From scrolling to spending: how ‘shoppable’ ads will reshape India’s influencer marketing

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Why your ads need to be ‘shoppable’ for greater conversion 

  • Influencer marketing is thriving in India, but brands are missing out on a key opportunity to both seal and track their customers’ purchasing journey, writes INCA’s Kunal Sawant.
  • As of last year, social network user penetration in India sat at 54 percent and is set to rise by another 13 percent over the next four years.

In today’s world of digital advertising, everything is a shopfront — or at least has the potential to be. Thanks to tools like Instagram’s Shop Now button or YouTube’s new Shoppable Ads format, social media is now no longer a mere driver of engagement, but a point of sale itself. Yet Indian brands and marketers are only just getting to grips with social media’s shopability. But, if effectively leveraged, they will have a key opportunity to convert scrolling into selling.

Needless to say, this has nothing to do with India’s social media and online entertainment scene, which is nothing short of booming. As of last year, social network user penetration in India sat at 54 percent and is set to rise by another 13 percent over the next four years. Meanwhile, in 2020’s third quarter, social networking made up 80 percent of India’s app usage, falling second place to messaging apps.

India’s top influencers, from the likes of Avneet Kaur or Komal Pandey, draw millions of followers to their channels and, judging by their recent content, have a vast repertoire of brands under their belts. But what is noticeable in their and other influencers’ content is an absence of calls-to-action aside from an obligatory advertiser tag.

Shoppable technology takes away the extra step of clicking an external link to a brand’s website and allows consumers to seamlessly buy a product immediately upon viewing the content.

Following TikTok’s departure from India in 2020, Instagram, the pioneer of shoppable formats, has stepped up to become the nation’s dominant social media platform. Using Instagram, consumers can now purchase products across all its formats, from Feed, Stories, Live and IGTV. While time will tell how YouTube’s competing shoppable product will fare against Instagram, it is indisputable that e-commerce will become an integral part of Indian social media marketing. Homegrown apps such as Roposo and Moj have already hinted at their own ambitions in this space. Similarly Trell is a lifestyle video commerce platform where users can discover, search content and purchase seamlessly.

Historically, a traditional print or television ad’s path to purchase was qualified based on causal sales trends and guesswork at best. However, with shoppable ads, marketers gain greater conversion attribution across a range of channels.

Trusted content

Social media and video blogging have become some of the key components with increasing brand awareness, especially among India’s Millennial and Generation Z populations. More than 90 percent of consumers have discovered new products and brands on YouTube, and 68 percent and 60 percent of Indian women and men respectively have bought items endorsed by an influencer in 2020. At the top of the influencer pyramid are YouTubers, followed by actors and celebrities and then Instagram content creators.

So why would consumers buy directly from influencers rather than from the brand itself? That largely draws from a sense of trust: India’s biggest influencers have spent years curating their content and building relationships with their audiences. It’s the next best thing to personal recommendations.

This affinity to an influencer helps customers visualise their product purchase before completing a transaction. From product instruction to style inspiration, influencers’ ability to personalise a product and give it a real-life flavour is unmatched.

As well as encouraging trust, influencers also bring efficiency. For example, a brand can combine multiple products into an influencer’s image, thereby bundling their products within a single shoppable ad.

Not only does this decrease the number of ads filling a users’ feed, but it also encourages consumers to buy a set of items rather than a single product. Marketers can then ensure the efficacy of their campaigns by bringing custom audience segments to find followers and viewers who recently searched for their product or those similar.

Most importantly, influencers, if well-chosen, can bring their unique creativity to a brand’s campaign. Those who can creatively leverage areas such as live streaming and Reels will provide customers with an engaging and interactive journey for customers. AI and ML enabled tools like INCA not only help eliminate human biases and make creators selection data driven by helping brands identify creators who resonate the most with the brand and talk to the right audience. As the influencer ecosystem grows and planning becomes far more complex, automated tools like INCA will play a big role in building efficiency and giving scale to influencer marketing campaigns.

As of 2021, 75 percent of India’s retail industry is not organised – or without systematic operations. For brands and their agencies, this is a nightmare landscape. With shoppable online ads, however, marketers gain a clear view of their campaign’s journey and customer purchase cycle. This type of content will not only increase brand awareness, which in itself gives marketers a competitive advantage, it will also play a major part in encouraging consumers to make that final purchase click. Shoppable ads paired with brand messages delivered by trusted influencers in a an authentic manner, is what will keep customers coming back.

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