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Influencer Marketing

Word-of-Mouth Commerce: Redefining Influencer Marketing in the Age of Authenticity

Word-of-mouth commerce emerges as the next evolution of influencer marketing, transcending traditional strategies to build authentic connections, drive meaningful engagement, and supercharge sales for your brand.
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Marketing trends come and go — yet amidst the ever-changing currents, one timeless force remains steady: word-of-mouth. From ancient marketplaces to modern social media platforms, the power of personal recommendations has been tried and true in shaping consumer behaviors and influencing purchasing decisions for centuries. 

At the heart of word-of-mouth marketing lies trust — the most valuable currency in the digital age.  In fact, studies show that 92% of consumers trust personal recommendations over a company’s messaging and 73% of online shoppers trust user-generated content (UGC) when making purchasing decisions. 

Today, word-of-mouth commerce emerges as the next evolution of influencer marketing, transcending traditional strategies not only to build authentic connections and drive meaningful engagement, but also to supercharge sales for your brand. 

What is word-of-mouth commerce?

Coined by Aspire, word-of-mouth commerce refers to the buying and selling of goods through recommendations, referrals, or third-party endorsements from trusted individuals. This can be in the form of: 

Word-of-mouth used to be associated with unpaid, unscalable growth, but today it is a highly scalable, profitable, and efficient strategy. Why? Modern-day influencer marketing is essentially word-of-mouth marketing at the biggest scale and on the biggest stage.

With the rise of lo-fi content, the growing power of the nano-creator, and the ease at which regular customers can become “influencers”, the influencer marketing industry has dramatically changed for the better over the last couple of years. The most successful brands today are going back to the basics and focusing on building authentic collaborations with more relatable people, from social media influencers and UGC creators, to customers and affiliates. 

By leveraging these new-age brand partners, you can operationalize word-of-mouth at scale and drive bottom-of-funnel, tangible business growth in the form of sales, conversions, and more. 

How to scale word-of-mouth commerce

1. Influencer marketing

Social media has become the modern marketplace — a virtual space where communities converge and conversations thrive. Within these digital ecosystems, word-of-mouth spreads like wildfire, shaping consumer perceptions and driving buying decisions. By partnering with social media influencers, brands can source branded content that is optimized for social and gain access to influencers’ devoted audiences. 

From detailed product reviews to try-on hauls, the power of peer-to-peer influence is undeniable. Brands that harness the power of influencer marketing can scale word-of-mouth and tap into the immense influence of their most passionate advocates.

@lexxhidalgo Well trained when he knows its skims @SKIMS Valentine's Shop opens 1/23 at 9 AM PT! #ad #vdayoutfit #valentinesday ♬ original sound - Lexi Hidalgo

2. Paid ads powered by UGC

Another way to activate word-of-mouth commerce is by repurposing UGC into paid ads. Created by real users, UGC provides the ultimate social proof for your brand. That’s why UGC-based ads get 4x higher click-through rates and a 50% drop in cost-per-click than average. And because UGC is diverse, you can easily personalize your ads to each audience segment you’re targeting — leading to higher performance at lower costs. 

The easiest way to turn UGC into paid ads is by leveraging platform-native ad features like Instagram Partnership Ads and TikTok Spark Ads. These tools allow you to seamlessly turn organic UGC into ads that run under the creator’s handle, enabling you to stretch the impact of your existing branded content and boost performance with little effort.

Examples of Meta Partnership Ads

3. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is another great way to activate word-of-mouth commerce. Those who love your brand are most likely already raving about your brand to their friends, family, and followers. Reward these brand fans by giving them a unique affiliate discount code or link to share with their audiences, from which they can earn a commission for every sale or conversion they drive. By doing so, you can effectively streamline the path to purchase for consumers and introduce a new revenue stream for your business. 

This strategy is a win-win for all parties involved. Affiliates have the incentive of revenue sharing, giving them the motivation to create more engaging content and drive more sales for your brand, while your brand reaps the benefits of their word-of-mouth marketing. As a bonus, affiliates’ dedicated audiences can save on their orders through the codes, while also supporting their favorite content creators.

@vanessafaga AD #laneige_partner doing an all-blue self-care routine with my favorite @laneige_us ♬ original sound - vanessa🎀

4. Brand ambassador programs

Consumers need to see a brand at least 7 times before making a purchase decision. That’s why a brand ambassador program is the key to success. Through long-term partnerships, ambassadors can establish a reliable narrative around your brand time and time again. This repetition of word-of-mouth builds trust, enhances brand recall, and overall strengthens the effectiveness of your marketing strategy. 

Take a look at these Instagram posts from Anna Archer, who is a brand ambassador for Gymshark. Not only does she have a deep relationship with the fitness brand — from co-hosting events like “Anna On The Run” to co-creating an exclusive activewear collection with Gymshark — but the ambassador also regularly posts workout videos sporting Gymshark activewear. Because of her long-term, authentic endorsement of Gymshark, her audience is more compelled to trust her recommendation and try out the products for themselves.

5. Customer referral programs

A tried-and-true word-of-mouth strategy is a customer referral program

Customers do more than just purchase. Today, customer LTV is measured by the sum of a customer’s expected spend, plus the influence they have on others to also make purchases. 

Turning customers into brand partners through referral programs will encourage them to continue promoting your brand to their friends and get rewarded for those they refer. In fact, more than 50% of consumers said they are likely to give a referral if offered a direct incentive, social recognition, or access to an exclusive loyalty program.

The future of influencer marketing

Word-of-mouth commerce is poised to become the ultimate currency of influence. In a world inundated with bland advertisements, authentic third-party endorsements will always be the key differentiator. Brands that prioritize genuine connections with their biggest brand advocates will rise above the noise, earning the trust and loyalty of consumers in the process —  even when their content is labeled as an #ad. 

By activating influencers, customers, and your greater brand community, you can unlock the full potential of word-of-mouth commerce, driving sustainable growth and lasting impact. 

Ready to get started? Contact us to see how Aspire can help. 

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