A blonde woman sporting stilettos, a massive Lele Sadoughi headband, and a pink, puffy-sleeved dress poses for a camera phone in front of the doors to the Adolphus. There’s no doubt she’s arrived at the downtown Dallas hotel for the same reason I have: the 2022 LTK Con.
I’m here with press credentials, of course. The pink-clad woman, on the other hand, is one of the 300 or so top-earning creators invited to the 10th annual blogger conference, hosted by Dallas-based LTK (née rewardStyle), a digital marketing platform powered by influencers.
I follow her to the mezzanine hallway, where I snake my way through hundreds of extremely well-coiffed women (and a handful of men) awaiting the morning’s opening keynote from LTK co-founder and president Amber Venz Box. It’s impossible not to take note of every extremely curated ensemble — the sky-high boots, the shiny leather pants, the La Vie Style House tunics. It was like the Instagram Explore page come to life.
Surveying the scene as we settled into the Adolphus ballroom, it would be easy to dismiss the collective as a niche subset of women, but when Box ascends to the stage, a vision in canary yellow and her signature red mane, I’m reminded of their power.
“Consumers today trust creators more than they trust their family and celebrities,” Box shares.
The company’s numbers back up Box’s claim. $13 billion in sales have come through the LTK mobile app since its 2017 launch, $3 billion of which were acquired just last year. The past year also saw $800 million invested in influencer marketing using LTK creators.
“Those budgets are shifting to you because you’re the most rational place to put that money,” Box explained. “You’re creating the content, but you’re also changing perceptions about brands and driving consideration.”
The Evolution of the Internet Influencer
“Never did I dream when I started blogging in 2010 that I’d one day be making multiple short-form videos a day,” Box shared with the audience, which included a representative from the Gen Z-loved app TikTok. “But I guess there’s no going back.”
When LTK launched in 2011, Box had a Blackberry phone and a desktop blog (“Venz Edits”). During the inaugural LTK Conference, she took to the stage and declared that mobile would be the next big thing.
“That was not a popular thing to say, but we saw that 30% of clicks were coming from a mobile device,” Box said.
With the rise of mobile apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest, Box and her team decided to launch their own — the LTK app (known then as LIKEtoKNOW.it) debuted in 2017 and is now the world’s largest contextual shopping app. Last year, LTK secured $300 million (and a $2 billion valuation) from SoftBank’s Vision Fund.
Multi-brand retailers like Nordstrom, Target, or Amazon might come to mind when thinking of LTK partnerships, but the 2022 launch of LTK Connect is designed to allow smaller, direct-to-consumer brands the opportunity to harness the company’s powerful influencer network.
“In the last few years, the rules have changed, the players have changed, and the tools have changed,” Box shared. “We believe the future is direct-to-consumer native web.”
The Dallas entrepreneur ended her keynote by unveiling the latest LTK app feature.
LTK Launches “Buy Now”
The company’s growing focus on mobile consolidation may have reached its apex with the announcement of “Buy Now,” a new LTK feature that lets shoppers make a purchase without ever leaving the LTK app. (The checkout in-app experience will begin rolling out with select retail partners soon.)
“Shoppers and brands have been asking for this for years,” Box shared. “[Buy Now on LTK] is part of our long-term vision. We believe this will be part of future-proofing your business.”
As the keynote concluded and the stage was prepped for a brand panel with Maureen Kelly (CEO of Tarte), Barbara Sainsurin (Anthropologie’s executive director of digital), and Ann Newland (head of integrated PR for Wayfair), I ducked out to head back to the office. I entered drinking from an LTK branded water bottle, which prompted my cute Gen Z coworker to say, “I love that app!”