Global influencer marketing agency, TAKUMI, has published its latest annual industry trends analysis, ‘Influencer marketing in the pandemic era’, comparing the viewpoints of over 3,000 brands, influencers and consumers across the UK and US. These are the key findings.

Influencers cement position as marketing mainstay

The pandemic has pushed more brands to explore influencer marketing. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, seven out of ten marketers (70%) are now more likely to use creators in brand campaigns, while a similar figure (69%) agree that influencer marketing budgets represent a larger proportion of their overall marketing budget.

Effectiveness improves in contrast to other channels

The research finds that influencer marketing is the only marketing channel to increase in effectiveness since the start of the pandemic. Nearly half (46%) of consumers have been influenced to buy a product or service by a creator since in the last 12-months – rising from 34% in 2019.

The research also reveals that influencer marketing is the most effective marketing channel for driving conversions - second only to a recommendation from someone you trust (53%) – with the effectiveness of influencer marketing actually rising among older generations of consumers, from 57% among 16-24-year-olds and 25-34-year-olds to 61% among 35-44-year-olds.

YouTube was the most effective channels when it came to engagement, with 56% of UK and US consumers increasing engagement with the platform since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Diversity gap: a clash in attitudes when it comes to inclusive content

The research finds a disconnect between consumers and marketers over diversity and inclusion in the industry, with just over a quarter of UK and US (28%) consumers believing that brands’ influencer marketing content adequately represents diversity in society, compared to almost two thirds of marketers (62%). Encouragingly however, marketers are listening to the frustrations of consumers, with over two thirds (67%) using influencers from more diverse backgrounds in campaigns now than they did before the pandemic.

Consumer spending high as marketers use e-commerce tolls to drive sales

The professionalisation of the industry is gathering momentum with platforms enhancing their e-commerce functionality and over half (59%) of marketers use these tools more in their influencer marketing activity compared to pre-pandemic. This comes as our research finds that consumers are spending significant sums on products or services recommended by creators, with over one in ten (11%) and one in five (22%) US consumers influenced to buy a product or service between £51-£250 and $70-$346.

Alongside this, the research also explores how marketers can work with influencers in the context of politics and brand activism:

  • Nearly two-fifths of consumers (38%) believe social media influencers should be used as a platform to drive awareness and change on pressing social issues
  • Over half of marketers (59%) are anxious about working with influencers who are vocal about politics and social causes
  • Almost two-thirds of marketers (60%) believe creators communicate about political and social issues better than brands

Jim Meadows, Chief Strategy Officer at TAKUMI, says: “Like pretty much everything else, the influencer marketing industry has been completely changed by the pandemic. Fuelled by a rise in consumer engagement, our research reveals that branded content, engagement and consumer spending is growing across a range of channels and sectors.

“As consumers engage more with creators’ content and marketers become more familiar with it, their confidence in the channel grows.

“However, as it matures, the influencer marketing industry faces challenges to its current growth trajectory. If it can address issues around diversity and inclusion, and trust and transparency, the future looks bright for influencer marketing as it continues to cement its position as the most effective marketing channel.”