/or your local area. Spend some time on social media searching for bloggers or YouTube stars who meet these criteria: 1) they have a big following, 2) their followers are in your target market, and 3) their content is relevant to what you sell. Klout is a good tool for quantifying someone’s social influence.

Nurture a Relationship

Just as when pitching the media with PR, don’t go in cold to approach an influencer. Get to know them first by posting relevant comments on their blogs, retweeting their tweets or sharing their Instagram pics. The goal is to get on their radar. In the meantime, you’re also learning more about what kind of content they create, which will give you ideas for how you could work with them.

Make Contact

Once the influencer has some awareness of you, reach out with an email specifying how you’d like to work together and why you think this could benefit both of you. Don’t be overly vague or coy about what you have in mind. Spell out what you would like the influencer to do for you, what you can do for them in return and how this will benefit both parties. You’ll probably have to reach out a couple of times to get a response — influencers get a lot of pitches. Be patient.

Here are some ways you can work with influencers:

  • Send the influencer free samples of your products for review.
  • Ask them to share photos or videos of themselves using/wearing your products.
  • Host an event, either online or off-line, with the influencer. For example, if you sell women’s clothing, you could host a tweetchat about fall fashion trends, or have the influencer make an appearance in your store to help customers style their clothing.
  • Offer to write a guest post for their blog or trade posts (i.e., they write a guest post for you and you do one for them).
  • Send the influencer products to use in a contest or giveaway. Influencers love this, because it enables them to get their followers more engaged. You’ll love it because it will boost awareness of your store.
  • Create a special promotion with the influencer, such as offering a percentage off to followers who use a code you provide when visiting your store.
  • “Takeovers”: Have an influencer take over one of your social media accounts for a day or week, such as posting on Instagram or Pinterest on your behalf. This can help boost your social followers immensely.

Be open about the goals you have in mind for your campaign — the influencer can’t make it happen if he or she doesn’t know what you want.

After each influencer marketing campaign, be sure to track the results. You can use Web and social media analytics tools to see how many new visitors the influencer has driven, or use in-store codes to track the number of in-person visitors inspired by the influencer. If you have an eCommerce component to your store, allowing the influencer to post your product images with links to buy them is an excellent tracking method.

Building relationships with key influencers can pay off in many ways. Keep those relationships going, and both you and your influencer will benefit enormously.

Leader and Followers Image via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

5 Reactions
  1. I think there is something about influence or reputation that makes people buy stuff even if there is really no reason for the purchase. It lets them feel that they belong to a particular group so they keep on buying.

  2. Many thanks for this information!
    It helped me in finishing my project on Influencer Marketing… However, these days, it has come up as a business and people are interested in offering and taking payments for marketing campaigns.

  3. Great post, Rieva. Influencer and affiliate marketing is something I talk about a lot and definitely something that needs to be on every businesses radar and especially retail businesses.
    I would just add that it is so important for businesses to sound human when they reach out to influencers. No one likes to see a generic email that sounds auutomated!