A year ago January, TechStyle—an online, monthly subscription fashion retailer whose brands include ShoeDazzle, Savage X Fenty and Fabletics—had been dabbling in non-paid influencers, but paid influencer marketing was non-existent. But when Jennine Matthias joined the company as director of influencer marketing in February 2018, she began building the infrastructure to run a paid influencer program.
This year, that work paid off. January is a big month for the workout gear brand Fabletics, best known for its wildly popular leggings. As consumers by the millions laid the groundwork to get fit as a New Year’s resolution, TechStyle was unleashing an influencer army for the Fabletics’ brand to tap into that passion. That Kate Hudson is a partner and front women for the brand also added to the caché.
The services of more than 200 paid—and 350 non-paid—influencers were purchased at a total January spend of $600,000. The program drove an impressive 13,000 new customers, all from direct link clicks.
“Since January is our biggest month of the year, we really went after a lot of influencers,” Matthias says. “We had them focus on ‘It’s a New Year, New You.’ It was really the first time we were at scale and operating at the scale we want to be at. That was our biggest spend month to date and the biggest driver of sales to date.”
For the brand’s ongoing non-paid program, the goal is to work with hundreds, even thousands, of micro influencers per month per brand. These influencers receive product in exchange for posting and tagging the brands, like this post by Haley Pham.
“Within each brand we have a team that works with micro influencers, and at that level it’s really a volume play,” Matthias says. “We’re trying to work with as many people as we can who are of the right audience for us and that match our brand. We saw amazing results from that [for Fabletics].”
Since then, TechStyle continues to spend hundreds of thousands on the Fabletics’ influencer program per month and is still “seeing great numbers.”
Play by the Rules
TechStyle has a heavy hand in the messaging that influencers deliver, providing important points they need to hit in their copy as well as specifically what to say.
For example, influencers using Instagram Stories are required to share special offers for Fabletics— typically two pairs of leggings for $24. Influencers must submit a certain number of frames and all frames must have the “swipe up” copy on them or the influencer must verbally say “swipe up.” For campaigns posted on YouTube, influencers must verbally say “click on the link” to get a special discount with a subscription, as influencer Boho Beautiful does in this video.
“We’re experts in what is going to drive that [direct link click] action,” Matthias says. “These are the some of the specific things that we can ask the influencers to do that really improve conversion. It’s all about the call for action. Really telling people what you need them to do.”
Beyond Fabletics, TechStyle has influencer programs across all of its brands from micro, with a few thousand followers, up to household name celebrities that have millions of fans. From there, it pays influencers whose followers range from 50,000 up to 7 million, along with a few who work on commission.
“In this [paid] range, its mostly influencers on a per post basis,” she says. “We are a direct response company so we’re looking for conversion and clicks, we’re not looking at engagement metrics. We are looking for influencers that are going to drive traffic and that’s what we pay for.”
Ninety-nine percent of paid placements are on YouTube or Instagram Stories.
“These are the places where we find the most direct response swipe ups and clicks on video descriptions,” Matthias says.
Influencers with the largest followers also tend to get more brand integration, including their photos on the site and in marketing emails.
Actress Erike Jayne, a cast member on “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” designed a collection that lives on the TechStyle site and was promoted across a number of months to her followers as well as TechStyle’s social channels.
The Right Fit
TechStyle, of course, looks to influencers that fit its fitness genre, but also finds success with lifestyle and mom influencers, females in the reality TV genre like “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” as well as reality shows on Bravo.
“It doesn’t need to be someone who always focuses on fitness and working out who will work for us,” Matthias says. “If their audience is engaging and really listening to what they’re saying and loving what they’re saying then they’re making that purchase because they want to be like their favorite influencer.”
TechStyle uses Impact to evaluate influencer performance to track clicks, leads, sales and revenue on each influencer to calculate their cost-per-acquisition, the main metric in determining if an influencer is successful or not.
“Some influencers will just not be successful,” she says. “It’s impossible to determine ahead of time. There are a lot of factors that we look at to determine who we want to work with and how much we want to pay them, but at the same time it really is a gamble and that’s why you want to have the volume play.”