In 2014, singer-songwriter Nick Jonas posted on his Instagram a picture of himself wearing a sweater with the phrase “Merry Christmas, Ya Filthy Animal,” a line from the popular holiday movie “Home Alone.”  

That sweater was a product sold at online retailer Ugly Christmas Sweater Inc. And after Jonas’ post, the merchant quickly sold through all 672 of those sweaters it had in stock, says Fred Hajjar, the retailer’s co-founder.  

Nick Joans posts on his Instagram wearing an Ugly Christmas Sweater product. 

Nick Jonas posts on his Instagram wearing an Ugly Christmas Sweater product.

At the time, was not running an influencer marketing program. In fact, the merchant didn’t even know Jonas owned one of its sweaters. But Jonas’ post—and its impact—illustrated the power of what one person with a massive social media following could do and prompted the merchant to add influencers to its marketing mix, Hajjar says.  

Now, influencer marketing comprises 12% of Ugly Christmas Sweater’s marketing budget and ranks third behind Google AdWords and digital advertising, such as banners ads, in terms of marketing spend, Hajjar says.  

Ugly Christmas Sweater is one of a growing number of merchants that are incorporating influencers into their marketing mix. 63% of online retailers use influencer marketing, according to a Digital Commerce 360 survey of 105 online retailers conducted in June 2020. Plus, 38% of merchants said they will increase their influencer marketing spend this year. Unlike an ad from a brand, influencer marketing can be effective as the message is coming from either someone with authority on a topic or from a person the consumer is interested in. But there are downsides to the marketing channel. Some retailers say it can be challenging to find the right influencer fit for their brand. And results can be hard to measure. That has some merchants scrolling past the viral marketing tactic in favor of more traditional and measurable channels. 

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