Amazon’s steady growth into a major advertising destination has deepened its interests in influencer marketing.
The Amazon Influencer Program launched in 2017 as a way for influencers to earn a rev-share from driving sales on Amazon through links on their social media posts.
Amazon gives influencers a vanity URL (amazon.com/shop/influencername) that leads to a personal storefront on Amazon.com. There, influencers can promote a curated selection of products that they sell on Amazon, or that match their personal brands.
Having a storefront allows influencers to link directly to Amazon through channels where hyperlinking a URL isn’t possible. Influencers often embed a tracking link in their Instagram captions, but have no way to track swipe-up engagements on their Instagram stories. Influencers receive a standard fee for each purchase they drive on Amazon, which varies by product category.
Today the influencer storefronts are bland, but sources say Amazon is developing a publishing tool that will allow influencers to easily port their social media content, whether static images or videos, from channels like Instagram and YouTube, directly to their storefronts. Brands can also use the publishing tool to pull in content from their social channels and websites to make their storefronts more engaging, one source told AdExchanger. The tool is manual and still in early stages of development.
Better creative is exciting for advertisers who want to add more emotion to their product pages on Amazon, said Kieley Taylor, head of paid social at GroupM.
“This is the opportunity to have one-by-one aspect ratio, either static or video, that would click through to the product detail pages,” she said.
The program is currently open to qualifying influencers with a YouTube, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram account. Amazon can approve YouTube and Twitter accounts instantly, while Instagram and Facebook accounts can take up to five days.
To vet influencers, Amazon looks at their follower count, the type of content they post, how much content they post and its relevancy for Amazon shoppers, a spokesperson said. Amazon isn’t recruiting the most popular influencers, but ones that have proven they can drive traffic.
“Amazon is teaching influencers on other platforms to point back to Amazon, and teaching consumers how to go down the funnel from a social platform to purchase on Amazon,” said Jeff Nicholson, chief media officer at VaynerMedia.
Brands can access the program through Amazon’s advertising team directly. It’s not currently linked to Amazon’s DSP or Amazon Web Services.
Why influence on Amazon?
Advertisers are excited about the ability to extend their influencer relationships to Amazon to gain a better understanding of how influencers and social media channels drive sales on the world’s largest ecommerce platform. Influencer marketing is poised to hit $15 billion in ad spend by 2022, according to Business Insider Intelligence.
Influencer marketing is difficult to measure, due to unreliable tracking links and analytics that aren’t always shared. But influencer spend could grow if brands can tie campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter to direct sales.
Brands also want to know if Amazon’s sales data can predict which influencers will drive sales on Amazon.
“Many brands and agencies think of influencer as largely an awareness play,” said Joe List, social commerce media director at TPN Retail’s Velocity Commerce Group. “Being able to move it further down the funnel is a really important step.”
It’s unclear, however, how granular Amazon is willing to get with brands, or whether it will launch ad products – like retargeting – that capitalize off of influencer content. While Amazon can tie referral data to sales, it may choose to aggregate that information due to privacy concerns.
Marketers in CPG, fashion and beauty, which rely on Amazon for an increasing portion of their sales are balancing their interest in the product with hesitation to fully embrace Amazon as it rolls out competitive private label products.
“Brands have to decide: is Amazon their friend, enemy or both, and where they sit in that triangle,” Nicholson said.
The pilot is too small at the moment to gauge its performance, sources said. Amazon is likely testing and learning with smaller brands and influencers until it gets a few solid case studies before rolling it out more broadly to enterprise clients, Nicholson said.
“They have to work up to change consumer behaviors and get [them] used to the platform’s behavioral elements before they make $100 million bets,” he said.
The rest of the influencer ecosystem
Amazon’s approach to influencers is unique because it’s using content and talent from other platforms to drive traffic back to its own store, Nicholson said.
“Every other influencer program is solely focused on creating content on their platform,” he said. “[Amazon is] harnessing the reach of other platforms, making it easy to track the generation of sales, and making it convenient for influencers to make money.”
Through this program, Amazon has the potential to become a major destination for influencers who have made their names on other platforms. While most influencers built their followings on YouTube or Instagram, Amazon is offering them a more direct way to monetize their influence.
The program has upside for other platforms too, since it can prove influencer campaigns drive direct sales on Amazon. Smart influencers often post their content across platforms and avoid getting locked into one platform.
But platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are likely watching closely as they seek to become ecommerce destinations.
Update: this story previously said the Amazon Influencer Program is in pilot. It is currently live.