Research reveals the changing role of social commerce

New research has put the ever-changing role of the influencer into the spotlight, revealing demand from consumers for authentic, genuine, and transparent influencer content.

The research from leading provider of product reviews and user-generated content (UGC) solutions, Bazaarvoice, found that the everyday social media user has become the preferred influencer to follow for over half of consumers (57%) in Australia.

Whether it’s friends, family, peers, or wider networks, those that share day-to-day content, products, and places that they find a genuine interest in, without an agenda to promote, are now the most trusted for authentic and genuine content for over one third of Aussie consumers (36%).

However, Australians are seeking tighter regulations for influencers to ensure authenticity of content. Brands and retailers should keep this top of mind when engaging with influencers to ensure that they’re considered trustworthy among consumers.

Subject matter experts– from beauty gurus, to fashionistas, chefs, DIYERs, and stay-at-home mums – are viewed as the most trusted to share authentic and genuine content (44%). They are often targeted by brands to recommend, sell, or post sponsored content for products.

Despite this, the millions of users who follow celebrity influencers should not be underestimated, with over one third of Australian consumers mostly following celebrity influencers (43%), but there is now a significantly lower level of trust associated with celebrities. Three quarters of consumers (76%) do not care about the number of social media followers they have, it is all about the content.

Transparency is key 

The power of an influencer lies in the trust and authenticity established between them and their audience, making transparency fundamental. Countries around the world have implemented various regulations to enforce that transparency.

Despite the best efforts of regulatory bodies, over one third (37%) of consumers feel these rules have made no difference to how much they trust influencers, and two in five (41%) don’t think influencers have become more authentic in the last five years. In fact, 80% of consumers globally – rising to 82% in Australia – still want to see stricter rules for influencers to disclose editing or filters they used on published content.

Recent laws passed in Norway are requiring influencers to declare if their post contains edited or altered content. A quarter of Australian consumers (24%) want to see influencers who don’t comply with advertising laws banned from social platforms permanently or for a limited time. One in five want to see influencers banned from monetising their social media presence going forward.

Authenticity is a headache for brands

Unsurprisingly, it is posts by influencers that are not sponsored, and which promote general consumer content, such as recommendations, reviews, and photos and videos, which consumers trust the most (85%). Just 15% of consumers trust sponsored posts on social media.

Two in five respondents (42%) said they are more likely to take product recommendations from the everyday influencer, with 48% keen to see those consumers receiving PR packages from brands.

Bazaarvoice CEO, Keith Nealon acknowledged that consumers’ relationship with social commerce is rapidly changing.

“No longer do shoppers seek out recommendations from large celebrity influencers, instead they are now turning to the everyday influencer for authentic product recommendations and education through the use of user-generated content (UGC). This presents brands with a huge opportunity to utilise UGC throughout their marketing efforts, giving them access to unofficial ambassadors that are authentic and trusted by their followers and customers.”

Bazaarvoice managing director for Asia Pacific, Kate Musgrove added, “Demand for more authentic content from everyday influencers doesn’t necessarily mean that consumers don’t want curated brand and sponsored content at all, rather they want to see a mix. Brands need to be strategic and targeted in their approach to ensure their influencer partners are still delivering the right mix of content.”