3 Ways User-Generated Content Transcends Social: A Retailer’s Guide

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This is a guest post by Stacy Goodman, Content Strategist at Curalate. Follow here on Twitter: @StacyGoodrun

As brands continue to reap the benefits of crowdsourcing, there’s little doubt that user-generated content (UGC) will remain at the forefront of marketers’ minds. For retailers, the outpouring of UGC being generated both during and after a customer purchases a product is incredibly powerful. Inspirational and honest, UGC is created by real people engaging with products in the real world. And unsurprisingly, these casual, of-the-moment snapshots are conveying a more authentic message than a marketing or PR team ever could.

Retailers are increasingly experimenting with ways to encourage consumers to snap and submit photos while engaging with their merchandise, from requesting selfies on their social channels, to leveraging influencers, to marketing hashtags in their stores. Better yet, consumers are answering the call. To truly unlock the potential of UGC, it’s important to consider all of the different (yet scalable) ways to collect and display these visual engagements. Spoiler alert: UGC isn’t limited to social.

 

UGC starts on social, but it sells on your website.

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UGC frequently originates within social communities like Instagram, but retailers that leverage these images on their ecommerce site have a ripe opportunity to boost clicks and conversions. Urban Outfitters was among the first brands to bring user-generated content on to their site, linking fan images to relevant product pages.

Within two months of launching this initiative, the forward-thinking retailer collected 13,000 images of fans flaunting their style and hyping products they had purchased. Urban continues to receive hundreds of photos from their social savvy community daily across its apparel, home and lifestyle departments.

 

Bring Instagram-worthy brick-and-mortar moments to life.

UGC is also a component of Saks Fifth Avenue’s website; you can find hundreds of stylish fan photos within their #SaksStyle hub. It was launched at the start of New York Fashion Week in September 2014 to celebrate their fashion forward fans in a public, innovative way.

To spark image submissions, Saks socialized all 39 of their retail stores, displaying #SaksStyle decals throughout their women’s ready-to-wear and contemporary departments. While subtle, this signage serves as a friendly reminder for shoppers to join the conversation, share their experiences, and become “style icons” themselves.

 

The unlikely intersection of UGC and print media.

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UGC and print are decidedly disparate marketing mediums, but that didn’t stop Z Gallerie—a purveyor of luxurious home goods—from merging them under a single campaign. The decision was driven by data. Following the release of their in-home printed catalog during the 2014 holiday season, Z Gallerie noticed an uptick in UGC submissions. Their customers weren’t just flipping through their in-home booklet; they were revelling in the pages, and sharing photos while doing so to Instagram.

To leverage this organic engagement, Z Gallerie launched a contest to coincide with their spring catalog. Through June 2015, Z Gallerie is asking their customers to share photos of the catalog and to tag them with #PagesOfStyle. The spring edition also features a back cover banner to promote the campaign further.

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By propelling a known behavior across multiple channels, Z Gallerie has driven notable results, including a 24% increase in UGC submissions and a 24% increase in print catalog sign-ups. Their Instagram community grew by 10K followers too.

 

The ROI of UGC

To maximize the value of UGC, you can’t just encourage it. You need to amplify it; you need to measure it; and, as with any other marketing tactic, you need to constantly optimize it. If you’re new to UGC, it’s okay to start slow. You’ll be amazed at how far a simple “like,” comment or “re-gram” of a fan’s photo can go. From there, broaden your thinking and brainstorm ways to move beyond the boundaries of social.

In this article, we discussed how user-generated content can complement ecommerce, in-store and even print initiatives. By analyzing how this content impacts traffic, conversions and other desired actions, you’ll be able to demonstrate how your customers are accelerating your marketing efforts.

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.