Nordstrom is moving its influencer marketing strategy away from commissions

  • Nordstrom’s annual Anniversary Sale promotion has set the benchmark for influencer campaigns.
  • Some influencers are even said to have earned most of their annual revenue from event commissions.
  • But the company is now adjusting its influencer spend more towards flat fees.

Nordstrom was an early adopter of influencer marketing, especially among large corporations.

Its annual anniversary sale (or what’s casually called “NSale”) has, until recently, been dubbed the “Super Bowl of swipe-ups” on Instagram. Every year, social media followers look forward to the event to get the inside scoop on the latest sales, and Adweek has reported that some influencers even make the bulk of their income from it.

This year, however, the company appears to be adjusting its strategy and spending around fashion Instagram marketing. A spokesperson for Nordstrom told Insider that it will focus more on “awareness” campaigns than the commission-based deals it is known for. Essentially, the company will invest more in promotional campaigns for a lump sum than in partnerships where an influencer gets a cut of the sales they generate.

“We are expanding the ways we work with creators across all areas of our business and looking to invest more in outreach tactics than we have in recent years, which is generally more focused on fixed costs than on the commission rate,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Nordstrom is also investing in new types of influencers on apps beyond Instagram.

“We approached this year’s strategy with a focus on 1) strengthening our relationships with some of our closest creator partners by increasing our investment in paid sponsorships,” the spokesperson added. “And 2) working with creators who reach and represent new or potential customers, which includes diversifying our content mix and creator platforms.”

The Recent Controversy and Nordstrom’s Shifting Strategy That’s Driving Some Fashion Instagrammers to Walk Away

Last month at the NSale 2022 event, reports surfaced that the company had cut influencer commission rates this year. Business of Fashion reported that Nordstrom’s rate on LTK, a popular commerce platform, was reduced to 3.5% from 7% last year.

Some influencers have even started speaking publicly about the issue on their own Instagram accounts. Insider reached out to several users who made these public statements, but they declined to speak officially.

A spokesperson for LTK disputed Business of Fashion’s figures, but did not provide any numbers on record.

“We continue to see an increase in brand investment in influencer marketing,” the LTK spokesperson said. “This year represents the biggest investment for almost any brand on LTK, including Nordstrom. In the second quarter alone, we saw an over 50% year-over-year increase in spend with creators. LTK of brands.”

Asked about the issue by Insider last month, a Nordstrom spokesperson declined to elaborate on rates, but said, “Anniversary sales commission rates have declined slightly this year, even as our overall investment in influencers increases.”

Influencers have been integral to the success of not just NSale, but the brand as a whole. Nordstrom has historically used its network of online personalities to send all kinds of messages to its customers. Last year, it invited influencers to come to its physical stores to document and share their new COVID-safe shopping features.

The abandonment of commissions could mean that Instagrammers who rely on that revenue may have to look elsewhere, or to another type of influencer deal from Nordstrom.

“It’s important to note that Nordstrom continues to invest in influencers,” the Nordstrom rep said. “In fact, we’ve increased our spend with influencers overall, and they remain an important part of our strategy.”

And even before this year, some influencers had grown tired of the NSale event, and understandably started to walk away. Last year, some influencers told BuzzFeed News they had seen diminishing returns over time, citing feelings of oversaturation.

William L. Hart