Macy’s taps staff for their influencer clout

Discussion
Source: Macy's
Jun 06, 2018

Retail TouchPoints Staff

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.

Macy’s is turning its store associates and personal stylists into social media brand ambassadors, allowing the retailer to exert more control over its influencer network, according to Glossy.

Employees are now eligible to apply to the Macy’s Style Crew program, which has them share promotional posts on their social media feeds to promote Macy’s products and services. For example, a video of a bartending tutorial leads to glassware and other cocktail accessories available on Macys.com.

The program has grown from a trial of 20 ambassadors in fall 2017 to the current network of 300 employees. Participants share short video clips produced in partnership with Macy’s and Tongal, a branded video program, which showcase the employees’ personal interests. Style Crew members are incentivized with a portion of the profit realized from product sales.

The move is part of the retailer’s push to be viewed as more fashion- and trend-driven, according to Cassandra Jones, SVP of fashion and digital strategy. Similar efforts have been undertaken by Kate Spade, which featured one of its general managers in an unboxing video, and Everlane, which regularly features its head of social media on its Instagram page.

Lovesac marketing manager Mike Majlak and Astral Health & Beauty VP marketing Julie Campbell recently explained how retailers need to evolve their relationships with influencers into two-way partnerships during a presentation at the 2018 Retail Innovation Conference. They discussed how influencers can help craft messages while marketers help guide the content.

The use of non-traditional influencers, such as micro influencers, is gaining popularity, according to Bob Glazer, founder of affiliate marketing agency Acceleration Partners. While micro influencers only have 10,000 to 50,000 followers, they often inspire higher levels of engagement than high-powered influencers with millions of followers. A study by X-Cart found that micro influencers have a four percent engagement rate, compared to a 1.6 percent engagement rate for celebrities.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of Macy’s use of store associates and personal stylists as social media ambassadors? What advantages and disadvantages do you see vs. using professional influencers and bloggers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Consumers are looking for authentic perspective, they will be more critical when it comes to posts and reviews coming from company’s own employees."
"The upside is sales professionals will have deeper engagement in their work as their employer is providing them with additional purpose."
"Using store associates as personal stylists and social media ambassadors is a great addition to a multi-faceted influencer program. "

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20 Comments on "Macy’s taps staff for their influencer clout"


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Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

Long before the days of social media, store associates were often among the best customers (and brand ambassadors) of most retailers. We live in a more distrustful world today (“How objective can this person be if she is on the payroll?”), but Macy’s idea still has merit. The messaging needs to be carefully managed, however, in order to appear authentic instead of manipulated. Word of mouth, in whatever guise, continues to be a powerful marketing tool.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

I think Dick is right: Macy’s has to balance authenticity with the brand message in a way that works for all the parties and is effective within the influencer’s network. I think the objectivity will work, especially with the assortment a department store offers. Just as long as the influencer stays true with their posts.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

This is absolutely the right way to go, with two important caveats. First, make sure the execution does not fall into traditional “advertising speak.” It has to be an authentic person-to-person endorsement. Second, remember that ALL employees can access social media and be influencers of their own volition. And the people motivated to do so will often be ones with an ax of some sort to grind with the company. Actively managing your employee engagement to ensure positive online presence from ALL employees is critical. Several studies have shown rank and file employees to be much more influential in social media than corporate spokespeople.

Jennifer McDermott
BrainTrust

My question would be, what are the employees getting out of it? I can see lots of benefits for Macy’s, your employees SHOULD be your biggest brand ambassadors, but I worry about authenticity of this program.

Phil Masiello
BrainTrust

The whole point of an influencer is having someone who is not associated with the brand, yet promoting what they love about the brand. However, as we all know, this has evolved into influencers getting paid by the brands for an endorsement. But the consumer may still buy into the influencer because they aren’t associated with the brand.

But somehow this approach by Macy’s seems to me to be evolving into social media commercials for Macy’s run by Macy’s associates.

I think the customer may discount these influencers because they work for the company. But it will be interesting to watch and see how it is perceived.

Nikki Baird
BrainTrust
It’s about time! This is an enormous area of untapped potential, held back by executives fears of social media fails at the hands of their front-line employees. My question is, if you can’t trust your employees to be an ambassador for your brand on social media, then why did you hire them in the first place? Why do you trust them to talk to people IRL in the store? Handle cash at the register? One thing I like about this program is, it’s unforced — employees choose the topics based on their own interests. And they get paid if they do a good job, through commissions on the sales. I think these are both really important aspects — to make sure the content is genuine and authentic (and also not the result of some kind of specific promotional plan, i.e., this week you must sell X brand), and also recognizing that people are putting effort into this above and beyond the workday, and they should get paid for it if they’re doing a good job.… Read more »
Anne Howe
BrainTrust

Using store associates as micro influencers is a good plan, but Macy’s has way too many over age 60 associates, which will make this hard to scale. They’ll have to recruit the kind of associates that match a younger, hipper shopper cohort.

Scott Norris
Guest

The authenticity the associate brings to the presentation, her knowledge of the merchandise and how to use it, is what will deliver success. I wouldn’t perceive a 20-something still in college talking about professional wear to have much authority, for instance. Macy’s carries a broad range of goods for many different audiences, so I’d hope we will see that same diversity in the faces and stories that get told.

Phil Rubin
BrainTrust
1 month 15 days ago

Macy’s approach is a most refreshing social media strategy in terms of its authenticity. There is no shortage of distrustful information (isn’t that more professional than referring to it as BS?) on social media and within the influencer marketing space. Macy’s strategy here is especially smart given not only the real connection between retail associates and customers, but also its size and scale. More evidence that Macy’s is continuing to get its act together.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
BrainTrust

Staff and suppliers should be ambassadors if their heart is in it. But control of the message can be an issue, as can the potential for harm on the part of the growing influence of the ambassador. The poor selection of words or a joke mis-interpreted can cause big harm (wouldn’t you agree Rosanne?). To live by the sword must be a willingness to die by it. In my opinion, to corporatize staff enthusiasm and to surrender the right of denial should there be negative outcomes is to be reckless with brand protection and building.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Fabulous, authentic and real. What an opportunity for sales associates and personal stylists to grow and learn and expand their knowledge of retail as a business and a passion. Plus get rewarded/compensated for their efforts! Micro-entrepreneurs within Macy’s!

Many who work in stores do so because they love clothes, shoes, home, etc. I applaud Macy’s for their vision in this area, empowering so many sales associates and stylists with the opportunity to grow within their jobs. Professional influencers and bloggers have passed the point of interacting with customers and products on the floor. A great reason for Macy’s Ambassadors!

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Using associates as brand ambassadors can be a great idea. However, at some point, the persona of brand ambassador and an individual’s personal views may cross lines and not line up well. What happens to the brand image then? Is this new role of brand ambassador a one way activity with associates just posting about the brand or are they also charged with paying attention to responses, listening to consumers’ comments, and reporting this information back to the company?

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Who better to represent the Macy’s brand than their own sales associates? It’s high time for the sales associates to evolve and transform into brand ambassadors. Social media influencers are an extremely powerful force, and we should not underestimate the impact of employed brand ambassadors, who could effectively become micro-influencers within their communities. This also could lead to career growth opportunities, as the sales associates become advocates and experts of the brand

Today’s customer is increasingly spending their time browsing Instagram, and studies have shown that the see now/buy now model is gaining momentum. The report also noted the influence that Instagram has on purchase decisions, with 72% saying they have made fashion, beauty or style-related purchases after seeing something on Instagram.

Jeff Sward
Guest

The idea is as old as retailing. Salespeople and their black books. Unit buyers who knew many of their customers by name … and size and color preference and…. Now the salespeople have a vast new array of tools and channels of communication. Evolution works! How about that!

Joy Chen
BrainTrust

Building the social media ambassador community is always the right direction. However, the community must be balanced between company employees and independent social media ambassadors. Consumers are looking for authentic perspective and they will be more critical when it comes to more posts and reviews coming from company’s own employees. Fundamentally, the social media influencer plan must tie to a bigger strategic plan Macy’s is making with its overall consumer shopping experience for it to be effective.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust
The theory is O.K., but there is a major logic leap in the execution model. First of all influencers are selected by their peers. So, appointing influencers seems a bit wrong-headed. That means you are really creating brand ambassadors, not a bad idea at all, but different from creating effective social media influencers. The problem now is that many retail employees complain about their jobs to their friends, so they can’t be both authentic and effective. In a digital media world that lives to troll phonies, I think there is real danger that this kind of program could blow up and have an opposite effect. It’s a tricky business. There are models of success like the Tremors program Procter & Gamble pioneered years ago, but that model was based on cutting a deal with individuals who are already influencers and who — by and large — weren’t the sorts of people most corporate types are comfortable with. Where companies might seek out the captain of the football team or the class valedictorian, the P&G model… Read more »
Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I love this idea! Consumers are tired of the latest celebrity telling them what to wear and how to look. Real people don’t have the time to devote to look like celebrities, so what’s the point? Gen Z finds its influencers on YouTube, so they are already ahead of the game.

Macy’s using store associates and personal stylists as social media brand ambassadors and influencers is brilliant. StyleCrew highlights the value of shopping at its stores and showcases the talents of its team. And I like that the retailer is giving its influencers a share of the profits from sales.

I do wonder what will happen when a store associate takes off as an influencer and decides to leave. Let’s hope Macy’s has a plan because it’s likely to happen.

Ray Riley
BrainTrust

The retail sales professional and store associate are beginning to have a renaissance as retailers have begun to empower them more in order to reach customers, and create deeper engagement. The upside is sales professionals will have deeper engagement in their work as their employer is providing them with additional purpose, and assumingely some play as well. As mentioned heavily in the comments, authenticity will be essential: “You get paid to say that” could become a consumer reaction in some cases.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust
Consumers respect the advice and opinions of authentic friends in their network and celebrities and it can often influence their purchase decisions. Using store associates as personal stylists and social media ambassadors is a great addition to a multi-faceted influencer program. Sales associates may be perceived to be more “authentic” than celebrities or professional influencers, which is important to many consumers. The obvious advantage of professional influencers is that they typically have an extremely large network of followers. Macy’s surely is watching the success of Stitch Fix and taking a page from their book. As retailers adopt associate social media ambassador programs, they can extend the reach by encouraging other influencers to share the content with their networks. For example: providing influencers easy ways (with minimal clicks) to share content like “share a purchase,” videos and other product content, offering an incentive or reward for sharing content, and curating social referrals to your e-commerce site. Retailers can also add a real-time in-store connection to the associate influencers if they have the bandwidth. This is potentially… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest

There’s nothing remarkable about a salesperson making a recommendation — indeed it’s one of the main things that makes for a “good” one — but I’m dubious how well it can work in the largely anonymous world of social media. Would I really care what Jane/John Doe at Paramus had to say If I’ve never (even) met her/him? Macy’s probably has little to lose by trying it, but I wouldn’t count on overwhelming results.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Consumers are looking for authentic perspective, they will be more critical when it comes to posts and reviews coming from company’s own employees."
"The upside is sales professionals will have deeper engagement in their work as their employer is providing them with additional purpose."
"Using store associates as personal stylists and social media ambassadors is a great addition to a multi-faceted influencer program. "

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