In the “Amazon era” retailers with an online presence must constantly fight to keep loyal customers and attract new ones—or watch their business slowly be eaten up by larger competitors. At the outset, this might look like a difficult battle to win given that most brands have significantly fewer resources and smaller pockets than Amazon. However, the key to success for many companies lies in better utilizing something they already have: their visual imagery and other online content.
The Editorial Element
According a recent report from L2, 40% of shoppers seek inspiration and discover products online prior to making a clothing or footwear purchase. This means that brands have a tremendous opportunity to turn browsing behavior into buying behavior by infusing their site with compelling, visual and engaging content. In the early days of ecommerce, there was a mis-perception that the online experience was just about the transaction. Customers might visit a brick-and-mortar store to interact with products and discuss fashion tips with the store associates, but online shoppers were interested solely in getting the item into their cart and checking out as quickly as possible.
Today, we know that’s simply not the case—online shoppers expect a virtual shopping experience that rivals the physical one in terms of how-to’s, style guides, and other key elements. Retailers must engage with their customer base via informative blogs, articles and other types of content, and integrate this collateral into the broader ecommerce journey. This isn’t a benefit reserved for “the Great White Shark,” as L2 refers to Amazon, or companies of similar size and resources. Recent technology innovations mean that even the smallest of retailers can incorporate editorial content into their ecommerce presence without breaking the bank.
Video is another element becoming increasingly important in winning the war for relevance online. According to a report by Invodo, shoppers who watch a video are 1.7 times more likely to purchase something than those who don’t. Brands need to capitalize on this by making their videos “shoppable”—meaning that consumers can initiate a purchase directly from the video itself. This is another area that is often viewed as cost and resource intensive but, again, this is an incorrect assumption that is preventing too many retailers from realizing the conversion benefits of shoppable media.
When technology enables teams with little or no development expertise to link to multiple product pages within video, the question becomes not “how to” incorporate shoppable media but, rather, “why not?”
Much has been made about the purchasing power of the millennial generation, and the demographic’s preference for all things social media. This is perhaps one of the best and easiest ways in which retailers can compete with Amazon and other industry behemoths. Social channels represent a treasure trove of content that brands can mine in their efforts to create more compelling customer experiences, and user generated content (UGC) solutions enable companies to do this efficiently and effectively.
An apparel retailer, for example, can collect images from Instagram in which their products are featured and republish to their site so that visitors can see the posts. Brands can also design entire media galleries of content created by their social followers. Not only does this engender a more vibrant website experience, it can also drive conversions by providing customers with inspiration for how to style and pair different products. In addition, UGC allows brands to tap into the viral nature of social media and reach a wider audience. For example, sharing a photo of a celebrity or influential lifestyle blogger wearing or utilizing a product enables brands to interact with new potential customers and introduce these followers to additional product lines or items.
Despite these and other benefits of UGC, it remains a relatively untapped resource for many brands. For example, in a recent assessment of department stores, L2 found that just 12% of the retailers hosted dedicated UGC pages and only five percent integrated socially generated content into their product pages. As companies look to compete in the Amazon era, it’s essential that they take advantage of the technology innovations that enable them to cost effectively capitalize on UGC.
It’s truly an exciting time for retail. While Amazon and other industry giants certainly have a fair share of the market, technology has leveled the playing field, providing smaller retailers with unprecedented opportunity to compete—and win. In this environment, the best brands are defined not by the depth of their pockets but rather by their ability to maximize their digital assets. By raising the profile of editorial content throughout the site, ensuring this content is shoppable and increasing the utilization of UGC, even the smallest of online stores can drive conversions and sales.
James Brooke is CEO of Amplience