Retailers Are Mining User-Generated Content To Redefine Shopper Engagement And Drive Sales
As catering to consumers and engaging their input becomes increasingly important for brands, retailers like Rebecca Minkoff and Harvey Nichols are replacing company-fed messages with content created with consumer input and livestreaming services to connect with shoppers and boost business
“If it looks, talks, or feels like an ad, it’s not going to win,” said Per Pederson, global creative chairman of Grey, at the Cannes 2018. The sentiment captures just why user-generated content, from a customer’s lipstick review on Sephora.com to a GoPro shopper’s skydiving story on Instagram, is running roughshod over brands’ spoon-fed marketing messages.
While the advertising industry is in an existential funk, brands from Rebecca Minkoff to Harvey Nichols are increasingly tapping user-generated content, or more broadly, “authentic” content, as both marketing and consumer education tools—like a styling session via livestreaming—to boost shopper engagement and drive sales.
Boasting over 800,000 Instagram followers, designer Rebecca Minkoff, for one, widely viewed as a digital innovator, is a big believer in the power of the shoppers’ voice, which holds infinitely more sway these days than traditional advertising. So much so, that the designer has created a home for user-generated content on the brand’s website so that online shoppers can see how products look on women who aren’t models.
“A majority of our traffic no longer comes from Google, it comes from Instagram,” Minkoff said. “These customers are huge conversions, and when we put up our [user-generated content] on our website, the best-selling items are ones where we have a picture of the customer wearing it.” That comes as little surprise: A massive 90% of user generated content, defined as ratings, reviews, product photos, product videos or other commentary written by the consumer about purchased products or items they’re considering, influences shoppers’ decisions to make a purchase.
Rebecca Minkoff has now earmarked video as a key opportunity and is exploring how the brand can serve as a shopper’s personal fashion stylist, curating their outfits via livestreaming to drive sales. The move comes amid the emergence of “shopstreaming,” live video shopping events from brands like ShopShops and M. Gemi that are the digital-era’s answer to home shopping networks like QVC. “China is really moving forward in adopting this technology and using it, and I think in the U.S. it’s a little weird because they [associate livestreaming] with the Home Shopping Network of QVC,” Minkoff said. “But if we can get people in the U.S. to [shop this way], it would be really exciting.”
Taking old-school customer service calls and new-economy chat bots to their natural extensions, luxury fashion retailer Harvey Nichols is now connecting in-store associates to shoppers online via livestreaming powered by retail tech company Hero. As retailers now cater to more demanding shoppers who can get anything they want online, service has become the ultimate luxury. And for a high-end brand like Harvey Nichols, its customers’ service expectations are exponentially higher.
To that end, the brand is working to replicate the in-store experience for shoppers by answering questions, providing staff recommendations and offering styling tips via video. Harvey Nichols has tracked a jump in conversion rates from the service, just as the retailer grabs valuable data on shopper behavior and preferences from the livestream interactions.
Shoppers who use Hero’s technology on the site spend up to twice as much and are five times more likely to purchase than those who don’t use it, said Pearson Poon, executive director at Harvey Nichols. The retailer is now expanding the service to more stores.“We want to eventually tie all our services up into a bundle for customers so that those features and CRM aspects of our model are working together to add value to the shopping experience,” said Poon.