A new global study from Rakuten Marketing reveals the proportion of marketing budget being set aside for influencer-led campaigns has nearly doubled over the past two years to reach 40% in 2019.

The study, which focused specifically on marketers in consumer-facing brands such as fashion, cosmetics and travel companies, unveiled that in the UK, marketers are now setting aside in excess of £800,000 per year for influencer campaigns. However, they are investing this budget very differently from two years ago.

In a similar study Rakuten Marketing conducted in July 2017, UK marketers projected allocating just 24% of their marketing spend to influencer campaigns. Despite this, UK marketers working on influencer programmes admitted they were happy to pay Facebook celebrity influencers up to and in excess of £75,000 for a single post mentioning their brand.

In 2019, this figure has fallen by almost £50,000 to just £25,000 per post. Rather than just investing in high tier celebrity endorsement, marketers are investing in the advocacy of so called ‘micro-influencers’ with 10,000 or fewer dedicated followers. In fact, marketers would pay nearly £26,000 for a marketing campaign from a micro-influencer.

Influencers enable brand discovery as well as purchases

Alongside the marketer survey, Rakuten Marketing ran a consumer survey among 3,500 respondents globally, unveiling four in five consumers across the globe have now purchased something recommended by an influencer they follow by clicking on a link or image they shared.

As such, there is clear evidence that influencers are driving direct purchases for brands they collaborate with, but it is also important to remember that influencer marketing also plays a vital role in the brand discovery and product research stages; 49% of global consumers use influencer marketing to learn about new brands and products.

Anthony Capano, Managing Director EMEA at Rakuten Marketing comments, “Knowing that consumers are going to influencers for trusted recommendations on new products may explain the shift from celebrity to micro-influencers. Micro-influencers tend to be typically more engaged, as are their audience who feel like their friends. New tools exist that let brands and marketers measure influencer marketing’s impact. It is now a good opportunity to take advantage of to enable stronger relationships with the most brand-relevant influencers for their businesses rather than simply going for the largest influencers, who may not bring back the same return on investment.”

Mind the measurement gap

This has driven a change in the methods being used by marketers to measure campaigns. In 2017 86% of marketers expressed uncertainty around how fees should be calculated, and 38% were not able to tell whether a particular campaign drove sales.

In 2019, the number who do not feel they can tell whether a particular influencer marketing campaign has driven sales has shrunk to 29%, and three in ten marketers now state they ‘completely’ understand how influencer fees are calculated.

Exploring possible causes of the progress in marketer understanding, the proportion of marketers measuring the impact of their influencer marketing efforts by indirectly influenced sales has risen by 12% to 32%.

The position-based model most closely defines how most marketers work out influencer payments in 2019 and last click is now the least popular method for working out influencer payments. However, it is still in use by 25% of marketers globally, and notably by 30% of UK marketers, who are far behind their US counterparts on just 18%.

Capano continues, “Influencer marketing has continued to be an incredibly hot topic for marketers who are clearly putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to backing these campaigns. However, the issue of measurement still proves murky. Two years on, it is clear that marketers are making strides to ensuring they understand the real impact that influencer programmes have on the purchase journey, before spending huge sums of money. However, there is still a gap between what they are measuring and their spend. If this industry continues to grow at the rapid pace it is now, decreasing that gap will be key.