Several factors have driven the outstanding success of fashion e-commerce site Revolve. It’s adept at staying on top of trends, capitalizing as they break and hurrying on before they become overexposed. It has built a roster of 19 data-driven, private brands that account for—amazingly—eight of its top 10 labels this year. And then, of course, there are the influencers.
Since it first started sending free clothes to bloggers in 2009, Revolve’s work with influencers has turned into a deluge of Instagram-friendly events and parties populated with social-media personalities large and small, who are shuttled around the world on Revolve’s dime. On these sponsored trips, skin-baring women enjoy brunches, beaches, and lots else in locations like Bermuda and Lake Como, sharing it all with their millions of collective followers.
Revolve is going public after years of rapid growth, and to understand how important influencers are to its business, consider this: In its IPO filing, Revolve mentions the word “influencer” or “influencers” 79 times. Influencers figure into the company’s observations about its present success and competitive advantage in fashion, in its future plans, and in the potential risks it faces. Here’s a sampling:
While our marketing competencies extend well beyond social media, we are recognized as a pioneer and a leader in social media and influencer marketing. We have built a community of over 2,500 influencers and brand partners, including many of the most influential social media celebrities in the world, whom we track and manage using our proprietary internal technology platform.
We intend to leverage the global reach of the REVOLVE brand and our influencer network to accelerate growth outside of the United States…We intend to increase our investment in Europe, Canada, Australia and, over the longer term, broader Asia Pacific, to bring the full power of our platform to consumers globally. In addition, we intend to expand the global footprint of our influencer network to better connect with customers outside our core U.S. market.
Our business depends on our ability to maintain a strong community of brands, engaged customers and influencers…We believe that much of the growth in our customer base to date has originated from social media and influencer-driven marketing strategy. If we are not able to develop and maintain positive relationships with our network of over 2,500 of influencers, our ability to promote and maintain awareness of our sites and brands and leverage social media platforms to drive visits to our sites may be adversely affected.
Influencers have an outsized impact on the purchasing behaviors of next-generation consumers. Influencers maintain a social media presence on platforms such as Instagram or YouTube, and have thousands or even millions of followers who view, comment, like, and share their fashion and lifestyle posts. For example, Camila Coelho, Julie Sarinana and Natasha Oakley (all of whom are part of our influencer community) have 7.3 million, 4.9 million and 2 million followers, respectively. Many followers engage with these influencers on a daily basis. The contrast with the circulation of U.S. Vogue magazine, 1.2 million in the first half of 2017, illustrates the societal shift from print to digital media. Influencers can have a more powerful impact than traditional advertising methods because they bring their followers into their daily lives and share their personal tastes and preferences in an authentic way.
Admittedly, plenty of the mentions are redundant, as the language in IPO filings typically is. But the point remains: Influencers are one of the underpinnings of Revolve’s growing sales of clothes to young women. Net sales have already clocked in at $245 million through the first half of 2018. Over the last 12 months, they reached $446.5 million.
With that kind of growth, Revolve is becoming more influential itself. Its outsized annual pilgrimage to Coachella is one of the forces that’s helped to make the festival practically a religious holiday for influencers. “I kind of broke the budget,” CEO Michael Mente joked this past spring. Revolve has even created its own mini-Coachella, where rappers including A$AP Rocky and Snoop Dogg performed this year.
It all sounds expensive, but according to the IPO filing, 75% of Revolve’s marketing budget actually goes to other forms of marketing, such as retargeting, paid ads, emails, and other strategies to turn browsers into active shoppers and encourage repeat purchases.
What it does spend on influencers appears to be paying off. The company told Glossy (paywall) a few weeks ago that influencers now drive almost 70% of its sales. ”We saw influencers as a direct pipeline to our customer,” said Raissa Gerona, Revolve’s chief brand officer. “We focus on millennial female consumers, and none of them are looking at magazines anymore, so we looked to who that customer was listening to.”