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Influencer Marketing Is Here to Stay, But Luxury Brands Are Still Catching Up

A new report from Fashion and Beauty Monitor provides insight into how high-end brands are balancing exclusivity with social media.
Chiara Ferragni at the Dior Cruise 2018 runway show. Photo: Dior

Chiara Ferragni at the Dior Cruise 2018 runway show. Photo: Dior

With 92 percent of consumers trusting influencers over celebrity endorsements, according to research by MuseFind, influencer marketing is only going to continue to rise among brands. But for the luxury sector specifically, it's proven to be a struggle. In association with Econsultancy, Fashion and Beauty Monitor's latest report — called "The New Face of Luxury," released on Wednesday — surveyed more than 300 responses from professionals and experts in the luxury industry on how they're approaching influencer marketing to boost sales and brand awareness. Read on learn more.

Partnering with influencers is still fairly new for luxury brands

Of the 73 percent of high-end brands using influencer marketing, balancing exclusivity and aspiration on social media — which, historically, is known to have democratized the fashion industry — is the biggest challenge. But influencer marketing is still a new concept for luxury retailers: Almost half of the survey's respondents admit that their influencer marketing program has only been active for about a year or less, while 28 percent of these brands have used influencer marketing for two years.

And brands still haven't really allocated a budget for this type of stuff

Influencer partnerships are still low on the totem pole when it comes to a marketing budget: Less than 10 percent is allocated towards influencer marketing among 59 percent of luxury brands. On the other hand, only six percent of luxury brands are putting aside half of their entire budget towards influencer marketing. But there's hope: 66 percent of luxury brands expect to increase their budget for influencer marketing over the next year. Cha-ching.

As budgets towards influencer marketing increase, so too will resources towards fostering and managing these types of relationships, according to 46 percent of luxury brands. (And, yes, we've seen "Influencer Relations Manager" job postings floating around on LinkedIn, too.) 

So far, the results of influencer marketing are proving to be "effective"

Their approaches towards influencer marketing are considered "effective" among 65 percent of luxury brands. And of those approaches, 73 percent of respondents note content collaborations — solely produced by the influencer — are "highly effective," especially surrounding product launches. One example is Something Navy's Snapchat post for a new mascara by Yves Saint Laurent, which, in a span of 24 hours, had sold 422 units, driving $13,500 in sales. Advertising and brand campaigns? Not so effective, says 26 percent of respondents. (Take note, Dolce & Gabbana.)

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Revenue is good, but generating online traffic is better

While revenue and sales from these influencer marketing types are important to 62 percent of brands, up to 79 percent of them would rather measure the success of an influencer partnership from the amount of online traffic generated. Perhaps that's why Gucci hired professional meme makers to promote their new watches?

Luxury brands are actively seeking influencers to work with

It turns out these brands are finding out about influencers the same way consumers do: by scrolling and searching through an never-ending online feed. This manual approach is popular among 78 percent of luxury brands, while 56 percent of them rely on recommendations from industry peers. For the tech gurus out there hoping to fill a hole in the market, now's your chance to come up with some type of research tool to make this process easier — there are already 30 percent of respondents who would likely buy it.

We hate to break it to you: Follower counts are still important

Influencer marketing is still about the numbers, according to the Fashion and Beauty Monitor, as 77 percent of luxury respondents say follower counts are "critical" or "very important" to determining who to partner with. 

But brands are approaching mid-tier influencers instead

The preference of micro- and mid-tier influencers is on the rise, as 40 percent of luxury brands would rather work with them over top-tier influencers, which are only appealing to 17 percent of these brands. In addition, 20 percent of responses show that luxury brands plan to work with more microinfluencers in the future.

And they want to experiment with how they partner with influencers

As mentioned earlier, a simple ad campaign starring an influencer won't cut it anymore for consumers, which is why 18 percent of luxury brands aim to be more experimental in ways they generate content for marketing purposes. Over the next 12 months, 11 percent of brands plan to create more video content. Does that explain why we keep seeing our favorite fashion bloggers launching YouTube channels?

Creative control will start leaning towards the influencer

With 61 percent of luxury brands maintaining that one's personal brand is important to influencers, they expect these individuals to negotiate partnerships and contracts more on their terms and artistic direction. Controlling the narrative of these influencer-led campaigns is also an added challenge for 59 percent of respondents. But it's what comes with the territory as influencers continue to take a stand on destigmatizing paid content and sponsorships. With the latest backlash from an influencer campaign like Fyre Festival, allowing creative control should certainly be a top priority.

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