The era of brands being in complete control of how, what and when to talk to consumers is coming to a rapid end.

Not so long ago, marketers would select some or all of the dominant platforms to talk to consumers – TV, radio, newspaper, Out-of-Home and Cinema – craft their messaging and push it out to the world. It was a one-way conversation and, by and large, consumers listened.

Of course, for big-ticket items people would ask their peers for recommendations or buy a publication like Choice Magazine, but it took effort to gain timely and trusted insights so many people relied on brand literature.

That was until the internet came along to change everything.

Web 2.0 not only gave people the opportunity to consume a lot more content, it actively encouraged them to create content. This meant democratising access to a wealth of reviews, research and recommendations as well as opening up new forms of revenue opportunities for brands and creators alike.

Put simply, consumers are no longer interested in just what brands say. Instead, they want to know what people they trust say about the brand.

Smart retailers now understand that they have to cede control of some of their brand messaging and work with a variety of creators (think bloggers, podcasters, macro and micro social media influencers) to act as trusted and independent intermediaries.

And here’s why:

Creators are trusted

As referenced, the internet came along and changed everything. When eyeballs shifted away from the dominant media mediums, they became fragmented across the web – and advertisers rushed to follow. Literally in some cases. Digital advertising evolved into something that is often intrusive, interruptive and annoying. Who hasn’t been followed around the internet by a pair of sneakers once googled during lunch hour or given pause for thought over how their data is being used?

The majority of consumers today don’t trust traditional advertising, with almost a third (34.2%) of Australian internet users blocking ads on their devices. Meanwhile, the majority of social media users trust user-generated content more than brand-owned creative. Authentic influencer and creator partnerships help brands reach their audiences in a trusted way and can help drive sales.

Creators are integral to the new path to purchase

With trust and tolerance for digital advertising on the wane, the customer purchase journey is no longer linear from digital ads to add-to-cart. Rather than relying on search engines for product research, buying, and reviews, more people are using social media as their one-stop-shop for online retail. Almost one in three Australians now visit social networks to look for information about brands and products. This trend has led to an increase in marketers shifting their advertising budget to low-risk, high-reward revenue from social commerce.

Further, as the worlds of shopping and entertainment continue to merge, Creators become even more important. A new report published by TikTok and the research firm Material reveals the role ecommerce plays on the platform, with over a quarter of all shoppers listing entertainment as the top motivator for buying directly through social media.

Creators are creating significant value

For brands such as Walmart, Harry’s, Ticketmaster, Spotify and more, partnerships are helping create up to 28% of overall business revenue. These partnerships also build strategies that capture demand, enhance customer experience, differentiate the brand, and deliver ROI in today’s rapidly changing, complex market.

Recognising that customers are inspired by the content and stories they see from their favourite influencers, New Balance Australia adopted an innovative approach to reaching one of their core demographic groups: a Gen Z audience. They recently ran a successful ambassador campaign among university students in Australia, aiming to connect with students in a way that felt like a grassroots movement.

New Balance’s strategy was to identify a number of independent students who were highly engaged in campus life. They leveraged Campus Group and student discount platform UNiDAYS to find verified university students, and then offered them referral discounts across a range of products via easy to use QR codes that they could share with their peers and friends.

Similarly, Australian start-up Zero Co, which sells refillable personal care and home cleaning products to help eliminate single use plastics, have built a referral partnership with AirBnB hosts who are looking to be more sustainable and earn a commission.

The good news for retailers is that it is now possible for brands of all sizes to manage these types of creator programmes via partnership management platforms like The technology does the heavy lifting so you don’t need to have large dedicated teams to manage global programs at scale. In fact, Australian luggage start-up July used’s partnership platform to launch into the US market at a time when they only had a team of 15 people.

It has never been easier for retailers to embrace the Creator Economy.

Ayaan Mohamud is regional vice president marketing – APAC at