Vera Bradley’s efforts to tap micro-influencers as part of their marketing strategy is one important component of its effort to reach consumers across a broad span of age groups. — Vera Bradley

Why it matters:

  • Consumers are more interested than ever in supporting local communities: 57% said they shop local to keep money close to home, and 38% percent support local businesses to feel connected with their community.
  • Micro-influencers tend to have smaller audiences, with anywhere from 2,000 to 15,000 followers that can connect brands with local markets.
  • Via tech used by Pura Vida, the bracelet startup it acquired in 2019, Vera Bradley is tapping micro-influencers to target individual communities with the right voice.

Among the more significant developments to come out of the pandemic is consumers’ increased focus on supporting local communities, including local businesses, said Daren Hull, president of Vera Bradley, a seller of bags and other accessories known for their colorful patterns.

“One of the outcomes of being locked down is that you get to know the stores around you,” he said, in an interview with CO—.

That local connectivity is a key element of Vera Bradley’s embrace of micro-influencers, or consumers who help promote the brand within communities on social media. The company recently rolled out a program to identify and reward these micro-influencers, called VB Brand Ambassadors.

The rollout followed Vera Bradley’s 2019 acquisition of Pura Vida, an importer of colorful beaded bracelets that already had a well-established micro-influencer program in place. Pura Vida had been leveraging technology to manage its micro-influencer program, and Vera Bradley incorporated it into its own website in March, following an overhaul of the site last August.

“It is less about technology and more about how the brand connects with people on the local level,” said Hull.

[Read here for three key facts on influencer marketing.]

Tapping tech to target demand in local communities

A recent survey from Intuit found that consumers have been enthusiastic about supporting local businesses in the past year, both online and in-store. The survey found that 57% of consumers said they shop local to keep money close to home, and 38% percent said they support local businesses to feel connected with their community.

That spirit of community connection is what Vera Bradley is seeking to leverage with its micro-influencer program, Hull explained. The Vera Bradley brand, known for its bright colorful designs and quilted patterns, has long been a vehicle for women to connect with each other, he said, noting that the company’s luggage and bags are often conversation-starters.

It is less about technology and more about how the brand connects with people on the local level.

Daren Hull, president, Vera Bradley

Vera Bradley also has long leveraged influencers, such as college and university students, but the company’s new program offers more tools that help the brand better manage the process from a business perspective. New technology from Refersion now helps the company “identify people who have a disproportionate amount of reach in their community,” said Hull.

“We can’t be in every ZIP code at the same time, so [the technology] helps us understand where there are strong pockets of demand and enthusiasm, which helps us use our store base and our associate base to drive events in those locations,” he said.

Potential brand ambassadors who are enthusiastic Vera Bradley fans and have a social media presence can apply on the company’s website and earn 10% cash commission on qualifying purchases made by friends, family and followers.

“We want to find people who add value to our community and the process — not just people who can potentially sell,” said Hull.

Unlike celebrity influencers (Vera Bradley also has a relationship with actor and producer Lana Condor), micro-influencers tend to have smaller audiences, with anywhere from 2,000 to 15,000 followers, with whom they are more closely connected. These intimate communities can help Vera Bradley not only reach local markets, but also specific interest groups, such as consumers interested in products that are sustainably made.

[Read here about companies built on influencer marketing.]

Reaching shoppers from ‘8 to 80’ with life stage-geared products

Hull described the effort as being just one facet of the company’s overall social media strategy, and an important component of its effort to reach consumers across a broad span of age groups.

Vera Bradley seeks to communicate with its customers, and provide product designed around the demands they have at different stages in their lives. For younger customers, this could include products they may need when entering high school or college, and for older customers it could mean items they may need for short travel excursions.

These consumers across generations are all connected by their attraction to the vibrant color patterns of Vera Bradley’s products, Hull said, as well as to the brand’s intangible assets, which include its cheerful, positive and supportive brand persona. All of those attributes are reinforced through social media, as well as through its micro-influencers.

“The important thing is, it’s not just the quilted handbags and accessories that bring them together,” said Hull. “A lot of it is the color, and the happiness, and more recently we have a lot of sustainable products — these are things you can be 8 or 80 and still appreciate.”

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Published May 24, 2021





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