Influencer marketing is booming, but it’s increasingly apparent that fatigue is setting in. Consumers have grown weary of synchronized sponsored content flooding their Instagram feeds, and brands are being inundated by requests for freebies from self-proclaimed social media stars.
That evolution in the influencer marketing space has created an opening that Neel Grover believes his new platform can fill.
Grover is founder and CEO of Indi, a video and photo engagement platform that consumers can use to monetize original content and host their own e-commerce channels. Using proprietary technology, the platform allows users to generate revenue through product reviews.
As the former CEO of Rakuten.com, Buy.com, and Bluefly.com, where he sold more than $5 billion worth of products, Grover saw the impending convergence of social media, commerce, and video before many of his peers. He also saw how adding video to product pages could increase conversions and knew that retailers had an urgent need to ramp up their libraries of product-related content. That experience went directly into Indi.
Although Indi is hardly the first platform to monetize product reviews, Grover believes that Indi’s level of authenticity will make the platform a favorite of brands that have struggled with inauthenticity and brand safety when working with social media users in the past. He says major companies like Starbucks, Hyatt, Nordstrom, Sephora, iTunes, Macy’s, and Ben Sherman are already on Indi. Brands use Indi to run ambassador programs and viral content challenges that incentivize users to create and share “shoppable” content related to their products or services.
“The brands’ customers become an army of commissioned micro-influencers paid on a performance basis for any sales that they drive through their content. The brands get compelling content from their true fans, and the fans get rewarded for spreading the word,” Grover says. “Indi manages all the analytics and micropayments in one easy place and provides curation tools for brand safety.”
Indi’s presence in the influencer marketing space grew larger in July, when the Irvine-based company launched a new app for its influencer users. The app helps Indi users make money from the content they’re already posting on social media and attract attention from major retailers through quickly recorded videos and photos. Users can also upload content to their Indi “channels” and attach product links to their social media profiles, blogs, or websites.
Although there are other companies doing pieces of what Indi does—for example, integrating social user content into websites or running affiliate sales models for influencers—Gover says his company’s platform is the only one focused on helping brands turn everyday customers into an authentic virtual sales force.
That authenticity is something that’s lacking in today’s influencer programs, as concerns over fake follower counts and off-brand content impact retailers’ willingness to continue forward in the space.
“Brands are feeling trapped by the duopoly of Google and Facebook and are happy to find a tool like Indi that lets them engage directly with their customers, collect user content that they can curate and repurpose, and get seen organically on social media through word-of-mouth sharing,” Grover says. “We find that brands are anxious to hear about how Indi can help them lower their costs and improve ROI on social media advertising and influencer marketing. It’s easy to test with us and launch a campaign with minimal lead time.”
Looking forward, Grover sees a growing expectation from consumers that they will encounter user-generated content along their path as they discover, research, and ultimately purchase products from brands, and he’s continuing to position Indi as the platform to fill that space.
“Right now we are very focused on more ways to help brands easily integrate the right user-generated content into the right moments of their consumer journey,” Grover says. “This could mean in an ecommerce flow, an app experience, in-store experience, [or] outbound marketing.”
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.