Picture this. You’re at a Gourmerican burger joint chomping a cheeseburger, when an outspoken vegan friend starts preaching that you’re killing the planet. Last week, that same vegan downed a pricey glass of pinot before their flight to a far-flung destination, armed with their strongest mossie repellant and first aid kit. Anything amiss?
User-generated content has become vital in a world where brands are increasingly building direct and transparent relationships with customers, according to the digital chief of Mecca.
Speaking at the Online Retailers Conference 2016 in Sydney, the cosmetic retailer’s head of digital, Anna Stockley, said leveraging content produced by consumers, such as videos, images, social content, as well as ratings and reviews, is a key part of how the brand is driving customer engagement and authenticity.
“UGC influences behaviour across the entire customer journey, and today, people are engaging with and expressing their opinion about products and brand freely in social media posts, online ratings and reviews, blog posts, online videos and more,” she told attendees. “At Mecca Brands, we are truly blessed to have a very engaged customer base that generates a lot of material and participates actively in our community.”
Stockley pointed out social media is transforming the market, with 3.5 billion people online and 2.5bn with social media accounts.
“As a result, brands are leap-frogging traditional media, and there is a direct conversation happening with the customer now,” she said. “UGC is very much driving customer’s decisions and purchase behaviour.”
For instance, Anastasia of Beverley Hills is one of the first brands that has grown purely via social, and is now valued at more than US$ 1 billion. “It’s showing brands are now forging those relationships directly with their customer,” Stockley said.
Rather than place their trust in traditional advertising for product information, the next generation of consumers are more willing to trust strangers and their recommendations, she continued.
“In fact, 90 per cent of people prefer brand recommendations from friends and 70 per cent believe in consumer opinions,” she said.
As an example, Stockley noted one of the cosmetic brands its stocks, Urban Decay, experienced on a 230 per cent increase in the likelihood to convert online thanks to positive consumer reviews.
When it comes to the moment of purchase, Stockley said UGC can help a brand be part of the sub-culture and community. The way Mecca does this on its website is to aggregate content from customers and showcase what people are contributing to the community.
“Also in-store, it can also be very effective - you can generate moments of theatre and excitement by bringing that community into the physical realm,” she said. “Take our selfie printers, where we created collage of all the images of customers taken from a new store opening.”
But it’s the post-purchase and advocacy cycle that Stockley suggested was the most important point of the customer journey to benefit from user-generated content.
“This is where you have people engaging and really providing exposure to the brand or product online,” she said. “We’ll see things like beautifully styled photos on social of customers with their products post-purchase, and commenting on their experience.”
Stockley also pointed out the younger generation don’t connect with traditional beauty marketing methods of polished, inaccessible and retouched images. Instead, they’re looking for authentic imagery and stories.
New generation of cosmetic buyers prefer how-to tutorials over traditional ads, Stockley said
This was something recognised by L’Oreal in a recent study, which found simple ‘how to’ video tutorials had twice the number of click throughs than high-production, glossy advertisement.
“It’s particularly the younger demographic today that isn’t responding to traditional beauty marketing, which is very aspirational and inaccessible,” Stockley said. “Content that feels accessible, such as YouTube tutorials and how-to guides, are proven to driven more engagement with a younger audience.”
Stockley offered up the following key takeaways for leveraging great user-generated content for your brand:
- Authenticity: Go the extra mile and build authentic relationships with your customers, who will become your brand advocates
- Genuine passion: Work with those are influential but who also have a genuine passion for your brand and what you’re delivering
- Influencer relationships: Build a relationship with influencers, don’t just make it transactional
- Reward and recognise: Give customers an incentive and reason to share with reward or recognition, like competitions or putting people in the spotlight