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Let your customers do the engaging


//section//Emerging practices

//headline//Let your customers do the engaging

//standfirst//Paul Skeldon, mobile editor at Internet Retailing, considers different ways that retailers are deploying user-generated content

//body copy//

The proliferation of mobile devices has made consumers more connected than ever before, leading them to expect richer, deeper and more personalised engagement with brands.

Clever retailers across Europe are simultaneously recognising the power of social media –also driven by mobile – and are turning it to their own advantage by getting their own customers to help tell their story in a new and engaging way.

Research by earned content platform vendor Olapic reveals that half of consumers share status updates and photos at least once a week. But more interestingly, it demonstrated a preference among millennials for sharing third-party visual content, such as that created by brands, media and influencers.

It found that 33% report sharing such content once a week or more, and 56% do so at least once a month. In fact, this fondness for third-party content is also evident among older generations. Though individuals over the age of 29 post personal content less than their younger counterparts, individuals between ages 30 and 44 share third-party content almost as much as those under 30.

Taken together, this propensity to share their own content and, if it aligns with their own ‘values’, that of brands makes for a powerful engagement strategy for retailers.

So called ‘earned content’ marketing – a method of leveraging user-generated content for the brand’s own engagement purposes and getting other loyal followers to share it – is starting to garner much interest across the world.

The tactic is especially popular in the fashion market, with brands asking customers to post inspirational videos and images of their clothes ‘in action’.

In the UK, Dune London has added a UGC feed to its website and, in the two weeks after customer and blogger content from Instagram was brought onto product detail pages, sales in which shoppers interacted with UGC rose by 82%.

The new UGC feature from Curalate helps shoppers to visualise shoes and accessories in real life settings – and then to click through to buy them.

“Our customers respond very well to UGC – being able to see others wearing our products gives them extra confidence to purchase,” said Mark Blenkinsop, digital marketing manager at Dune London. “This is the latest step in a wider strategy to leverage these images as well as our own beautiful lifestyle content across the web and make the products contained within photos and videos fully shoppable. Rather than asking customers to search for what they’ve seen, we’re taking them directly to it.”

Other brands have tried to make it more interesting still, with jeans maker Pepe Jeans looking to challenge users to put on its new Powerflex jeans without using their hands – with amusing video-ed consequences.

Pilotted by Georgia May Jagger – model daughter of notorious hip-swinger and Rolling Stone, Sir Mick Jagger – to get the ball rolling, the #GetItOnChallenge produced videos from more than 1,500 people across 25 countries, surpassing Pepe’s goal of 500 consumer videos by over 300%. The initial promotional video received more than 2 million views on YouTube, and the campaign reached 33 million people globally.

“We had the difficult challenge of promoting our new Powerflex jeans with a campaign that involved getting people semi-naked in front of a camera,” explains Txerra Pardinas, head of innovation and social media at Pepe Jeans London. “This is why it was important to promote our UGC video gallery across all channels to inspire others to take the challenge once they saw that so many others, including influencers they like and trust, were already doing it.”

While UGC and earned content marketing are shaping up to be the de facto tool for personalised brand engagement for many retailers, it does come with its challenges.

Eliciting the content from consumers isn’t so hard, but aggregating, moderating and sifting it is. If you are successful with UGC campaign, you are going to get a ton of content: how do you find the best bits?

Pepe Jean’s Pardinas had exactly this problem – and turned to a third party to run and manage it. “Olapic was very supportive in the planning and development of this campaign, helping us aggregate the enormous volume of content shared socially and making it easy for us to showcase the video gallery on our challenge website.”

Another issue, is that you have to always get the permission of the creator of the content to use it. This too can be turned into a brand engagement tool, however, by asking them over social media if you can use the content. 68% of people say yes, research shows, and when they do they often share that you asked, kick-starting any hashtag-based campaign you may be running.

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