As coronavirus continues to spread and non-essential businesses shut down, companies like customizable accessories brand Stoney Clover Lane are rethinking influencer marketing strategies, halting gifting and instead focusing on building relationships with customers.
Some are turning to influencers at this time as a way to create content, with large gatherings and non-essential operations like photo shoots on hold indefinitely. Influencers are asking followers what type of content they should share at a time when outfit-of-the-day posts and promoted pictures don’t feel quite right. Eric Dahan, CEO and co-founder of influencer marketing firm Open Influence, said the company has been tracking “hundreds of thousands of” sponsored and organic influencer posts over the last few months, and from Feb. to March, he has seen a steep drop of roughly 15%. In Stoney Clover Lane’s case, gifting product to influential bloggers and models has come to a firm halt for the foreseeable future.
Prior to the outbreak, Stoney Clover Lane was sending packages to influential friends of the brand, influencers who recently purchased or followed the brand, and influencers who might be interested in the product based on their style. In some months, the company’s brand team sent as many as 50 packages, but on average, they sent about 20 a month. Now the company’s influencer outreach is at a complete standstill.
“Some influencers are still promoting things, but do people want just a random box sent to them at this time? I don’t know. We have to be careful about resources and where we are using them right now. For our priorities, that’s not where we are at right now,” said Kendall Glazer, co-CEO and co-founder of Stoney Clover Lane.
Glazer said these packages weren’t light on the product — they typically contained five or more pieces — and it required a lot of time and research to create the perfect assortment of customized pouches, bags and travel accessories for each influencer. The brand has never paid influencers to post, but it typically gifts $500 to $1,000 worth of product per influencer in the hopes that the person will shout out the brand on social media.
“Where another brand might send out a few cosmetics, we are sending customized things to each person. We are taking into account what colors they like, their kids’ names,” said Glazer.
Last week, the company shut down its single retail location in Palm Beach and postponed the opening of a Hamptons seasonal pop-up location in April. The team also closed its New York City office on March 13. The company’s 20-person fulfillment team, which customizes, sews, packs and ships all orders, works there. One or two Palm Beach-based employees have been able to go to the Palm Beach store each day for the past three days and fulfill some orders.
With influencer outreach at a standstill, Glazer said the brand team is focused on shifting the company’s content strategy, primarily on Instagram. Typically, around this time of year, Stoney Clover Lane would be ramping up for posts about spring break, what to pack for vacation and ideas for bachelorette parties. Last week, Glazer said, she halted all content plans, including sending product to influencers, and laid out a plan for the upcoming weeks.
Influencers played a big role in the former content plan. In the past, the brand has sent packages to Arielle Charnas of Something Navy (1.3 million Instagram followers), actress Sara Foster (538,000 followers) and former Bachelorette contestant Becca Kufrin (1.3 million followers). With packages not going out at this time, Stoney Clover Lane is turning to user-generated content, asking a big customer to do an Instagram Stories takeover, showing off their collection of Stoney Clover Lane products, once a week.
“As a brand you just need to be careful not to be insensitive. It’s important to not come across as opportunistic at this time,” said Dahan.
Glazer said she is also spending a lot of her time responding to customers’ direct messages — on everything from order status to skin-care tips — to the brand’s Instagram account and her own personal account. Stoney Clover Lane is also sending out emails to customers asking if they want to get on the phone with a team member to talk about upcoming collections, products the brand should make next and even what they’re watching on Netflix.
“During this time, we plan to get to know customers in a more serious way, calling some of our most loyal customers and asking them what are they looking to purchase. We are planning future collections, so why not take their opinion into account? We would love to have done this before, but we didn’t have time,” she said.
The brand team is also putting together weekly playlists every Friday, highlighting other small businesses that are still taking orders and asking employees to share what they are watching, reading, cooking and listening to.
“We can’t shift too far from who we actually are, but we are seeing engagement too and seeing what people are gravitating toward. We’re just taking it day by day,” said Glazer.