Shoppers Prioritize Visual Content, Community When Discovering New Brands and Products
The battle between Google and Amazon.com to own shoppers’ minds (and wallets) just intensified with the launch of Google Shopping Actions. Initially working with retailers like Target, Walmart, Costco and Home Depot, Google’s newly launched initiative aims to help retailers compete with Amazon by promising shoppers a smooth experience and universal cart across desktop, mobile and voice-activated devices.
It’s hard for smaller, independent retailers not to feel left behind as the giants duke it out on efficiency and convenience. However, a recent consumer survey suggests independent merchants should still stake out their own claim online. It turns out that retailer content and community provide an important buffer against the Amazons, Googles and Walmarts of the world.
According to results from a recent Rivet Works survey, two of the top three channels by which consumers discover new brands and products are community-based — with a focus not just on products and pricing, but on how products are used and what they're used for. Furthermore, a full 71 percent of shoppers said they sought more of such “social proof” from sites they shopped in order to reassure themselves that the retailers embodied the qualities they value most, which respondents said were credibility, authenticity and purpose.
Visual storytelling in particular is essential. When it comes to trying new products, half of consumers say that customer photos and videos increase their likelihood of making a purchase. In fact, 45 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to buy from an online store that showed photos and videos of customers’ experiences vs. 22 percent who said they would be more likely to buy with the presence of traditional text-based reviews.
Yet embracing visual content doesn’t mean handing your brand over to Facebook or Instagram. According to our survey, shoppers overwhelmingly prefer to share content directly to brand sites: 57 percent said they would post product content and feedback to a company's website, as opposed to just 4 percent who would prefer to use social media feeds. Similarly, shoppers reported they were twice as likely to share reviews and visual content vs. participating in a hashtag campaign on social media.
By providing their own content-sharing platforms, independent retailers retain maximum flexibility when it comes to content collection and presentation. For example, Telic Footwear’s “Share Your Telic Story” tool offers a simple, mobile-friendly process for uploading text, photo and video, and optionally connects to users’ social media feeds. One customer even contributed her story while vacationing in Mexico. Telic has found that those who engage with the content are 132 percent more likely to convert than other shoppers.
This is great news for retailers vying for dollars and mindshare. The ultimate goal, according to Matts Jopson, who has transformed his family business, Mountain Crest Gardens, into California’s largest online succulent retailer, is to “build out communities and lifestyles NOW, before Amazon comes for our segment.” Customer stories can create connections with shoppers that not only drive sales, but also encourage participation and advocacy. By demonstrating unique brand value, customer stories have the potential to help merchants of all sizes thrive in today’s crowded marketplace.
Mike Svatek is the CEO of Rivet Works, an automated user-generated content solution for online retailers.
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