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Zyper Raises $6.5 Million Series A to Disrupt Influencer Marketing

The “Wild, Wild West” of influencer marketing is broken—and investment-backed Zyper thinks the solution is not in paying social personalities for posts but tapping into existing communities of authentic brand superfans.

Zyper, a startup founded in 2017, uses a host of technologies including computer vision and machine learning to identify the 1 percent among regular, average Jane social media users who show strong brand affinities. It links these fans with the brands they love so together they can co-create user-generated content that captures the authentic feel of true advocacy versus the pay-for-play influencer approach.

Founder Amber Atherton encountered problems in the influencer community firsthand during her work with My Flash Trash, the jewelry e-commerce firm she previously launched in 2009 after serving as an intern for Vogue, Wednesday and Hermès. To her surprise, fan communities on sites like Tumblr were driving “insane” and sustained traffic and conversions relative to the short-term spike in engagement that paid influencers delivered, the London College of Fashion graduate told Sourcing Journal.

That experience made Atherton wonder why more brands hadn’t replicated the success a label like Supreme achieved in building an obsessive community of fans and followers.

Engaging in this way is “innate” to socially native Gen Z consumers, Atherton said, but not limited to the post-millennial crowd. Any brand partner, which today includes LVMH, Nike, Banana Republic and Topshop, can come to Zyper with its goals and dial into the demographic audience that meets its targets.

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To find that 1 percent, Zyper looks for people who follow and engage with brand, mentioning it in their social posts and tagging themselves at a brand’s location, for example. Then it cross-links that information with existing customer data to identify sales patterns and other salient points. “We’re looking at how often they engage with the brand, their own engagement rates, the cadence of posting, and their followers,” Atherton explained.

Atherton said she’s seeing DTC brands shifting away from influencer marketing altogether while the larger legacy firms like Unilever still maintain a paid-personality strategy alongside this community-building effort. “But I think the results that we’re driving across the board are pushing brands to reallocate more budget to these…brand fans we deal with because they drive significantly more content and significantly higher engagement,” she added.

Zyper’s results could make brands sit up and take notice. Not only do brand fans drive repeat purchase rates as much as 16x higher than other methods, but they also help brands acquire new customers at half the cost of Facebook ads and with quintuple the average order value, the company said. “We’re infiltrating more friendship groups, so there’s that word-of-mouth aspect,” Atherton explained, adding that social platforms are “crushing organic reach.”

Recent Gen Z and millennial surveys reveal a waning interest in the biggest of the big social media influencers and instead a growing affinity for the “relatability” of niche, micro-level personalities on platforms like Instagram, a shift suggesting that community-driven advocacy just might have a shot at supplanting the influencer status quo.

Zyper’s technology was built with Instagram in mind but more marketers are building for YouTube, Atherton said, because of the long shelf life content has on that platform. And it’s a smart move, too, considering that 87 percent of Gen Z claims to be active on the video site. Though brands typically create content for top tier social sites, they can amplify its reach by sharing a trackable link on Snapchat, WhatsApp and any place where potential new customers exist.

With $6.5 million in new Series A funding led by Talis Capital and participation by Forerunner Ventures, Zyper is branching out from its home base in London to open a new headquarters in San Francisco, a move that should tip the 60 percent/40 percent balance of European to U.S. clients to attract more stateside brands. Lauren Pye, who previously held high-level sales roles with Live Nation Entertainment and Festicket, recently joined Zyper as executive director of sales. The company has raised $8.5 million to date.

Kirill Tasilov, an investor with Talis, credited Zyper’s ability to give a voice to authentic brand fans at a time when influencer marketing is in flux. “Zyper is on a path to become a transformational company that enables brands to identify and collaborate with their superfans across a number of social media channels,” he said. “Their platform improves the quality, scalability and efficiency of community marketing by allowing brands to track and manage their fans automatically using advanced machine-learning models.”

Some of Zyper’s clients view the platform as “loyalty 2.0,” Atherton explained. “We’re really trying to nail down the value proposition being about optimizing [lifetime value].”

Zyper, with its eye on gaming’s exploding popularity, is working on integrating with perhaps the ultimate niche platform, Twitch. It has other new features up its sleeve, including live chat, which is what new social networks are all about these days, Atherton said. This will help brands to be part of the conversation with fans, segment these users and push out surveys for a sort of real-time focus group functionality, she added.

“Our goal is to be a technology layer between brands and their fans,” Atherton said, “and decentralize the top-down way that brands traditionally are built.”