In the past 12 months, the influencer economy has reached new heights: Beauty brands like Amika and Calvin Klein revamped and doubled down on their influencer marketing strategies, Macy’s and Equinox tapped their employees to become homemade influencers, and beauty and lifestyle influencers like Katie Sturino expanded their own successful brands and collaborations.

The global ad spend for influencer marketing is expected to reach between $5 and $10 billion by 2020, but the influencer economy will continue to change, evolve and be disrupted. Whether it be due to the introduction of more regulation (the Federal Trade Commission filed its first case against individual influencers, and not just brands, in 2017), the growth of micro and nano influencers, or the availability of better analytics for influencer marketing, 2019 is bound to see shakeups in the space.

Here, influencers, brand founders and other insiders share their bold calls for influencer marketing in the year ahead.

James Charles, beauty influencer:
“In 2019, I expect the influencer economy to continue to grow. More brands are realizing that this is the future of marketing and the most effective way to reach their target audiences. Smart brands will engage and partner with influencers who reach their target audiences and who have strong engagement with those audiences. There is a lot of sophisticated information available on the backends of these video and social platforms. Brands that will be most successful in the influencer space understand and leverage this information when evaluating partnerships. The conversation around influencers is always changing because the space is always changing. There are new faces, platforms and tools emerging every day. It takes marketing professionals who are extremely plugged into what’s going on in the space to grow successful influencer relationships. My hope is that the gap between how traditional media celebrities and digital celebrities are treated by brands will shrink significantly.”

Katie Rosen Kitchens, co-founder and editor-in-chief of FabFitFun:
“In 2019, we will continue to see a rise in micro-influencers as more and more brands realize the value in a smaller, but more engaged audience. In addition, we will officially enter the ‘fast brand’ era. With the e-commerce distribution stack fully developed, every influencer will want to be a brand, and they’ll be able to do it. In terms of customer experience, personalization is only becoming more important as today’s consumer expects not just a product, but a true immersive experience tailored to their own tastes and interests.”

Dr. David Lortscher, CEO and founder of Curology:
“Influencer marketing will transition from uncharted territory to a regulated part of business with implementation of stricter legal guidelines and directives from the Federal Trade Commission. Authenticity and trust will continue to be influencer marketing staples, with an emphasis placed on disclosing influencer/brand relationships. Influencer marketing budgets will continue to increase, and influencer endorsements will become more sought after than celebrity endorsements — and not just on at the macro level. Brands will seek to engage micro-influencers in campaigns and other branded experiences.”

Samantha Cutler, founder & CEO of Gen-Z makeup brand Petite n’ Pretty:
“For 2019, YouTube and social media in general will continue to be a big focus to drive awareness and establish an emotional connection with Gen Z users and millennial parents. There will be an even bigger priority to generate engaging content that creates a brand personality before selling a product. It will continue to be more and more important to make users feel like they’re a part of your brand in a genuine way in order to establish that authentic connection.”

Maya Mikhailov, CMO and co-founder of GPShopper:
“Next year can be major for validation of the influencer economy, but only if brands can validate an influencer’s actual reach and response and also provide authentic relationships with their desired audience. Brands like Glossier have already tapped into this idea of building a trusted forum through influencers and, in turn, are able to provide their customers with the product fixes and new offerings they’re hoping for. This symbiotic and authentic influencer-brand audience relationship needs to be top of mind for all retailers in 2019. Those choosing to partner with influencers strictly for their follower count rather than authentic brand alignment will find themselves missing out on a treasure trove of priceless and direct consumer feedback. This pursuit of authenticity in influencer interaction will also open the door even wider for micro and nano influencers in 2019, and while the focus on this type of influencer will provide new hurdles for brands (around aggregation especially), those that are able to navigate the space early on will find themselves truly capitalizing on the power of the modern influencer.”

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