Visual Commerce: From Selfie to Sold
Over the past few years the “selfie” has risen in popularity on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, giving users an opportunity to solicit feedback from followers based on the number of "Likes" (or disregards) generated by the post. According to a recent study conducted by social shopping site Shopa, one in seven women snap selfies when trying on new outfits or clothing accessories, and wait for an average of two likes before finalizing their purchase decision.
Social media users aren’t the only ones recognizing the value of selfies; savvy retailers and CPG (consumer packaged goods) manufacturers are, too. Through the use of hashtags and application programming interfaces (APIs), retailers and manufacturers can identify pictures and videos of customers using and promoting their products, and then procure that content into their own marketing and loyalty campaigns.
Specialty retailers such as J Brand Jeans are getting customers to post pictures and videos of themselves wearing their favorite pair of J Brand Jeans on popular social media sites using hashtags like #InMyJBRAND, which the retailer then uses on its website to optimize the buying process for visitors.
Capturing and using social media posts in this manner, known as visual commerce, has huge potential to help companies overcome the hurdles of shopping for noncommodity products, such as apparel, cosmetics and jewelry. These items require more data points than stock photos and basic product descriptions can offer. By pulling in authentic photos and videos of customers “experiencing” these products, it builds credibility and lessens buyers’ apprehensions.
To optimize their visual commerce initiatives, savvy retailers and manufacturers adopt the following best practices:
- Reward desired behavior. In addition to asking customers to use a specific hashtag when giving positive feedback about a product, it’s important to amplify desired behavior by tying it to a loyalty program or reward. For example, every time a customer uses the specific hashtag, they could be entered into a drawing or receive bonus points applied to a loyalty program.
- Showcase social content on your product page. Having customers engaging with your brand on social media sites is good, but it’s even better if you can integrate those activities with your website. Specifically, you’ll want to pull images and video clips onto your product pages.
- Be discerning. Recognize that you’re going to have more responses than you need. Just like a Google search, only the first-page results are going to be seen by site visitors, so you don’t want to blindly pull tagged content onto your site. Choose the top photos and videos (based on number of likes or shares) that best represent your product. Keep in mind, too, that a photo posted two months ago may deserve a higher placement on your product page than one that was posted 10 minutes ago.
- Measure your performance. It’s important to aggregate data across all social media sites to draw correlations between visual commerce activity and sales. With the pace and volume of data generated by social media activity, it’s futile to manually pull data from each site. It’s better to build a content aggregation platform that automatically pulls data from each site and allows you to run meaningful reports, or select a solution from a company that specializes in social media content management.
- Make it mobile friendly. The majority of traffic on social media sites now comes from mobile devices, so make sure your visual commerce strategy takes into account small screens and bandwidth restrictions. Furthermore, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for mobile shoppers to click on a desired photo or video and purchase the corresponding product without having to open new web pages.
- Stay legal. Getting customer permission for thousands of photos/videos manually is impossible, which is why it’s essential to be sure to use a content management system that automates this process using a hashtag response (e.g., #yesJBrand). This is also important for maintaining an audit trail of your content.
In addition, it's essential to keep in mind that each social media component is tied to a larger picture. Your best customers are advocates who refer friends, write reviews, participate in contests, and engage in many more activities. Sharing images and videos is just one of many activities these advocates perform on your behalf.
It's feasible that the person referring a friend to your company on LinkedIn is the same person posting a review on Twitter and sharing with friends on Facebook. To be successful, you must avoid treating these activities as separate silos. Your customers will appreciate not receiving multiple emails for each activity they perform, and you’ll experience myriad benefits as your most loyal and socially active customers take your business to new heights.
Al Lalani is chief strategist for Social Annex, a customer loyalty and customer advocacy company.