By Jim Davidson, director of research, TurnTo Networks
It’s a splendid time to be a shopper. They can click, tap, swipe, and mobile pay their way through the friction-free commerce landscape.
It’s a challenging time, however, to be a retailer. You have to provide that friction-free commerce landscape that allows your shoppers to click, tap, swipe, and mobile pay their way through the purchase path.
For years, most retailers have gone for the two brightest and shiniest of marketing tactics: free shipping and discounts. Remember when it took luck or knowing someone to land a “Friends and Family” voucher? Remember when “Flash Sales” were a click-quick-or-miss-it thrill? Remember when a “Free Shipping” made shoppers (and your sales) go crazy?
Those days aren’t totally behind us, but the bright and shiny buzz they once promised has dulled. Consumers expect discounts each time they shop. Limited inventories and appointment shopping can frustrate shoppers who want to shop at their leisure and convenience. Not having free shipping will send your shoppers into the hands of your competitor or to Amazon.
If you take away the levers of discounts and shipping offers, how do you motivate your shoppers to buy? How can you distinguish your brand and offer a value proposition to shoppers that fosters long-term customer loyalty?
When marketers were asked how they distinguished their brand from their competitors, user-generated content (UGC) actually topped the list. The study, Aligning Customer Content with Retail Success, by WBR and TurnTo, found half of all retailers (50 percent) report UGC as the top brand distinguisher outranking Promotional Strategies (38 percent), e.g. “20 percent off” sales or “Free Shipping” offers, and Data Strategies (19 percent), e.g. Demographic or Purchaser Segmentation.
Consumers echo this enthusiasm for UGC. According to TurnTo’s study of U.S. consumers, Hearing the Voice of the Consumer, 81 percent of consumers say they would pay more for, and wait longer to receive, products that are paired with UGC.
The good news is you probably already have the foundational elements of a UGC strategy. Most retailers will have some form of ratings, reviews or Q&A. Unfortunately, these UGC efforts are likely isolated to product pages and have not received the attention they clearly deserve.
Like all successful commerce strategies, UGC reaches its maximum potential when it is connected to each step of the customer journey. Here are three ways to get your team to expand their UGC thinking and build a better customer content strategy.
1.Find The Foundation
Determine which UGC elements are currently in play on your site. You may find you have reviews and ratings but the user experience is outdated, not optimized for mobile devices, doesn’t allow shoppers to share photos, etc. Finding these faults will help you to determine what deserves top priority and which partners will help you achieve success.
2.Check On The Competition
Pretend you are a first-time shopper and use Google to search for a competitor’s product. You may be surprised to see product ratings in the search results. Visit their site and see how, and where, UGC is used to influence the shopper. You may discover your competition has already tapped into pivotal moments in the purchase path. Make a purchase and audit their UGC solicitation practices. Find mobile-optimization gaps, such as clunky email review requests or ratings requests that are sent too late post-purchase.
3.Shadow Your Shopper
Shopping habits and routines have evolved. Examine your traffic patterns, conversion rates, and the moments in the purchase path when shoppers abandon. This will help you to identify the critical moments when UGC could help motivate the shopper to continue toward submitting an order or to bring them back after they have left your site. New services, such as UGC syndication, can help you to boost your UGC resources. New customer content tools, such as review forms in the body of post-purchase emails, can help you to get customers involved in your UGC community.
As the pressures of the holidays progress and 2018 planning kicks off, explore how featuring UGC throughout the customer journey and increasing UGC solicitation opportunities can help you to meet your goals, distinguish your brand from your competitors and give your customers a reason to come back and buy again.
About The Author
As an expert in retail and all things ecommerce, Jim brings over 15 years of experience in online marketing and cross-channel programs for retail clients. From strategic vision to implementation, Jim has led clients to successfully meet aggressive revenue and performance goals. His articles can be found in publications such as DMNews, ClickZ, Total Retail, and Multichannel Merchant. He has spoken at numerous industry events including IRCE, ROI Revolution, eTail East and Magento Imagine and has been featured in Forbes, USA Today, and NPR’s Marketplace.