Digital Marketing Platform LTK Launches Small Business Solution to Connect Creators, Brands and Consumers
LTK (formerly rewardStyle and LIKEtoKNOW.it) is the world’s largest creator-powered digital marketing platform. It was founded in 2011 by Amber Venz Box to enable the world’s high-end lifestyle designers to have the most economic success possible. Over the past decade, LTK has grown into a reliable and efficient commerce enablement platform where creators launch, manage and grow their universal store. Today, more than 6,000 brands partner with LTK to access its nearly 200,000 creators in over one hundred countries.
I sat down with Venz Box to talk about his passion for empowering creators to succeed financially and the recent decision to open the platform up to small businesses.
Although I don’t consider LTK to be part of my core tech coverage, I was drawn to sharing it with the big tech vendors serving the B2B space. In particular, LTK addresses three areas that intersect with what technology providers are currently concerned about: digital transformation, intellectual property and trust.
New opportunities driven by digital
My fascination with LTK and the company’s journey stems from the shrewd, forward-thinking strategy that Venz Box has implemented over the years. At the heart of LTK is something all brands have learned during the pandemic: digital can help you scale and reach customers you could never reach in real life, but in doing so you may have to -be to evolve your revenue model.
“I was a personal shopper. I would dress you up for an event, and whatever you kept of the outfits that I provided, I got a commission. So I started my blog to really market what I was doing offline. I I realized my blog was making it easier for my client and then I cut myself off from my current business Coming from retail I was familiar with the sales commission model And I knew this was already happening, so the natural step was to monetize the value that existed in the system. It always starts with the creator,” says Venz Box.
The platform differentiates itself from other influencer platforms in one key way: transaction revenue rather than ad revenue. This allows LTK to perfectly align the interests of the three audiences they serve, creators, brands and consumers. As a result, creators get paid when they add value to the ecosystem, brands monetize that value created by creators, and consumers get the help they seek. Although it all sounds simple, Venz Box refers to LTK as “the most complicated simple business you’ll ever come across.” Indeed, the value of the platform comes from connecting these three constituencies, or better, combining the data generated by these three constituencies to generate insights and generate more revenue. That’s why LTK announced the appointment of Ty Amell as Chief Technology Officer earlier this month. Amell brings years of experience building and scaling consumer and enterprise solutions. Most recently, at Cisco AppDynamics, Amell led engineering teams in developing and scaling performance solutions for enterprise applications. Prior to Cisco AppDynamics, Amell held various leadership positions at PayPal.
LTK is making its platform available to brands of all sizes through LTK Connect as part of this focus on scaling its business. Once again, Venz Box has first-hand experience of the challenges faced by small businesses. “As a small business selling jewelry, I loved the direct-to-consumer margins, but every marketing decision I made had to be very thoughtful. So after the investment Softbank made in our business in late 2021 and years of profitability, we’re able to take the best of what we’ve created for big brands and make it available in self-service for small businesses.” Over the past five years, influencer marketing has grown into an industry that, by some estimates, generates between $5 billion and $10 billion. Despite this, many small businesses remain uncertain about adopting influencer marketing, but having a turnkey solution like LTK Connect might at least get them exploring the opportunity.
Audience of creators as IP
While monetization is key for creators, I believe the real value Venz Box has brought to creators on its platform is the ability to future-proof their business in light of social platform disruptions. It goes without saying that creators can only be successful if they have an audience. The problem is that audiences have shifted from platform to platform on social media, making the addressable market very fragmented for creators. This impacts creators in two main ways. First, it means that if a creator moves from one platform to another, they have to start from scratch to build an audience, which can be a long process and lead to a significant loss of revenue. Second, it means that if their audience is spread across platforms that don’t talk to each other, their ability to get valuable data is severely limited. “It’s really important that our creators have their own place so that every time there’s a new platform, they pick up buyers and build a set of marketing tools that can sustain their business for the long term. We need to always looking around corners for what will bankrupt them so that we can create the next thing that will help them totally transform their business,” says Venz Box.
Trust and social impact
Technology aside, the other big common denominator LTK has with many tech brands I speak with is that their relationships with customers and partners are increasingly dependent on trust. The fact that the whole business model is based on transactions and not on advertisements is based on trust. Consumers need to trust creators to keep coming back to them for advice. The best creators establish a very personal relationship with the consumers they interact with and with the community to which they belong. For a brand, personal recommendations are much more valuable than an ad placement, but if you break that trust by saying something that isn’t true about a product, you will lose your customers forever. Venz Box refers to this aspect of the business as “humanizing influencer marketing.” It’s the idea that technology will help the platform improve the efficiency of brands and creators. Yet, at the end of the day, it’s not an algorithmic recommendation that I trust, but rather a human one that potential buyers have followed because they share certain interests, likes, or dislikes. We see the same in tech, where consumers in recent years have shifted their pre-purchase research from tech magazines and blogs to influencers they trust. Fashion and lifestyle are no different.
Many creators also give back to their community, especially when it comes to small businesses, but by supporting local businesses and businesses owned by underrepresented groups.
So what does Venz Box want to achieve with LTK? “Well, there are three places I want to be. One is to be the biggest and most trusted creator monetization platform in the world. digital marketing powered by creators, because influencers will power everything digital marketing. Finally, I want us to be the largest e-commerce platform in the world, also powered by creators.” A heavy roadmap to achieve, no doubt, but the foresight shown by Venz Box and his team over the past ten years should give creators and brands enough confidence.
Disclosure: The Heart of Tech is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analytics, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this column. The author has no ownership interests in the companies mentioned in this column.