The cost of customer acquisition for retailers has been steadily rising for some time. This, alongside increased competition, has made it expensive to attract new consumers. The spiralling costs have been caused by diversification of channels – once seen as an unrivalled opportunity to reach a wider audience, in reality it has caused marketing dollars to be thinly spread – and the cost of advertising across platforms from Google to affiliates is increasing, often prohibitively so.

To counteract this, brands have looked to seemingly ‘cost-effective’ methods to attract purchasers, for example Revolve has focused on influencer marketing, namely paying people with a wide-reaching or valuable niche social media following to wear their clothes. This social media-wielding tactic achieved the same reach as media but was cheaper.

Meanwhile other labels have concentrated on retaining existing customers via rewards or ‘loyalty’ schemes. Often these are simple ‘buy this item and get points off your next purchase’, as perfected by Boots, they have also evolved to offer exclusive content and products in exchange for earned credit.

There is no better example than Sephora, which has created a tiering system with ever-more exclusive redeemable items, thereby gamifying participation.

Whilst myriad brands attempt to harness ‘loyalty’, the fact remains that it is inherently one-to-one marketing, unlike influencer marketing which is one to many. However, denim brand Diesel have looked to combine both via their SIDE:BIZ program, which remunerates its customers for promoting inventory on their behalf.

Diesel’s website explains that “Every time someone buys something through your SIDE:BIZ link, you get rewarded. The first person will bring you a 15% discount and the more customers you bring in, the bigger your rewards will get.”

Upon signing-up to the scheme participants are sent a unique link to share with friends over email or in a social post (of them wearing the clothes): whenever one of their contacts then shops using the link, the originator earns points.

Part of the wider ‘Be A Follower’ campaign (“Influencers getting all the goodies is so 2018. It’s time to reward the followers”), SIDE:BIZ recognises the influence that many have within their social circle and offers discounts, free products, and one-off experiences in return for promoting Diesel’s wares.

The early 2000s saw brands exploiting the vanity of customers who wanted to be championed on a brand’s digital channels; in latter years people – or ‘Influencers’ – wanted to be paid for the same activity. Now that they too are becoming expensive, Diesel is attempting to introduce a model whereby brand evangelists are recompensed but only if they drive revenue.

It is an interesting concept and one that could, if successful, turn customers into affiliates, with the potential to monetize their standing within a social group. All the world’s a stage, and all the brands could be payers.