If your Instagram feed has led you to believe that influencers spend more time on vacation in some exotic locale than they do at their flawlessly decorated homes, you're not alone — or incorrect. Labels and retailers are increasingly dependent on social media to sell clothing, and with data proving that shoppers are most inspired to make purchases after seeing items worn in context, the logical solution is for them to give influencers some Insta-friendly context to serve as the backdrop for their outfit posts.
From Revolve's budget-breaking, highly branded #RevolveAroundTheWorld trips to Net-a-Porter's more intimate "Jet-a-Porter" gatherings in hotspots like Tulum and Mykonos, you'll rarely find an image of a top industry influencer on holiday that isn't accompanied by a designated hashtag. One of the newest additions to the wanderlust fold is RewardStyle: The platform, which collects commissions from retailers on sales driven by bloggers and publishers, officially introduced #LTKgetaway in May as a way to leverage the company's consumer-facing app, LIKEtoKNOW.it, that debuted in 2017.
After learning that the travel space was a high traffic driver within the global LTK community, taking a handpicked crew of influencers on an impeccably planned vacation made perfect sense: Not only are they driving the sales of the clothing, accessories, luggage and beauty products they pack for their all-expense-paid jaunts, they're also inspiring their followers to book travel to the same photogenic destinations — in some cases, at the same hotels — with the hope of having a similarly magical experience. With trips to Mykonos, Mexico and the Amazon already in the books, #LTKgetaway is meant to help audiences find off-the-beaten-path excursions, restaurants, spa services and more based on recommendations from the influencers who've been there.
"With the LIKEtoKNOW.it app, you can find your 'people' and curate your life," says RewardStyle Founder and President Amber Venz Box. "You're finding people based on more than just a personal style or body type — it's also about finding people who have a similar lifestyle, budget or stage of life that's relevant to you." Only influencers accepted through LTK's application process (of which 30,000 have been accepted since 2011) can publish on the shoppable app; aside from fashion, home decor and travel are among users' top interests, offering influencers uniquely expansive opportunities for revenue.
Fairmont, which hosted influencers on a getaway to Mexico at its Fairmont Mayakoba property in June, is among the first resort companies (along with Starwood) to partner with LIKEtoKNOW.it, allowing users to book a stay or activity without having to leave the app. "It's an example of a company that comes to LTK to invest in influencer marketing but in a very scientific and tech-enabled way," explains Venz Box. "We're casting [the trips] based on historical performance data, on true engagement beyond likes and comments. We know that consumers buy most from these specific people and who their consumers are... For the hotel, we're able to make sure that this is something that suits their needs, as well as who their consumer is and who they're trying to attract. It's more than just having cool people stay at their property."
Of course, clicking to buy flights and luxury accommodations for a trendy spot like Positano, Ibiza or Marrakech will come at a cost that's exponentially higher than even that of, say, a Dior bag or some Gucci shoes. In addition, a vacation is very rarely an impulse buy, and often takes months of planning and consideration. But in a similar way that legacy fashion brands see influencer seeding as a way to introduce millennial and Gen Z consumers to their label for future investment purchases, resorts simply want to get on followers' radars, as they'll likely turn to their beloved Instagram stars for travel recommendations once a spring break, a summer trip, a wedding or a honeymoon is on the horizon.
"Travel is a great example of full-funnel marketing," Venz Box says, noting that before she travels, she'll search a city's location tag on Instagram to see what attractions people are talking about. "If I'm going to the Tulum area, where am I going to stay? I remember that all of these influencers stayed there, and these were those photographable moments on the [hotel] property that I can take advantage of. It starts from just knowing and being at top of mind when it comes time to booking that vacation."
When it comes to the all-important content creation — most often in the form of shoppable outfit posts — RewardStyle has over 4500 retail partners (including multi-label department stores like Nordstrom and e-commerce giants like Amazon) encompassing one million brands. Because of this, influencers can wear whatever they want in their #LTKgetaway posts and aren't restricted to certain styles or sizes that one of them in particular wants to push. As a result, there's a much more diverse pool of influencers being invited on these trips — most notably plus-size women, who often have a limited selection to shop from at prominent online retailers like the aforementioned Revolve or Net-a-Porter.
"We as global citizens are not all tall, thin blondes or petite, culturally ambiguous brunettes," Venz Box says of the platform's data-driven casting and reporting strategies. "It's tough for brands sometimes to get outside of who they want their customers to be, but [RewardStyle] has helped them really understand who's buying their product. You as a brand might think that the preppy girl from Dallas, Texas doesn't align with your brand, when in fact she's selling more [of your] products than the tall, thin girl in New York."
Another marketing tactic that sets #LTKgetaway apart is that, while competitors tend to focus on the inclusion of megainfluencers with followings in the millions, RewardStyle extends invitations to its community of micro-influencers who have smaller audiences, albeit robust, highly engaged ones. "We've become a nation of niche," Venz Box says. "We see influencers who are successful by going super-deep within their specific group — for example, a specific nationality mixed with a certain body type and in a certain region. They really own those categories and have such influence over that audience."
With #LTKgetaway, RewardStyle and LIKEtoKNOW.it aim to capitalize on consumers' desire for the wanderlust lifestyle in a whole new way, thanks to the realization that audiences are shopping for much more than just the clothes from any given influencer's vacation posts. The proof is in the sales data, so the next time you are tempted to write a hashtagged tropical trip off as yet another frivolous freebie, it couldn't be further from the truth.