Today’s consumers are extremely social and visual shoppers. Separately, these two factors provide small retailers with numerous marketing questions to address. Together, however, social and visual advertising go hand in hand. The rise of always-on technology has given way to the savvy social shopper, with 85 percent of consumers using visual content as the ultimate tie-breaker in making a decision between multiple brands.
For independent retailers, this means uncovering new ways to not only attract consumer audiences and engage them in social conversations, but also to present merchandise in the most compelling settings possible. Once independent retailers understand how to leverage visual content to attract more shoppers, it becomes easy to translate this engagement into sales.
Why Visual Content Matters
Visual content is one of the few pillars of social media that's constantly growing and changing. Visual-first platforms, such as Pinterest and Instagram, are growing in popularity with consumers. With more than 52 percent of all teens using the platform, Instagram has become one of the best places for independent retailers to get out in front of new potential buyers.
Why are these platforms so successful for brands, regardless of size? For these consumer audiences, visual content plays a large part in influencing buying decisions. Brands across the board, from commercial to retail, are leveraging social platforms with visual content to pique interest, start conversations and, ultimately, increase sales.
Even Amazon.com, the world’s largest online retailer, has realized the power visual content wields in influencing potential buyers. Amazon Spark, for example, the company’s newest product discovery feature, allows consumers to browse photos and posts from other consumers and shop directly from this social feed. Smaller retailers can capture this same experience via established social networks such as Instagram, Pinterest and even Tumblr.
How to Successfully Leverage Visual Content
While most independent retailers understand the benefits and the power of visual content, the actual tactics and logistics can get lost in translation. Wondering how your retail business can successfully leverage visual content and translate this marketing success into dollars? Here are some key concepts to remember:
1. Engage consumers in the right places.
As a small business owner, it’s important to understand who your audience is, where it spends its time, and what catches its attention. There are a few ways you can uncover these hidden insights without wasting precious time or resources:
- Consult your website analytics to see where visitors are coming from.
- Monitor your social sites closely to see how users are engaging and collaborating with your content.
- Engage shoppers in-store and ask them how they heard about your brand and/or if they follow your business on any social platforms.
When it comes to visual content, many small business owners looking to attract a younger audience should try to move beyond the tried-and-true social platforms of Facebook and Twitter and embrace the more millennial-focused Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr platforms. Leveraging traditional or sponsored ads on Instagram could be a game changer, especially when taking into account the fact that consumers are 58 times more likely to engage with branded content on Instagram compared to Facebook, and 120 times more likely compared to Twitter.
Once you know where your target consumers are and how they want to engage with your brand, it’s then time to actually start developing and sharing this stellar visual content across various platforms and channels.
2. Develop exceptional visual content.
When it comes to engaging and securing new customers with visual content, actually creating this content can be a pretty daunting task. For small business owners, however, it’s all about leveraging the channels you already have access to, just in different ways.
One way to build up your visual content game is by developing your own marketing and advertising visual promotions. This means developing professional-level visual content, even if you don’t necessarily have the resources on hand to hire actual professionals. Taking a DIY approach to visual content can often yield similar results, without a huge price tag. Just make sure you’re sharing this content across the right channels to the right audiences for maximum impact.
Another cost-effective way to quickly create new content is to not create it at all. That’s right, leveraging your customer base is a great way to garner real-world merchandise pictures and videos with minimum employee resources or time. Plus, who better than your customers to help show and tell potential buyers exactly what they’re looking at? If, for example, you’re a small sporting goods company, perhaps you start posting pictures of Little League teams wearing your merchandise during games. Or if you’re an independent fashion boutique, maybe you start an in-store campaign that asks customers to share pictures wearing pieces from your store for a chance to be featured on the company Instagram account.
Whether you’re developing your own visual content or leveraging customer content, sharing these types of pictures and videos is the first step to really letting consumers know what you’re delivering.
3. Build a social experience for customers.
While it may be tempting to post a quick picture of a new T-shirt design on your blog or Twitter account and call it a day, it’s important to remember that the whole point of delivering visual content to consumers is for them to engage and provide feedback to both you as a retailer and to other consumers. In fact, 86 percent of shoppers trust product content more when it includes both visual elements as well as ratings and reviews.
When you post or share visual content, make sure you add a social element as well. Whether this is as simple as a call to “Share this post with your followers!” or if it requires a little more monitoring, such as “Let us know your thoughts on this new item," asking your customers to start a conversation or provide their feedback is a critical way to build a continuously growing, organic social presence. With visual content basically spreading itself across online platforms, small business owners can spend time focusing on other aspects of strategy and business operations.
In the end, creating and sharing visual content shouldn’t be an overwhelming, time-consuming initiative for small business owners. By cultivating a targeted group of loyal customers, this avenue can grow organically, resulting in more new customers and new sales opportunities.
Related story: How Hashtags and Selfies Help Your Bottom Line