All Posts by Meghana Manjunath

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Advantages of Leveraging User Generated Content for Retailers

Advantages of Leveraging User Generated Content for Retailers

Customer shopping habits have changed rapidly over the past decade. Customers today are looking for retailers that they can connect and engage with. Retailers must also change their marketing methods to interact with customers in an organic manner and provide an authentic brand experience.

One of the methods that is gaining popularity is the use of user-generated content (UGC). UGC is social media content created and shared between customers. Consumers want to be recognized for their input and as a result, retailers can benefit from the online discussion of their products. UGC can allow retailers to engage with their customers before, during and after a purchase. It provides customers with opportunities to promote the brands they like.

UGC in Marketing

UGC goes beyond mere likes or shares on social media. Customers often upload well-captured photographs or videos of the product. This content may even include comments and feedback about their experiences while using the product. Customers also leave reviews or offer recommendations of products they’ve purchased and used. UGC lets existing customers speak to future customers.

Given a choice between believing an advertisement by a retailer or a recommendation by another person, consumers tend to choose the latter. In fact, 93% of the consumers feel that UGC is helpful when making a purchase decisions.

Customers are continually bombarded by advertisements, but the impact is especially powerful when a customer feels a connection with another customer's experience. UGC works best when the message is real and authentic.

For example, cosmetics retailers benefit when their customers share pictures while wearing their products. Make-up artists are very popular on Instagram and they endorse the cosmetics brands they like. Followers of these make-up artists see these recommendations as credible and as a result, they are more likely to buy based on the recommendations. This user generated content showcases how the product works with a practical example, and without a heavy sell by the manufacturer/retailer. The result is that the credibility of the make-up artist is translated to the product and subsequently to the manufacturer/retailer.

UGC in Customer Retention

As a retailer, your job is to attract customers. However, it is equally crucial for you to nurture existing customers. How often are you creating rewards or special offers based on your customers purchase history? Have you considered utilizing UGC to showcase related or compatible products to existing customers?

You've made a big investment in attracting and nurturing your customer base. Don't lose it!

  1. Find UGC for your products where ever it exists and get it in front of new customers. Let your existing customers and fans do some of the hard marketing work for you. 
  2. Use social media to create an online community where users can discuss the products they’ve bought and offer recommendations to each other. Repost the best content on your official channels.
  3. Encourage customers to discover and share multiple uses of a product. Use UGC to showcase the versatility of your products. This retains old customers while drawing in. Retailers can also hold events like sales to boost customer interaction.

Artificial Intelligence in Curation of UGC

UGC is a key element of a successful marketing plan. With the growth of social media, content is being created every second. This can become an invaluable resource. The problem is that most of this content is uncurated as it's published. 

Learn to leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) to augment your marketing team. You can employ AI to curate UGC and use it for your benefit, by helping your human curation teams to curate faster and with higher accuracy. A side effect is that you can quickly become aware of product issues or bad publicity from a user review, and avoid the business risk associated with that. New ways of employing the content are coming out as the digital channels continue to diversify. You must curate UGC if you want to harness its power.

Trust is key. The conversations initiated by UGC can boost your bottom line. Nurture and reward your best content creators, and you'll see your customer base grow.

Of course with a growing customer base comes increased brand awareness, customer reach, and revenue.

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Social Media: A New Way to Shop Online

Social Media: A New Way to Shop Online

 E-commerce has changed the way people shop, giving retailers and businesses new avenues to interact and engage their customers. Millennials are currently the most valuable target demographic for modern retailers. As they are also the most avid users of social media, a crossover was all but inevitable.  

Retailers, realizing the power of social media, have used these platforms for a while now to engage with their customers online. Social media also lets retailers market their products in a more interactive environment.

Recently, social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have been investing in retail. This captures wide consumer interest and boosts both revenues as well as followers. As for retailers, they can use social media platforms to better understand consumer behavior and trends.

UGC or user-generated content is one of the most valuable data sources for retailers. Millennials put a lot of trust and faith in peer evaluation of products. Studies show that reviews and recommendations by fellow shoppers, rather than brand messaging, motivate customers to buy products online.

Here are a few instances of how social media platforms are leveraging the retail space:

Facebook Shop and Marketplace

Facebook has a feature called Facebook Shop. Retailers can add the Shop tab to their business page. It lets retailers display their products and sell directly from their company page itself. Considering the huge number of users on Facebook, this offers retailers a wide audience to convert into customers. Retailers can upload a product catalog to their page and customers can browse the products and buy them without having to leave the page. It also allows retailers to manage orders, and mark them as shipped or canceled right on the page itself.

Facebook also introduced Facebook Marketplace, an online market for retailers to display products. This offers free organic distribution for retailers’ products. It curates content and provides product recommendations based on user preferences and relevance. This ensures higher conversion from a user to a consumer. Like Facebook Shop, there is no listing fee involved. It is an online platform for retailers to sell to their customers.

#Instashopping on Instagram

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms with more than 1 billion active users; and about 60% or a whopping 600 million people, seek out and discover products on the app. Instagram has introduced shoppable posts which allow customers to go from discovery to buying without having to leave the app. Retailers can add up to 5 product tags per picture on business accounts only. They can only tag products from their Facebook Shop catalog. These tags redirect the customers to a product page that allows them to buy the products.

This seamless and hassle-free shopping experience has a wide appeal for the customers. In June 2018, they added Shoppable Stories which are an added advantage as about 400 million users view Stories every month. As of late 2018, Instagram also added a shopping channel to the Explore page, which is in its testing phase.

Shop and Cop by Snapchat

Snapchat  has introduced ads and product catalogs through its self-service ad buying platform. Recently, they released a dedicated shopping channel called Shop and Cop on the app which will feature exclusive offers and limited time deals through Shopify. These channels will be available in the Discovery section of the Snapchat app. Shop and Cop will feature social influencer posts and content. Shopify capabilities will allow in-app purchases ensuring a smooth shopping experience without the user leaving the app. Snapchat will curate products while Shopify will take care of the buying end. Moreover, Snapchat and Amazon have announced a partnership on a visual search tool. This will allow customers to use the Snapchat camera to search for products on Amazon.



2018 saw a lot of innovations with social media intersecting with e-commerce to give the rise of social commerce.  Retailers stand to make big bucks off of these popular platforms by better understanding shopper purchase behavior and using it to their advantage. They can conduct market research, market their products better and even sell, all in one place. With these innovations, it's only a matter of time before social media takes over the world of retail.

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The Rise of Conversational Commerce

The Rise of Conversational Commerce

Conversational AI is breaking the frontiers of retailer-customer interactions in today’s world. E-commerce used to be about selling products without offering customers a way express needs. However, conversations and personal interactions are essential in e-commerce. It helps retailers understand the customers’ requirements and offer customized products for them.

Today, about 5 billion users across the globe use messaging apps, with a fast-growing adoption rate. Social media and messaging apps are the preferred communication channels for millennials. Retailers can reach their customers by leveraging these messaging apps. Artificial intelligence is one medium that enables conversational commerce to instantly connect with customers. It helps engage and personalize communication to customers, thus driving sales for the business.

Conversational commerce is a two-way discussion between retailers and their customers through chat, messaging apps or voice technology, leading to a fruitful interaction that results in a value-based transaction. It allows retailers to create and nurture a relationship with their customers.

 

Enhancing customer shopping experience

Conversational commerce offers new avenues to connect with customers and improve the user experience.

Suppose a customer is planning to buy a Mother’s Day present, he/she would ideally step into a store and tell an associate about his/her requirement and get recommendations to buy an ideal gift.

Conversational commerce lets retailers take the learnings from the experience and automate the entire process. Retailers can integrate chatbots on their websites or use Virtual Personal Assistants to converse with customers through their online stores. From instantly answering questions to offering personalized choices, automation in commerce boosts interactions.

Additionally, conversational commerce can enable a follow-up experience for customers who abandon their cart. Instead of sending them an email that takes them through a long process to finish shopping, a direct message is a better approach. With a simple message, retailers can inquire whether the customer is willing to purchase the product, ask queries or requires to be reminded later. This allows the customer to take action and complete a purchase, all within the messaging app.

After a customer has purchased an item, retailers can notify about the shipment of the order, allowing customers to easily track their package. Once the order is delivered, retailers can connect with the customers to rate the overall experience, submit reviews or share pictures, with the click of a button.

 

Driving online sales

“Conversations are the driving force behind Conversions”

Customers want an easy and simple platform to purchase their desired products. Having a direct line of communication with their customers helps retailers make sure of sales. Conversational commerce is the way to engage customers at the point of sale to increase the rate of conversion. It opens the door for retailers to have a deeper interaction with customers during the crucial period between winning or losing a sale.

Conversational commerce reduces sales & support costs, overcoming the challenges of mobile browsing. It is a direct, personalized, dialog-driven approach to establishing long-term relationships, collecting data and increasing sales.

 

The purpose of conversational commerce is to provide personalization and convenience throughout a customer’s journey, from sales to service. It helps create a positive experience for the customer and earn loyalty. Moreover, it represents a customized online presence that lets customers request information they need rather than depend on browsing aimlessly through an online store.

Conversational commerce is a big deal as it represents a paradigm shift in the way retailers interact with their customers. It will have a huge impact on the entire customer shopping experience.

 

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Retail Trends Prediction for 2019

Retail Trends Prediction for 2019

From online shopping expanding to social media to customer-controlled delivery and returns, 2018 saw an exciting time in retail which drove a massive shakeup in the traditional retail landscape. Besides instant gratification, today’s connected customers expect newer experiences and hyper-personalization in retail. As we enter 2019, retailers are increasingly faced with the challenge to push boundaries and meet the evergrowing expectations of their customers.

Here are 5 retail trends that will gain momentum in 2019 -

Customer Datasets

Data plays a crucial role in the growth of any business. Accurate data will serve as a vital tool to enable retailers to understand customer behavior and reward their loyalty. This data will further enable retailers to deliver personalized shopping experiences to each customer. Retailers can target product offers more effectively due to access they have to customer datasets, AI and Machine Learning. Closer customer engagement will provide insights that can be valuable for retailers who want to grow their businesses. Forming stronger connections will be beneficial for both the customers and retailers.

Cognitive Technology

Cognitive Technology has led to automation across different parts of the retail sector, and this is a trend that will grow exponentially. Retailers will leverage cognitive computing to provide better customer service technology that can analyze enormous amounts of data. Retailers who integrate cognitive computing in their customer service can offer faster service. Setting computers and robots that can actually understand natural language and respond to simple questions will free up employees to attend to more complex queries. Robots can work alongside humans in many areas of retail increasing efficiency and productivity.

Voice-activated Shopping

As of 2018, Amazon and Google have together sold about 27 million voice-activated devices in the USA. 29% of these customers are already using the devices to shop online, and this number is slowly increasing day after day. Customers also expressed confidence in the recommendations provided by these digital assistants. These devices have a large following that can’t fully embrace their shopping abilities due to the lack of visuals. Companies are combating this by adding screens to their voice assistant devices. For example, Amazon Echo Show allows its users to view the products on the screen which increases confidence in their purchase.

Shopping anytime, anywhere

Consumers today are on the move and are going to expect services that could be available in transit. Social commerce will gain momentum by providing users/customers more choices for making purchases on the go. Retailers will be able to do targeted marketing and offer new ways to make online shopping more convenient, social and instantaneous. Customers will be able to shop from their vehicles while commuting. New innovative social commerce solutions will also emerge throughout 2019.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is quite popular with many apps that offer users a chance to blend the digital with the real world. These interactive experiences are not just fun but also offer retailers an opportunity to use them in shops. 

For example, if customers want to buy furniture, it could be quite difficult to picture the store items in their own house setting. If they pick wrong, they could end up ruining the aesthetics and ambiance of a room. Augmented reality apps can place 3D models of furniture right inside the customer’s home.

The digital furniture is also resizable and observable in any light, from any angle. Customers can even save room designs for the future. There is a huge level of customer engagement that can be achieved through these apps. They will allow customers to buy the best products and consequently come back to buy more in the future.

These trends may prove useful by providing retailers with some foresight. The landscape of the retail industry is evolving at a fast pace, and with Gen Z driving seismic shifts in shopping behavior, 2019 can be a very interesting year in retail.

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