3 Steps for Building a Consumer-Driven Marketing Strategy
Today’s consumers are always connected — consuming media, chatting with friends, interacting with brands, sharing photos and videos, and telling their stories and experiences across hundreds of networks. But with this new connected generation (which Google cleverly named “Generation C” for connection, community, creation and curation) comes a shift in how consumers interact with retailers.
The challenge resulting from this shift is how to sell to someone who is more interested in content created by their peers than brand-produced content, which, while may be clever, isn’t necessarily captivating for the people you’re trying to capture. Additionally, since consumers are constantly switching from screen to screen and channel to channel, retailers have to rethink their engagement strategies to connect with consumers at scale but with a personalized approach. Instead of flooding the market with tons of brand-produced content, the answer for today’s retailer is to inspire and encourage consumers to create great content for brands by providing them with the means to do so.
Instead of a brand-driven, top-down approach, retailers’ strategy needs to be consumer-driven. This means putting the consumer first in every aspect of marketing, and using the end consumer as the sole driver of content and strategy. People already share stories about brand and product experiences, so why not encourage them to share their user-generated content (UGC) with the brand? To get started, there are three steps every retailer must take to incorporate consumers into their social and digital marketing strategies.
1. Inspire consumers to share content through engaging interactions. Getting consumers to be part of your social marketing team isn’t as easy as throwing out a hashtag and expecting it to stick. Consumers need to be inspired. As one Gen C consumer put it, “I’m creating to share with people ... and hopefully they [then] create things of their own. I can share my passion with others.”
As a retailer, it’s important to identify what makes customers passionate and then leverage it to inspire content creation. Whether that means launching a thought-provoking or fun quiz, asking users to submit photos or videos of how they personalize a product, challenging consumers to share a unique brand experience, or getting users to vote for the best submission from peers, the idea is to motivate consumers to interact with your brand and community. This interaction is proven to create large volumes of content that's more powerful than anything a brand can create.
2. Curate the best experiences to attract others. Once you've inspired consumers to participate, the next step is to showcase it. This doesn’t mean giving everyone his or her five minutes of fame, however. Make it exclusive and challenging to help ensure your consumers share content that's not only high quality, but also fits your brand vision and messaging. To leverage engaged users to get others to also start sharing, retailers can showcase consumer interactions in a photo gallery on their website or spark a vote-off between entrants. By curating and showing off only the best content you collect in a central location, you tap into multiple drivers of behavior — recognition, achievement and challenge — which is rewarding for those who are recognized and will also inspire their peers to share.
3. Leverage UGC across channels. When making customers part of your social strategy, you need to also consider the afterlife of the UGC. Just because it originated on social media doesn’t mean it has to stay there. In fact, the brands that are the best at leveraging social content ensure it doesn’t. Retailers should view social not as a tool or channel, but as an action — i.e. being social. This means leveraging the UGC you collected socially across all of your other channels by displaying it in customer emails, on your website, in product pages, in advertisements, on in-store displays and more. To achieve this, retailers have to be smart about acquiring the rights to leverage content from users. However, if your campaigns are inspiring enough, consumers will be quick to provide these permissions.
Regardless of how you choose to integrate customers into your strategy, the important part is to start today. These conversations are already happening. If you're not actively encouraging them, curating them in meaningful places and promoting them throughout your networks, you're missing out on the conversation.
Jeff Soriano is senior director of demand generation for