‘Not there yet’: Amazon is a looming giant in influencer marketing

Launched two years ago, Amazon’s influencer program still isn’t quite going anywhere, say brands, agencies and influencers.

Most people don’t know about the program. It invites celebrities, micro-influencers and, in some cases, regular people with moderate followings to sign up for their own pages, with urls at Amazon.com/shop. There, people can curate lists of things that they’re endorsing. Those links live within the Amazon ecosystem. Called “Stores,” the program also acts as an affiliate program, letting influencers make a cut of anyone who uses those links to buy goods on Amazon. 

Amazon has largely been quiet about the program. Some influencers Digiday spoke to for this article said they’ve anecdotally heard of more people in recent months being asked to join the program. (A recent story in Business Insider referenced an increased number of tweets and social media posts from people that say they’ve been asked to get on the program.)

Overall, though, the program has mostly been a way for people to make lists of products they use, whether it’s clothing, tech equipment or pretty much anything else Amazon sells, then make a storefront showcasing those products. Influencers get paid on a fixed commission basis, getting a cut from sales. Brands and agency buyers are interested in the program because Amazon could make it powerful if it wanted: The incredible amounts of data the marketplace has, coupled with the direct link to commerce an influencer program can create, could make this a real opportunity.

But whether by design or accident, that hasn’t quite happened. Reasons vary: Amazon is largely quiet about the program, so many people don’t know about it. There are some reporting issues with it, with the data coming back to influencers about how they’re performing still remaining quite thin. And overall, it seems to be, at least for now less clear how brands can directly work with it.

Corey Martin, head of influencer marketing at 360i, said that “influencer commerce” remains the next big phase in influencer marketing’s evolution, which is why the traction he’s seeing on other platforms to swipe up to buy is here to stay. “Amazon has a significant role to play in that, but it’s not there. I don’t get clients asking for it. I don’t see it woven into a lot of campaigns,” he said. “The reason is, it’s evolved in service of influencers’ own economic needs instead of brands’ needs.”

Martin said what he’d like to see is to have influencers, who often double up now as retailers for brands, use Amazon as a retail platform as well. “It needs to be made about a direct sale.”

Vincenzo Landino, who is in the influencer program, said that his overall experience with the program has been fairly positive. “I’ll try anything,” said Landino, a video creator who uses the program to link to gear he uses. “There is some clout when you send people an Amazon link, it makes me look better, I can tell people I’m an Amazon influencer.”

Landino makes about a $1,000 a month from the program, from people making purchases on Amazon through his links (commission rates vary depending on the category but are between 1 percent and 10 percent). He also makes some of that money through a Bounty program, where influencers can post buttons about Amazon’s own products and get a cut. He currently has a “Sign up for Amazon Business” button, which he says earns him $15 if someone does. It’s $3 payout if he signs up for other things, like Prime Pantry, Fresh, Twitch or 30 days of Prime.

Influencers get paid in Amazon gift cards or direct deposit. (There’s a charge if they want a check instead.)

Amazon doesn’t break out much in terms of data — the dashboard pulls both affiliate and Stores data, and includes clicks, conversion percentage and total earnings.

Brian Fanzo is a “millennial keynote speaker” and the founder of a company called iSocialFanz. He’s been an Amazon influencer for two years now, mostly using it to endorse and promote gear he uses, like video cameras or tripods. “It feels like a product play, not a real thing where you can share why you are using products. It just seems so commercial.”

Like Landino, he said there is an authority to being on Amazon, although he only makes about $300 to $500 on it. “Its unfortunate for us because if it was slightly improved, I’d be able to amplify and focus it,” he said. “The reporting is still lacking.”

Fanzo and Landino both said that there is a lack of customization of the page to make it feel like it’s theirs, which doesn’t really help in selling it to brands. 

“It never got big. I’m disappointed in it only because they can do something more with it,” said Landino.

Amazon declined to comment for this story.

“I haven’t seen a lot of it in the market,” said Marketplace Ignition CEO Eric Heller, who works with brands on their Amazon advertising. “My take is that Amazon’s strongest programs are those that are closest to the middle of the river: Programs that enhance the FlyWheel and ways people already shop.”

Some influencer agencies working with Amazon influencers, but overall, said Collectively founder Alexa Tonner, traction is slow.

It’s basically the affiliate program but you can have a landing with all of your recommended items versus linking to individual products,” she said. “Influencers usually link to individual products, so it’s easier for their followers to purchase, so I’m not sure what the landing page is really bringing to the table. Amazon says it’s a benefit, but it seems like it benefits Amazon the most with greater exposure to products and the Amazon site.”

The influencer program has some big names on it, including celebs like Mark Cuban. But for mid-tier influencers — non-celebrities who have grown up because of social media and are usually in certain categories, like fashion or fitness — the program is a nice add-on for incremental income.

Will Margaritis, who heads e-commerce at 360i, said the product reminds him of Amazon Spark, the social feed of photos open only to Prime members that by most accounts has been a dud. 

“Amazon is in general so cautious and conservative about sharing data that I can see why this hasn’t been a big thing for them,” said Margaritis. “I’ve spoken to people at Amazon who don’t know the program exists.”


This story initially said Amazon only paid influencers in gift cards or check. They can also be paid via direct deposit at no charge. 


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