Why Your E-commerce Brands Need Ambassadors
Brand ambassador marketing is rising in the ranks. Brands of all kinds are figuring out just how effective it is to build a community of loud, proud advocates and use them to drum up social buzz and drive sales.
Word-of-mouth marketing has been around as long as goods and services have been available. People knew where to get the best of whatever they needed based on where their friends and family acquired them. As advertising has become more and more complex, word-of-mouth marketing has continued to evolve.
Social media has pushed word-of-mouth marketing into a new era, one of influencers and ambassadors who no longer have to be prominent celebrities, but can be, instead, just somewhat well-known in a particular niche.
As e-Commerce brands operate primarily online, using these online brand ambassadors has become an increasingly popular method of spreading brand awareness and broadening reach.
What is a Brand Ambassador?
As soon as you start promoting a brand you love – even in as simple a context as recommending or raving about it to a close friend – you become a brand advocate. If that brand reaches out to you or vice versa and you enter into an official partnership where you’re rewarded for your promotions, you officially become a brand ambassador.
What do these rewards look like? Often, brands reward are based on the complexity of a task. Some may earn brand ambassadors gift card credits, points, cash, or even free products.
A true brand ambassador does not just promote any brand that will pay them. One of the hallmarks of brand ambassadors is authenticity. This means brands should only seek to work with brand ambassadors who truly love their brand and align with their brand values.
Are Brand Ambassadors the Same as Influencers?
Not exactly. However, brand ambassadors do have an air influence on those around them. Influencers are more akin to online celebrities. They may have hundreds of thousands of followers, but not always a large amount of genuine engagement.
Furthermore, influencers are starting to turn their online presence into a full career. Entering into a partnership with a high-profile influencer typically involves coordinating with a manager and agreeing to prices set by the influencer themselves.
Brand ambassadors are more similar to micro-influencers. They often partner with brands as a hobby or side gig and are willing to agree to the company’s terms and the rewards they set. They also tend to have smaller followings, but this is a good thing. It has been shown that lower follower numbers often correspond to higher engagement rates. There are a number of reasons for this.
For one, with fewer followers, brand ambassadors are able to better engage with their community. They can respond to comments and follow back a greater number of their followers, building real connections. Additionally, many influencers who have hundreds of thousands, or even millions of followers either have a large number of fake followers, bots, or followers that they purchased.
When searching for brand ambassadors, remember that engagement rate trumps follower count. Every time.
Types of Brand Ambassadors
- Celebrity – Brands will sometimes hire a well-known celebrity to represent them in advertisements, on their website, on social media, in interviews, and more. This celebrity becomes the face or spokesperson of the brand. Examples include Michael Jordan for Nike, Dwayne Johnson for Under Armour, and Rashida Jones for Zenni Optical.
- Student – Brands with a college-aged target audience often create student ambassador programs and primarily partner with students attending post-secondary education. Student ambassadors often host events or stunts on campus and no longer hold their ambassador status once graduated. Some brands, like Victoria’s Secret’s PINK label, have a select amount of ambassador positions available each year. Ambassadors are hired like employees, sent to training, and hold contracted positions for that year only.
- General – This is the type of ambassador most brands work with. Brand ambassadors can be anyone, so long as they are authentic and fit the brand’s image and values. While we refer to these ambassadors as general, meaning they could be anyone, what that looks like will vary from brand to brand. A men’s watch brand may be looking specifically for men in their 30s-40s who present themselves online as loving luxury brands and a high-end lifestyle. While a gaming accessory brand may be looking for men and women in the 18-25 range who post mainly about video games and pop culture.
- Employee – Many brands are also starting to use their employees as ambassadors. Less for the purpose of selling their products and more so for attracting other potential employees. Employee ambassador programs may offer rewards for referrals made for job postings.
What do Brand Ambassadors do?
True brand ambassadors represent a brand in all aspects of their life. Whether that means using or wearing the brand in their everyday lives, making social media posts featuring the brand, or talking about it in online forums or in person.
Some brand ambassadors may partner with only one brand. This is commonly seen with either people who really love a particular brand but do not see themselves as online leaders in a niche or celebrity ambassadors who are contractually obligated to an exclusive partnership.
Other brand ambassadors may represent quite a few brands at a time. Ideally, a brand ambassador who works with multiple brands sticks to a handful of brands that they genuinely love and use in their daily lives. When someone starts promoting too many different brands it can start to look inauthentic, as if they’re only promoting products to earn the perks.
When you start officially partnering with brand ambassadors, you are able to start incentivizing your community to promote your brand. This gives you more control over the type of content and the timing.
You can send out free products to ambassadors before their launch so that you have lots of user-generated content featuring your newest release on the official launch date, you can request reviews of particular products, and you can ask your ambassadors to create holiday content – the sky is the limit.
Ambassadors can also act as brand affiliates. By providing them with discount codes or tracking links unique to each ambassador, you are able to track any sales referred by a particular member of your community. This allows you to offer ambassadors commissions, prompting them to go out and make sales.
At their core, brand ambassadors create social buzz for your brand, drive sales, build trust and loyalty, and grow your brand through authentic relationships.
Why Should E-commerce Brands Work With Brand Ambassadors?
Brand Ambassadors Build Trust
We have described ambassadors as “authentic” a number of times. That is because there are very few forms of marketing these days that people would describe as authentic. Trust for paid ads is on the decline. People are starting to see online ads as the caricature of the sleazy car salesman with more oil in his hair than in the car he is trying to sell you.
A study from 2021 revealed that among surveyed adults in the United States, only 46% believed television and print ads were trustworthy. When it came to social media ads, that confidence declined to 19%
Influencers were previously seen as a solution to this lack of trust. Why would you need to trust the brand directly when you could trust a massive celebrity who is confirming how wonderful their product is? And it worked for a while. But as influencers became more popular, some people saw the position as a means to financial gain and took partnerships with brands they have never even tried.
As influencers made revealing mistakes or were involved in scandals with brands, people naturally lost their trust in these social media stars as well. Brands are turning now to smaller creators with genuine communities because they have built rapport and trust with their followers, allowing them to build trust with your brand as well.
Gain Reusable Content
User-generated content is one of the biggest assets of ambassador marketing. Content is time-consuming and expensive to create for your brand. And even when you put in the effort, branded content is less effective than content created by the people who actually use your products. Content created by your customers is invaluable. And when you have a whole community of brand ambassadors creating content for you, you free up a lot of resources.
Using brand ambassadors allows you to curate the kind of content you want. You can create detailed briefs and guidelines to commission content from your community. And so long as it was stated in the contract your ambassadors agreed to when starting their partnership with your brand, you have full rights to reuse this content on your social media channels, website, and paid ads – anywhere you need content!
Brand Ambassadors Boost ROI and Sales
Brand ambassadors have the potential to be your best salespeople. Discount codes and tracking links that earn them commission encourage your brand ambassadors to make sales. And ambassador campaigns often come out on top in terms of ROI when compared to paid ad campaigns, generating on average twice as much revenue.
Ad prices are rising, but you always control the cost of an ambassador campaign. True, you get what you invest. You are unlikely to get consistently incredible content if all you offer your ambassadors is a $1 gift card, but you can set up rewards based on performance to ensure that you are hitting your goals before you pay out.
Promote Long-Term Results and Relationships
While the idea of something working near-instantly is tempting, often tactics that get you massive results in a short period of time fizzle out just as quickly. Ambassador marketing is a long game. But, it pays off.
As you grow your community and build loyalty, you decrease customer retention costs. Your ambassadors are long-term customers who stick with your brand because they truly stand behind you. Moreover, they inspire others to feel the same.
During tricky economic times, people reduce their spending. When they do spend, they are more likely to stick to brands they know and trust – as they have less disposable income to risk trying unfamiliar brands. Building trust and loyalty with your ambassador community means that not only can you use them to promote your brand, but you can rely on them to continue purchasing from your brand long in the future.
Experience Community-Led Growth
What is better than growing your brand community? Having your community grow your brand! When a brand ambassador community is thriving, they begin to grow itself. Your brand ambassadors are representing you even when they’re not performing assigned marketing tasks.
If you put in the time, effort, and finances involved in building an exciting and engaging brand ambassador program, your brand ambassadors will naturally talk about you in their online and offline lives. This grows your community, grows your brand, generates social buzz, and lowers customer acquisition costs.
How to Get Started
Smaller brands looking to start a brand ambassador marketing program often start by recruiting their customers through social media posts and their brand newsletter. As ambassadors sign up, brands will manually manage their ambassadors – often through spreadsheets using a program like Google Sheets.
The benefit of using a manual management system for your brand ambassadors is that there is little to no extra cost required. Additionally, if you keep your program small, this may be a sufficient strategy. If you are interested in scaling your brand ambassador community, you may wish to invest in an ambassador marketing platform.
Regardless of the management method you choose, here is what you’ll need to start your brand ambassador program:
- A community of customers or fans of your brand who want to create content in exchange for rewards
- A way to communicate en masse and individually with your ambassador community
- A strategy outlining the goals of your ambassador program and the insights you’ll use to measure those goals
- A method of validating that your brand ambassadors have completed the marketing tasks you’ve assigned
- A budget for your campaigns
- A way to reward your brand ambassadors
- A system to track data like impressions, interactions, sales, revenue, and any other relevant information
- A dedicated manager for your ambassador community
However you decide to start, one thing is clear. You should start. Building a fierce community of brand ambassadors is a must-have for any E-commerce brand that wants to grow and boost ROI through word-of-mouth marketing.