As part of an ongoing series, we’ll be sharing advice for brands looking to launch successful creator campaigns across different sectors. Last month, we offered tips for CPG companies. Now, we’re honing in on retailers. Read on to find out how they can optimize their creator marketing programs to better build brand awareness and drive conversions. 

Like many other industries, retail has changed significantly as a result of the pandemic. In 2019, only 4% of America’s 500 largest retailers offered online ordering with curbside pickup. But in 2021, more than 40% of Americans used this shopping method. And nearly three-quarters of people who have tried it said they would use it again, even after COVID-19 restrictions were scaled back. 

Thanks to a combination of emerging trends like “buy online pick-up in store” (BOPIS) and others, online shopping in the retail sector continues to grow. And, as a result, more companies are looking to strengthen their digital presence and expand their customer base. In the age of social media, there’s no better way to do that than by partnering with creators. But retail brings a unique set of challenges from a creator marketing perspective.

In an industry that is so competitive and consumer-focused, marketers are striving to establish a differentiated brand identity to stand out against the competition. To achieve real ROI, retailers should partner with creators that can deliver consistent brand messaging and honest product reviews—and be willing to stand out with a fun, non-conventional approach.

Keep your brand messaging consistent

Because retailers deal directly with consumers, they’re often tempted to succumb to trends and buzz in an effort to resonate with their customers. But to nail down a unique, impactful creator marketing strategy, you need to stick to your values. When selecting your creator partners, prioritize your brand identity first and foremost. Consistent messaging will earn your company more support and respect than hopping onto the latest social trend.  

Take CVS and its partnership with body positivity creator Mik Zazon, for example. To help set a more realistic beauty standard for their customers, CVS launched its Beauty Mark initiative in 2018 and made a public commitment to no longer materially alter their ads and beauty imagery. Nearly four years later, the company has kept that promise. 

As a passionate advocate for #normalizingnormalbodies, Mik’s partnership with CVS kept her cause at the forefront of the conversation. Known best for the heart-shaped birthmark on her face, Mik often speaks to her 1 million Instagram followers about her personal journey to self-love. In a Reel cautioning college students about the dangers of diet culture on campus, she highlights how specific CVS products—like protein and vitamin supplements—can better support their holistic health and wellbeing. 

With the power of creator marketing, CVS doubled down on its long-standing commitment to the Beauty Mark initiative by promoting the company’s products while infusing Mik’s story into the campaign, offering a more authentic perspective on body positivity. 

Creator partners are an extension of your brand identity—but selecting the right creators is just one part of the equation. To keep your branding consistent, make sure you can back your marketing campaigns by taking real action behind the scenes. 

Don’t underestimate the power of product reviews

Before buying a product, consumers want to have some sort of assurance that they’re paying for the real deal. For larger retailers, product reviews from micro-influencers can instill brand trust within smaller online communities. By keeping these reviews informative, straightforward and conversational, creators can offer exclusive insight into the product. This approach also enables consumers to make better purchase decisions, while driving engagement for the brand at the same time. 

Starbucks recently partnered with TikTok creator Breanna Brooks to help promote its new seasonal drink menu. With just over 27K followers, Breanna is a well-liked creator within TikTok’s food and lifestyle communities, and has a core group of followers who trusts her recommendations and regularly interacts with her content. For her partnership with Starbucks, Breanna actually enlisted the help of her boyfriend in taste testing each of the brand’s new fall-inspired drinks and snacks. The content shows them engaging in casual banter about which of the products they liked the most. 

While their reviews were overwhelmingly positive, Breanna was also honest about her preferences by letting her viewers know that her opinion was, for the most part, unbiased. For example, she only rated the Owl Cake Pop an “eight out of 10,” explaining that she preferred chocolate cake pops over vanilla flavored ones. 

Although a product review may seem like a simple piece of content, a lot of thought goes into its production. The setup and tone of the video, the creator’s personality, and their opinions on the product all factor into what kind of information is relayed to the consumer. Reviews are also an effective way to connect with potential customers, as micro-influencers provide a more direct pipeline to their follower base. 

Stand out with a fun twist on brand-creator partnerships  

Any company can take the initiative to launch an influencer marketing campaign. But in an oversaturated market, it requires some originality to stand out. To make a meaningful first impression on your customers, consider stepping out of your comfort zone. Catch your audience’s attention by elevating your creator marketing to the next level with an unexpected twist on new product lines and brand collaborations. 

Wendy’s, known for being the first corporation to master internet slang and openly post memes on Twitter, is no stranger to going all out with creator marketing. The fast food restaurant teamed up with a group of popular gamers on Twitch, such as Tfue, Myth and itsHafu, to offer a limited-time menu featuring each of the creators’ favorite meals. By ordering from the menu in real time via Uber Eats, viewers could participate in a giveaway with prizes including gamer-themed hoodies and a next-gen gaming console. To drive engagement, creators shared the menu on Twitter and promoted it on their livestreams. 

By launching custom meals designed for each creator partner, Wendy’s successfully implemented a unique, eye-catching marketing strategy that not only generated brand awareness, but also actively drove real conversions. 

In an industry that is so consumer oriented, brands should invest in creative activations that make a lasting impression on potential customers. To broaden your customer base, consider launching a special giveaway, producing new merchandise, or even extending a limited time offer to celebrate a milestone. 

And by creating memorable experiences for creators and their followers, leveraging product reviews from trusted sources and building on an authentic brand messaging strategy, retailers can find real marketing success in the long-term.