Retail brands command best engagement rates, new influencer analysis reveals


The UK’s first comprehensive analysis of the so-called ‘Wild West’ influencer marketing industry reveals that 12% of UK influencers show signs of having bought fake followers on Instagram in the last six months. UK-based influencers with a very low proportion of their audience based in the UK, unexplained leaps in follower counts and unusually low engagement rates helped influencer analysts CampaignDeus identify those who bought ‘bot’ followers.

The first CampaignDeus Influencer Index also reveals that retail brands make up half of the top 10 brands commanding the best engagement rates – providing retail marketers with some of the best returns on investment across the industry. JustMyLook, boohooMAN, Calvin Klein, French Connection and & Other Stories all perform well.

And smaller brands outperform the more established names when it comes to ROI potential amongst influencers: only four bigger brands appear in the top 10 rankings for best engagement rates experienced by brand-sponsored influencers.

Small also packs a bigger punch when it comes to the size of the influencer: the Index reveals influencers with under 100k followers on average achieve a 60% higher engagement rate for branded posts compared to those with 100K+ followers. The best performing are micro Fashion & Style influencers, with macro Fitness performing least well.

CampaignDeus CEO Muhsen Syed commented: “Smaller brands do well because they tend to focus on trying to unlock smaller but more engaged audiences around specific interest points.”

UK marketers are pumping more money into Fashion & Style influencers on Instagram than any other. One in three (34 per cent) of branded posts on Instagram are for brands in this sector – approximately one and a half times more than in Beauty, the next best performing sector (23 per cent of branded posts). The next largest are Food & Drink, with 16% of all Instagram branded posts in this sector. These three sectors make up 70% of the entire brand sponsored influencer market.

Meanwhile, Fitness is the fastest growing sector for marketing spend: increasing by eight per cent on a month-by-month basis in terms of branded influencer posts.

However, despite this growth and the fact that 43 per cent of marketers plan to increase influencer marketing spending over the next year according to a recent USAssociation of National Advertisers study, engagement rates are lower on average by 11 per cent when marketers start sponsoring content compared to influencer organic content. 

Nearly all sectors see a drop-off between branded and organic engagement rates, with the Parenting sector the only exception. Most extreme is Beauty, where brand sponsored content performs on average 27 per cent worse than influencer organic content.

The CampaignDeus Influencer Index also reveals the posting features which boost engagement. Including a competition increases influencer engagement rate by 20 per cent compared to ordinary product promotion posts. Selfies and full shots of the influencer outperform product-only shots by 40 per cent. Including landscape or animals in a shot also helps increase engagement potential.

Syed said: “We have launched this new, twice-yearly Influencer Index to bring some much needed clarity, transparency and guidance for the growing influencer marketing industry. The results finally shine some light on the scale of industry fraud and provide valuable insights for retail marketers looking to assess their growing investments.

“To optimise their influencer marketing spend, retail brands need to stop fruitlessly searching for a magic Return on Investment number, which doesn’t accurately exist. The focus should be on building a systems-based approach to influencer marketing measurement, which places benchmarking at its core, so retail brands can easily compare their performance against their competitors and the broader market.  Only by doing independent comparison across and by sector will  retail marketers fully understand how well their marketing buck is bouncing throughout this growing and important multi-million pound arena.”

Top 10 brands by engagement rates for influencer collaborations

Brand Engagement Rate
So Fragrance 9.3%
JustMyLook 7.7%
boohooMan 6.9%
Urban Decay 6.7%
Calvin Klein 6.2%
Foxy Locks 6.0%
French Connection 5.9%
& Other Stories 5.9%
Love GREAT Britain 5.9%
impress Manicure 5.8% 

Proportion of brand sponsored posts falling in each sector

Sector %
Fashion & Style 34
Beauty 21
Food & Drink 16
Health 5
Travel 5
Home & Garden 5
Parenting 3
Fitness 3