Influenster is a community of over 3 million social savvy shoppers that review products and share their opinion to help other members to find new goods and make informed purchases. Since the launch of Influenster service, over 14 million reviews have been created on more than 2 million products.

Influenster: App And Cosmetics

Co-founded in 2010 by Aydin Acar, the company’s chief executive, and Elizabeth Scherle, Influenster’s president, the New York-based service has 70 employees monitoring and curating reviews that get added to the platform every month. But initially there were just two people, who were inspired to create such a helpful service, – Aydin Acar and Elizabeth Scherle.

Influenster: Aydin Acar and Elizabeth Scherle

Cinderella’s Story

It can seem that Elizabeth Scherle’s story is pretty familiar. She was born in a small city on a farm in a family of artists. After finishing a W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, she moved to New York not because of big dream, but thanks to a vacant room, which her sister, ballet dancer, had. Elizabeth tried her hands in several companies, including a startup that produced fashion events for indie designers. “I was actually really bad at event planning,” – she shares. Noticing Scherle’s marketing talent, her boss threw her into client partnerships and sales.

Influenster: Elizabeth Scherle

 

It turned out that if you have a desire to improve a brand, it’s easy to sell and don’t feel cheesy. This experience led Elizabeth to the founding of Influenster. “I learned the power of product trials. [Women] would buy tickets to the events and get the bags for free, and they would just go crazy. And the brands wanted to know more about the people they were giving the products to. At that time, these brands weren’t collecting any data and feedback on the products sampled,” – Scherle says.

By chance, Elizabeth’s friend Aydin Acar was also curious about what guides people during buying process. They both set out to answer the following questions: If you give people products for free, can you get them to answer surveys about it? And if you can, is that a service companies would pay for? The answer was “absolutely yes”!

Influenster: Aydin Acar

Inspiration

At the beginning, the company was convinced as a platform, where brands could find information about consumers query. “We were really on the cusp of the social media craze with brands. A lot of them didn’t even know people could talk about their brands on social media,” – Elizabeth explains.

First Influenster’s sells weren’t successful. Then there wasn’t any influencer marketing. Founders had an idea to pay some celebrities to make them talk about the service, but it required a huge amount of money, which Influenster didn’t have.

Influenster Mobile App: Questions And Answers

 

 

Suddenly, it turned out that ordinary consumers want to share opinion about goods they have. “We sent out these products and we just noticed that people were posting about them and tagging us. And we weren’t even asking them to,” – Scherle says.

Time and patience

The concept of the platform came to founders while they were working with several brands in their product sampling initiatives and Aydin was working at a market research firm.  They noticed that consumers don’t leave feedback on products they buy. Moreover, brands get results from small respondent pools and taking a long time to gather to be stable.

“We felt there was a way to arm marketers with real-time, authentic data and research if we activated consumers in this age of social media to provide real feedback.  Because of the rate at which information now travels, consumers have a massive amount of say in the success of a product.  We wanted to find a way to harness this power on social media — not only to help brands pinpoint and engage targeted consumer demographics, but also to create a community where consumers have the final say,” – Aydin mentions.

VoxBox. Influenster Beauty Box Unboxing

But the most impotent factors of Influenster’s success are patience and work. “To be successful, you have to put a lot of thought into every move you make because each decision could mean the difference between sink or swim”, – Elizabeth says. “For us, the key was getting face time with clients. But when nobody knows who you are, they’re less willing to take a risk on your product and your services. It didn’t matter that I had worked with some of these brands at my previous job. Without a reputation to precede us, we heard a lot of “no’s”. At times, it was difficult not to get discouraged”. Being confident in the platform, Aydin Acar and Elizabeth Scherle worked hard and gained both clients’ trust and repeat business.

How it works

Influenster is a community of invited trend setters, social media mavens, and educated consumers with a lot to say.  It motivates users to share their opinion. As a reward for a social activity, consumers get coupons, discounts and boxes of free stuff.  Brands’ profit is having honest feedback for products, which will help them to improve their goods.

The key factor of Influenster’s success is client retention. Over 85% of participating brands utilize Influenster for additional programs.

Influenster Advantages

Why do they want to come back? “Not only do products and brands gain a ton of social media traction, but our members are also thoughtful, creative, and thorough in their responses”, – Elizabeth shares. “Companies love seeing some of the great user-generated content our members come up with.  Marketers know that while reach and frequency in media can be purchased, authenticity and advocacy cannot and this is the basis of what Influenster delivers”.

In addition, brands get honest feedback on their products. They learn first-hand what rating they have next to their competition, what goods they should improve and ideas for future products. What is more, the service influences on the actual sales, lifting brands see through Influenster’s programs.

VoxBox

Influenster has a loyalty program that sends out thousands of boxes a month full of free full-sized products. The main idea of the VoxBox is that users share their opinion in social media and tell subscribers, what they think about goods.

VoxBox: Influesnster Unboxing

VoxBoxes can contain hundreds of dollars worth of free stuff.  But it isn’t so easy to get it. To become a possessor of the box, you have to leave comments, answer questions, increase number of your readers and ask friends to join Influenster. All these actions are aimed to develop the platform and raise awareness of the service.

Getting VoxBox once, you can receive it again. Also you need to repeat all actions again. In this way Influenster builds PR-company, which coasts almost nothing.

Office Life

Now Influenster  is not only Aydin Acar and Elizabeth Scherle, it’s a big team. Founders tried their best to create a friendly and welcoming workplace.

Influenster Office

“It’s very much a work hard, play hard environment at Influenster. The team consists of some of the sharpest minds in the NYC startup scene, and we get to collaborate and bounce ideas off of one another on a daily basis”, – says PR-manager Stephanie Tan. “Our open floor plan fuels the creativity, and the dogs brighten up our day! We bond over Thursday Tastings of each team member’s food & drink culture, Summer Fridays, catered lunches, monthly company outings, holiday celebrations and much more”.

Influenster Office: Dogs

 

It is evident that management makes a concerted effort to keep the warm and collaborative culture intact as the company grows. Because all achievements are recognized, team members feel appreciated for who they are and for the work that they do.

Cooperation with Ebates

Thanks to collaboration with Ebates, leading online cashback shopping service, Influenster has raised $8 million in financing.

Ebates is a subsidiary of Rakuten — the multi-billion dollar Japanese holding corporation which owns stakes in the entertainment service, Viki, the messaging service, Viber, and was a lead investor in Pinterest. Following this investment, Ken Hirschman, Ebates’ Vice President of Strategic Alliances, will join Influenster’s board of directors.

Influenster And Ebates Collaboration: Coupons

“Marketers already understand the importance of earned and owned media over paid media,” explains Aydin Acar. “With this round of financing, we are now able to laser-focus our mission to enhance our product discovery platform where social shoppers come to engage in discovery, conversations, reviews, and offers, while giving brands the opportunity to enter the conversation, populate the digital sphere with meaningful user-generated content, and become household names.”

“Ebates and Influenster have a unified vision of empowering shoppers with the best incentives, information and deals,” says Hirschman. “We look forward to working with the team at Influenster to provide shoppers with a richer and deeper online shopping experience.”

How to succeed?

Overall, Elizabeth Scherle believes that the most important thing to reach a goal is belief in it. “Confidence is critical; seek advice and be receptive to constructive criticism, but don’t bend so much that you lose sight of your own vision. If you 100% believe in your idea, others will too — it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy!”

Influenster Statistics

 

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