The relationship between brands and consumers is more complex than ever, with shoppers expecting their favorite brands to engage them authentically and relatably. With global retail e-Commerce sales projected to reach $3.02 trillion by 2018, there is considerable pressure for companies to better connect with consumers and establish strong brand loyalty.
Faced with multiple channels of engagement, brands are struggling to generate the rising volume of high-quality content necessary to reach and convert consumers. Increasingly, brands across industries are turning to user-generated, or “earned” content as a powerful solution. With over 500 million users now on Instagram alone, posting a whopping 95 million photos and videos daily, the wealth of available earned content is staggering — but tapping into this resource can be easier said than done.
Mobile is largely responsible for this shift, drastically transforming the frequency with which consumers engage. Most notably, the consumer journey has effectively been fractured into smaller decision-making moment across all phases, including post-purchase. To stand out of the pack and make a meaningful impact, brands must familiarize themselves with what Google Think refers to as “micro-moments,” and build strategies for curating, activating and analyzing the influence of earned materials. Here’s how to get started:
Brands looking to make an impact with consumers should survey their shopper journey in search of the following micro-moments and understand their distinct opportunities.
Thanks to mobile, the research phase is more influential than ever; 65% of consumers look up more information online now than just a few years ago. By using earned content to create more informational and authentic consumer experiences, brands can drive traffic and loyalty toward owned properties and away from competition.
Consumers are steadily turning to mobile to find places to eat, shop and explore while on the go. Though 82% of smartphone users rely on search engines when seeking a local business, 73% lose trust in a brand when its online information isn’t updated. Implementing relevant earned content, however, allows retailers to showcase product benefits at the most relevant moments.
2016 is the year of the “How-To,” with 91% of smartphone users turning to mobile for inspiration while doing a task and 100 million hours of instructional videos consumed on YouTube in the last few months. Brands embracing earned content allow consumers to share style tips and product uses with their peers, a feat that can boost a customer’s confidence in purchasing.
This year alone, the industry has seen a 29% increase in mobile conversion, offering a prime opportunity for product reviews and user-generated imagery to shine. To create meaningful engagement during the point of purchase, brands must draw on behavioral cues to trigger conversion-based messaging. This is especially important, as 82% of consumers consult their phones in-store while deciding what to buy. By making earned content readily available and directly shoppable via social, brands can help shorten the consumer journey and create frictionless purchasing opportunities.
Curation, Activation, Analysis
To filter consumer images, brands should devise unique hashtags and display them throughout digital channels and brick-and-mortar stores to garner social content in real time. After a brand has obtained explicit permission from users, earned content can be displayed across channels to strike a chord with new and returning customers. 70% of retail leaders are using earned content on branded web sites, often leveraging image galleries to drive engagement and time spent on the site. Content can be reposted via social media to reach prospective customers, while also building loyalty — seeing their photo shared on a favorite brand’s Instagram account is a source of excitement for fans, and 62% of Millennials admit that if a brand engages with them on social, they’re more likely to become a loyal customer.
Similar opportunities exist within digital advertising; by swapping out stock footage, brands can increase click-throughs and maximize reach. Earned content can also be used offline to personalize the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, powering in-store displays and artwork and made visible on digital billboards, print advertisements and direct mailers.
Though visual commerce is still relatively new to the marketing scene, it’s already making a drastic impact, with 90% of brands leveraging earned content seeing measurably positive results. Brands should continuously strive to understand brand ambassadors by surveying e-Commerce revenue generated by users and specific pieces of content to see how these figures compare against other forms of branded creative. As the industry evolves, it’s essential for marketers to continue to innovate and carve lasting impressions with consumers.
Earned content bridges this digital gap; after all, a picture’s worth a thousand words.
Pau Sabria is the Co-Founder and CEO Olapic, the world's first earned content platform to help brands collect, curate and activate consumer photos and videos across all marketing channels. Based in Olapic's New York headquarters, Sabria oversees the company strategy and direction in the marketplace.