Building Brand Trust and Authenticity With User-Generated Content
One of the greatest retail superpowers is the ability to influence a shopper’s purchasing decisions. By delivering perfectly timed and personalized marketing offers or a perceived value that’s consistent in the eyes of a consumer, retailers can wield that power over time, strengthening the kind of long-term loyalty that keeps shoppers coming back for more.
Building this influence is all about the long game as retail brands work to remain top-of-mind for customers. However, establishing brand authenticity from the start is an opportunity they can’t afford to miss. For consumers navigating a vast digital expanse of products, one of the quickest ways to appeal to their shopping needs is for a brand to present highly visual content created by consumers’ peers — i.e., user-generated content (UGC).
In an E-Commerce World, UGC is Brand Elevating
Each of us instinctively trust the recommendations of those closest to us, people without a vested interest in our final decision. As a consumer, my purchase is personal. So, with my needs in mind, I look to product ratings to inform my journey and read through customer reviews to steer me in the right direction.
Think to the trends in digital advertising and user privacy that highlight consumer preferences to not be “sold to” all the time. Ad blockers are increasing in popularity, prompting retailers to reckon with the fact that one-fourth of their paid ads aren't reaching a target audience. While ads will remain table stakes in some form or fashion, brands can leverage UGC for their visual storytelling needs — stories better told through the megaphone of happy customers than through traditional advertising or marketing.
An easy way to start collecting UGC is through social media hashtags that easily curate highly visible posts, like Outdoor Voices with its #doingthings marketing push. Some brands, like women’s clothing retailer Lulus, ask users submitting a review to include one photo to be featured in the “Fan Photos” section of a product page, which adds context for a shopper weighing their options. And in a time when some argue brand loyalty is on a decline due to the pandemic, with consumers getting needs met in the most cost-efficient and convenient ways possible, we see Nordstrom partnering with Instagram influencers to develop content that highlights in-store safety, enticing consumers to shop in person again. A retailer can also engage audiences with influencer "product unboxings" or videos showing the moment when a product is opened and removed from the packaging it was sold in. This is an increasingly popular trend, with more than 900,000 people searching monthly for the word “unboxing” in their YouTube searches.
Examples like these should inspire other brands and retailers to develop a UGC strategy, but they also need to think through how to properly manage that content well.
Handling UGC Assets Requires New Thinking for Creative Processes
Convincing customers to share their content in the first place is one thing, but what brands and retailers do with that content — and how nimbly they can do so — can be a significant differentiator.
Retailers must lay out an efficient process for the mechanics of editing, managing and delivering sourced content. Here are two things to consider:
- Opening up the UGC floodgates will require moderation and organization. UGC photos and video are powerful storytellers, so it’s in the brand’s best interest to ensure public-facing content meets a certain threshold of appropriateness and relevance. User-submitted content will need some amount of human attention to address the nuances of content, plus automated asset management capabilities to easily scale UGC programs. Furthermore, teams will want UGC assets to be easily searchable and organized in a way that enables timely use of that content.
- The content is now yours to transform and optimize. Creative teams leveraging UGC assets for other campaigns will want tools that enable them to quickly edit and optimize media files. For example, irrelevant details in the background of an image can be cropped out or blurred to maintain focus on what’s most important. Assets will need resizing for their appropriate delivery channels, too, especially when it comes to file size and load time for an ideal user experience.
Shoppers want to see themselves and others like them in the brands they shop. If brand marketers and website managers aren't thinking about managing or optimizing their use of UGC, now is the time, and it’s relatively simple to get started.
Amit Shachak is head of video for Cloudinary, a company that helps retailers and brands streamline media management and improve user experience by automatically delivering images and videos, enhanced and optimized for every user..
Related story: Appealing to Shop-From-Home Consumers Through Video
Amit Shachak is an experienced technology and product leader with vast experience and passion for building organizations and great products. He currently serves as head of video for Cloudinary. An experienced leader, Amit has vast development, management and product experience in different technologies and platforms, leading complex projects from idea to production, in start-up companies and in global organizations.