The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale has become the biggest shopping event of the year on Instagram. Thousands of influencers, big and small, participate in what I have come to call the "Super Bowl of swipe-ups," sharing their picks with their audiences in the hopes that their followers will shop their links, which give them a commission.
Although the sale was delayed this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, and despite the shaky economy, many influencers haven't slowed down in promoting it. The sale opened to the highest tier of Nordstrom shoppers (those who spend $15,000 in a calendar year) last week, and many soon posted tons of photos and videos on Instagram promoting the sale. On Thursday, the sale opens up to the lowest tier of those in the company's reward program, the Nordy Club, meaning many more people will finally be able to shop.
In advance of the sale opening to the general public on Aug. 18, I solicited questions from people curious about how exactly the Anniversary Sale works for influencers, how and why it became such a big deal on Instagram, and how much influencers are really making from our swipe-ups.
Nordstrom and rewardStyle, the influencer monetization platform that runs the popular fashion app LiketoKnow.It, were game to spill the tea, although both declined to answer specific questions about exact commission rates or how much money influencers are actually making from the sale.
Still, their answers shed some light behind how exactly this Instagram behemoth works and why you can't escape it on your Explore page right now. Here are their answers to all your burning questions, from a Nordstrom spokesperson (NS) and a rewardStyle spokesperson (RS).
Influencers and the sale
Does Nordstrom recruit influencers for the sale? Are they paid to advertise it?
NS: Nordstrom typically works with bloggers and influencers through our affiliate program. If you’d like to learn more about the program or are interested in being a part of it, visit our site.
As with any affiliate program, influencers receive a monthly commission check for eligible sales generated by referring visitors to our site. Like any customer, digital influencers are able to shop during Early Access based on their Nordy Club status and being a qualified cardmember, and are not given preferential shopping access or products from Nordstrom.
Do influencers get free stuff from the sale?
NS: Sometimes our brand partners gift Anniversary Sale product directly to bloggers and digital influencers, but these products are not pulled from Nordstrom inventory.
RS: For some brand or retailer collaborations, it's not uncommon for influencers to be gifted items. However, that's not the case for the majority of rewardStyle influencers; many are purchasing products and participating in the sale organically. Nordstrom does influencer gifting, however, it is facilitated through their vendors and/or third-party brands who determine what products to send, and requests for promotion, if any.
Do you encourage influencers to promote certain items, or do they all just like the same thing?
NS: Influencers are encouraged to speak to the aspects of our brand and/or products they like best in order to speak honestly and curate the most authentic content for their audience. We encourage freedom in terms of styling the products, imagery featured, etc., and ultimately leave the decisions up to the influencer to generate content that feels representative of their blog and brand.
RS: We leave it up to the influencers to promote what they like. Some may choose to base it on what typically sells best for them in general, while others may base it on what has historically been popular during past sales events. Nordstrom also gives their influencer partners the freedom to choose the products they’d like to showcase. They put trust in influencers and see success in giving them the choice to promote what they personally like.
It seems like some influencers return a lot of the things they buy from the sale? Is this accurate? Is Nordstrom trying to stop this?
NS: We handle returns on a case-by-case basis with the ultimate goal of making our customers happy. We stand behind our goods and services, and want customers, including influencers who shop with us, to be satisfied with them. We'll always do our best to take care of customers — our philosophy is to deal with them fairly and reasonably. We have long believed that when we treat our customers fairly, they in turn are fair with us, and this includes influencers who shop with us.
Last year, it seemed like a lot of stuff we saw online sold out before the general public had access to the sale. Is Nordstrom taking measures to prevent this?
NS: We do our best to bring in a great selection of merchandise in a range of sizes and colors. Our buyers work to anticipate what customers will love, but sometimes certain products are more popular and difficult to predict. We are always looking at how we can make improvements to bring customers exciting new arrivals from top brands that they will love and encourage customers to shop early to ensure they get the products they want. Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee inventory, but you’ll see similar-item recommendations from us in your Wish List as well as on the sold-out item page. Additionally, in our app (both on iOS and Android), we have a “notify me” feature that will alert you if a sold-out item becomes available again.
What impact does the advertising of influencers have on the sale? Do you know what percentage of sales is linked to influencers?
NS: Partnering with influencers is one way that we bring awareness of Anniversary Sale to our customers. As a public company, we don’t break out influencer commissions or sell-through as a percentage of sales.
When did you notice the sale becoming such a big deal online? Why has it become such a big event for influencers?
NS: Since the 1960s, Anniversary Sale has always been our most popular sale event of the year. This is a once-a-year opportunity for all customers, including influencers, to find the latest styles as well as some of our customers’ favorites on sale!
RS: This has been a huge annual moment for rewardStyle influencers for many years. For some, this event is even bigger than holiday, in terms of earnings, and a big part of their annual sales.
General sale questions
Are items made specifically for the sale? Are they the same quality as all other Nordstrom items?
NS: Anniversary Sale includes new products exclusive to Anniversary, along with some of our most popular items at a great value. We stand behind our goods and services and we want our customers to be satisfied with them.
How do the tiers of access work? How do people get to those tiers?
NS: Nordy Club cardmembers can shop Anniversary Sale before anyone else during Early Access. The higher your status, the earlier you shop. Like any loyalty program, being a cardmember gives exclusive access to promotions and events that other customers may not have access to. Learn more about Nordy Club here.
What percentage of the sale items are Nordstrom in-house brands?
NS: As a public company, we don’t break out sales in this way, but can share that there are hundreds of items from Nordstrom Made brands for the entire family, including Treasure & Bond, 1901, Tucker + Tate, BP., Halogen, Zella, and Nordstrom Home, to name a few.
What Black-owned businesses are a part of the sale?
NS: A few Black-owned businesses that are part of Anniversary Sale include Good American, Good Man Brand, and Briogeo.
Safety measures and 2020 trends
Are you discouraging fitting room try-ons this year because of COVID-19?
NS: Our priority is always the health of our employees, customers, and communities. We’ve modified the fitting room experience and are continually evolving our approach based on the latest research and guidance from the CDC and PHAC, to ensure we’re taking the right steps to keep our employees and customers healthy. Based on the latest research and guidance from the CDC and PHAC, the likelihood of transmitting COVID-19 through merchandise is low.
RS: Nordstrom and rewardStyle are being very deliberate about communicating safety guidelines and providing resources to its influencer partners for consideration when promoting the Anniversary Sale this year. This includes Nordstrom in-store COVID-19 safety measures and a list of “do’s and don’ts” for shopping and promoting the sale as an influencer. In-store considerations communicated and enforced include:
-Adhering to in-store policies specific to COVID-19 regulations (i.e. must practice social distancing; must wear mask and/or face coverings)
-Being aware of potential limited interaction with Nordstrom sales associates, due in part to having less staff on the floor.
-Being mindful of the time spent trying on, styling, and/or taking pictures of the clothes.
-Being respectful of Nordstrom sales associates and their time.
-Being mindful of the number of items for try-on. Product brought into the dressing room will not be put back, but rather it will be taken off the floor and disinfected for 24 hours.
Has rewardStyle noticed trends in loungewear, etc., because of the pandemic this year?
RS: Yes, loungewear in particular has been one of the top consumer searches for the past four months. Other trends we’re noticing are a rise in searches for activewear, outdoor/patio décor, and home office décor.