Store closings. Vanishing headphone jacks. Riding with a stranger just a tap away. The times, they are a-changing.
We’ve reached this tricky time where consumer expectations are pushing technology and commerce in interesting ways. Consumers now expect frictionless multi-device, multichannel, hyper-personalized shopping experiences.
Think about that for a second. The idea of a multi-device, multichannel, hyper-personalized shopping experience would have seemed nearly impossible, and surely madly expensive, just a few years ago.
Now, consumers will get hyper-annoyed if a mobile-checkout requires too many taps and the item isn’t immediately available at the store one mile away.
That’s awesome for consumers. It can be maddening for marketers. It’s not that these experiences are fun and thrilling when they work or frustrating but acceptable when they don’t. This is just the way today’s consumers shop, and you must deliver if you want to get the sale.
We’ve seen marquee brands crumble as a result in these shifting shopping expectations. No need to name names. We all know them. Retailers have restructured, stores have closed, brick-and-mortar behemoths have shifted to online-only.
These cracks in the commerce foundation should signal to all marketers that it’s time to rethink the very idea of how to speak to consumers. Perhaps it’s time to listen to how consumers talk to each other by rethinking your user-generated content (UGC) strategy.
You need to give your shoppers and your customers ample opportunities to submit UGC. As you revisit your current UGC practice, you may find that you are only asking customers to submit product reviews. It is challenging to truly connect consumers and provide unique shopping experiences with such a limited strategy.
Encourage shoppers to ask questions. Prompt purchasers to answer. Reduce the steps needed to submit a review. Ensure product photo submission processes are mobile friendly and directly tappable to a phone’s camera and/or image gallery.
Use your UGC
Your shoppers will be bombarded with discounts and shipping offers during the holiday months. You can give your shoppers some reprieve while still encouraging them to shop and letting them know about your top products. Incorporate product ratings and photos submitted by customers into your holiday emails, product category pages and search results. Integrate snippets of reviews into your marketing messages to add another layer of authenticity on top of your own product descriptions. There’s opportunity to collect and feature UGC in every step of the customer journey.
Your UGC strategy doesn’t have to be self-reliant. In many cases, ratings and reviews from brands can be syndicated to your site. UGC syndication can boost your UGC resources and provide insights from shoppers who left reviews on the brand’s site. If you haven’t explored this option, you should include it as part of your 2018 planning.
UGC is not immune to these tectonic shifts in the commerce landscape. Earlier this year, Netflix shifted from a star rating system to a thumbs up/down system. The change received extreme reactions – both positive and negative. Netflix supposedly made the change to improve viewer experiences and their recommendation algorithms. This change, and the reactions that followed, illustrates how the processes of submitting UGC and how that UGC is then used can truly impact your business and consumer experiences.
Take the time to review these strategies for evaluating your UGC methodologies and what you can do to give your shoppers and customers a way to connect with each other and engage with your brand while providing a compelling shopping experience that gets the sale.
Jim Davidson is Director of Research for TurnTo Networks