With the launch of rewardStyle, an invitation-only online platform linking influencers with brands, Amber Venz Box has pioneered a new movement in digital marketing. Fashion, beauty, lifestyle: all areas are covered. With FAB, she shares the secrets of her success.
FAB: How did you first discover fashion and business?
Amber Venz Box: Growing up, my parents focused our spare time on creative projects and my dad, a business owner, encouraged entrepreneurship. Both of my grandmothers were seamstresses so they taught me how to sew and knit, and by middle school I had created a business, reconstructing old jeans into denim skirts and selling them to my classmates.
I got my first job during my freshman year of college in a small concept store in Dallas. The store picked up my jewelry line. I also worked for various stylists in Los Angeles. The next summer, I went to New York to work for Thakoon. After graduation, I was promoted to buyer at that same concept store. I loved traveling for work, getting to buy from Lanvin, Chloé, Wang and more. Then I left my full-time position to focus on my jewelry line and then started blogging.
FAB: How and when did you decide to become an influencer? What were the key elements to your success?
A.V.B.: I started my personal blog, VENZEDITS.com, in 2010. It was initially developed as a marketing tool and portfolio for my offline businesses: my jewelry company and personal shopping/styling services. I launched the blog with a clear business plan and was posting three times daily and had a professional photographer. I quickly realized that the site was more than a marketing tool for my other businesses, it was a business of its own and therefore needed a revenue stream.
FAB: When did you foresee the influencer business rising and how did you plan your involvement in it?
A.V.B.: I loved working on my blog, but I needed a way to make money. I went to a blogging conference to see some of the biggest bloggers at the time; they were having the same dilemma. My husband Baxter was working for a fund planning tech investments. I said, “If I could just prove to Neiman Marcus that someone bought that bag online, they’d pay me a commission offline, I need to get a commission for the online sale!” And so we put together rewardStyle and it was essentially that concept.
FAB: How do you decide who’s an influencer?
A.V.B.: Our business works for lifestyle influencers who are able to successfully inspire their audience. To us, influence is not defined by the number of followers or traffic to your site, but the most objective measure: retail sales. We now have years of data to understand the profile of a successful influencer, which uniquely positions us to accept, recruit and invest in highly performing clients.
We launched LIKEtoKNOW.it in 2014 as a social shopping service within the Instagram app. When users registered their Instagram account with the service, they could simply “like” an influencer photo to get an email to their inbox with that photo and the associated ready-to-shop product information. The consumer experience remains simple, intuitive and easy. When a person tells you they like something or they endorse it by wearing it, there is an authenticity that a brand advertisement could never produce so you can immediately act on the inspiration.
On RewardStyle when imagery is created and entered into our publishing platform, then distributed to blog and social via the influencer who has access to rS tools that connect the customer with ready-to-shop info, the transaction happens and feedback is provided to the influencer and then the cycle begins again.
FAB: How has Instagram changed the fashion and beauty industry?
A.V.B.: Instagram, and social media in general, has created a whole new outlet for style inspiration. Fashion magazines are no longer the mecca of style. You have everything you could think of – outfits, home decor, beauty tutorials, baby needs, fitness, recipes – all in the palm of your hand on a personal, curated feed. Phone cameras and Instagram have also enabled the masses to become content creators – you no longer have to be a professional photographer to capture a beautiful image.
FAB: What’s next for you and for the industry?
A.V.B.: Mobile is only going to continue to grow. People are spending five hours a day on mobile devices, and everything is becoming instant. You order your meals on your phone, you call a car from your phone, shopping and retail are only going to going to continue to move in that “see-now buy-now” direction.
We are innovating on these trends. Traditional marketing is no longer front and center, and brands are instead focusing on sponsoring influencers with products that are showing a return. We expect new social platforms to emerge and more time spent creating and consuming content on mobile.
FAB: What is style?
A.V.B.: Style is an expression of your personality.
FAB: What is beauty?
A.V.B.: Beauty is not being afraid to try new things.