FEATURE: The power of the blogger’s voice

Research shows that bloggers have a greater influence on consumer buying decisions than online marketing. So how can retailers engage with bloggers to help boost their lingerie sales?

Lingerie bloggers have secured their place within the industry, becoming a mouthpiece for end-consumers to let brands know what they want, and getting beneath the marketing hype of certain products to enable consumers to discover what really works for them.

More importantly for lingerie brands and retailers, bloggers have the ability to influence consumers’ purchasing decisions. In a recent survey conducted by Technorati, consumers said that blogs rank higher than Twitter for shaping their opinions and higher than Facebook for motivating purchasing decisions.

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The report found that blogs are now the third-most influential digital resource (31%) when making overall purchases, behind retail sites (56%) and brand sites (34%).

Meanwhile, in a separate survey, conducted by Marketing Land in 2013, 90% of the 1,046 participants said their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews.

So why are bloggers’ personal opinions so valued among end-consumers? And how can retailers engage with bloggers to help increase customer loyalty and sales?

A trusted voice

Although lingerie bloggers may not be experts in producing and selling lingerie, they are often seen as trusted people who can offer detailed product reviews without being bias towards a particular brand or retailer.

“Consumers trust real people more than they trust companies, so the personal voice and recommendations of bloggers are really important,” says independent SEO consultant Jonny Ross. “Customers are also becoming more media-savvy and increasingly sceptical of paid advertising,” he adds.

Indeed, Neilson’s 2012 Global Trust Advertising Survey found that 92% of consumers trust earned media (such as recommendations from friends) above all other forms of advertising.

Verdict associate retail analyst Jessica Fioriti comments: “Consumers are easily influenced by those with whom they associate and by regularly reading a blogger’s post, they relate to the blogger and trust what they say even if they don’t actually know them, because the blogger is speaking to the consumer personally through posts or YouTube videos.”

Fioriti believes that brands and retailers should build a relationship with bloggers to help them connect with their customers on a personal level.

“Some bloggers can be followed by millions and it can be very powerful for retailers to be attached to popular bloggers that relate to their brand and target customer,” she says.

Detrimental effects?

Sharing editorial content provided by bloggers is important, as it helps brands and retailers differentiate themselves and engage with shoppers.

But, what if a blogger doesn’t like a certain garment? Could their negative reviews be detrimental to a business? Ross thinks not. He says people will talk about your brand online, whether you want them to or not.

“You can never fully protect yourself against bad reviews, but there are ways you can minimise their impact. The key is to increase the amount of positive content there is about your brand online,” he adds.

“The more effort you put into delighting your customers, both online and offline, the more positive comments and reviews you will receive from others.

“Customers are forgiving if they see a brand taking the time to respond to negative reviews and comments in a way that shows they care about their customers, are listening to their concerns and want to put things right. If dealt with quickly and correctly, negative comments can actually end up being a great way to achieve some good PR.”

Fioriti agrees and adds: “Blogger content is so regularly updated that if a blogger writes about not liking a product or brand it can be harmful at that time, but not enough to greatly negatively impact a consumer’s perception of a brand.

“Though consumers trust a bloggers opinion, they tend to take a negative review less personally if it did not happen to them. Similar to tweeting, it can be easily forgotten. However, it is very important for a retailer to mix with the right bloggers that suit their brand proposition and target market.”

Approaching a blogger

So, how should brands and retailers go about building relationships with key bloggers in order to increase their online editorial content?

First, they should find out who the key industry bloggers are by using websites like BlogCatalog and Technorati, advises Ross. “You can also check their online influence score on Klout,” he adds.

From there, brands and retailers should do their research on what type of content these bloggers usually feature, who reads their blog(s) and how they like to be approached.

“Only approach bloggers whose readership will be interested in your products; and approach them with an offer, not a request,” cautions Ross.

“This research and relationship building takes time, so make sure you invest sufficient resources to do it properly, otherwise you will annoy bloggers and be more likely to receive a bad review.”

One of the most important things brands should remember when approaching a blogger is to never assume that they will be guaranteed a link or a review just by sending a blogger a free garment.

Paid links are frowned upon by Google, and the search engine has recently warned it will penalise websites that appear to be more about link building than good content.

Chris Lake, director of content at E-consultancy comments: “I think there are a lot of brands that look at bloggers and think they can get something on the cheap.”

“You get tech companies who have flown out a bunch of bloggers on their target list and basically insist on coverage. I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t go to any event that told me that I had to write about it. So the same rules apply to bloggers as they do journalists. I think it is just about being fair,” he says.

Finally, brands and retailers must make sure they don’t overload on the amount of bloggers they reach out to – strike the right balance, says Fioriti.

“With bloggers, a sense of discovery is important, a blogger has found a special product and the consumer has been let in on the secret.”

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