What do Walmart and Shopify have in common? A keen understanding of the power of influencers and why curated, influencer-driven marketplaces may be marketing’s Next Big Thing. The next wave in “direct to consumer” (DTC) may be led by influencers—and some of the world’s biggest brands.

The Details:

Last week eCommerce platform Shopify launched Shopify Collabs, a creator marketplace that serves as a match-making tool for influencers and creators and merchants. After a creator is approved for a Shopify Collabs account they can use Linkpop, Shopify’s link tool, to share a collection of products from Shopify partner merchants on their social accounts. When posts drive purchases, Influencers get paid. Walmart is also rumored to be in the process of launching its own influencer-driven marketplace due to recently filed patents. Walmart would join Amazon as a newer entrant into influencer marketplace matchmaking with a yearly add spend topping several billion dollars. Influencers drive value not only for merchants participating in link-sharing but also for the brands that offer that feature them on their platform. 

Why It Matters:

Effective influencers drive sales. A recent survey revealed that for every dollar a brand spends on an influencer, they earned an average of $5.78, with the highest earnings hovering around $18. Platforms like Shopify benefit from influencers raising their profile as an alternative to behemoths like Amazon and Walmart, while the latter may gain new attention from young or niche audiences that might not see either platform as a source for unique or curated collections of on-trend merchandise. Influencers deliver incredibly valuable, “hand-crafted” advertising that is targeted to the new audiences that brands need to reach. Influencers work like self-contained creative agencies, filtering through insights about what their audiences want and delivering content that engages them and eases them through the sales funnel effortlessly. When influencers get on board to share the products or brands that they love “free” in hopes of driving sales, retailers may save millions in ad spending simply by opening up their platforms, ala Shopify, and making it easier for influencers to do what they do best—drive awareness (and sales).

The Marketers’ Takeaway:

Because influencers are experts at finding new audiences and responding to their needs with engaging content, marketers’ biggest challenge may be finding the right influencer for their brand. Influencers can provide long-term value to brand marketers as product lines scale and business models change by bringing real-time, unfiltered insights to marketers who can use those learnings to improve conventional campaigns and tailor special offers to new audiences.