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User-generated Content: Playing a crucial role in e-commerce

User-generated Content: Playing a crucial role in e-commerce

Content is an extremely crucial part of any e-commerce business as it has the ability to drive a large amount of organic traffic onto a website. Businesses must be sensitive to providing the right content which provides the brand a wider range of audiences across the web for minimal cost.

One challenge that e-commerce brands face is the ability to create engaging content across all platforms. Moreover, the true challenge lies in creating engaging content as well as producing enough content.

Producing being the operative word, e-commerce brands have a distinct advantage wherein they don’t necessarily have to create or produce new content when sourcing user-generated content. They can leverage the content sourced from user-generated content (UGC) via various channels such as social media in many forms, such as messages, posts, videos, pictures, etc.

The rise of User Generated Content

Over the past decade, there has been an exponential rise in the amount of user-generated content on the internet and with the popularity of the various social media platforms out there, the growth comes as no surprise.

Customers have been talking about different products and brands for a long time now. With the ability to capture those conversations and interactions across the various social media and other marketing channels, e-commerce brands can avail the benefits without spending too much time attempting to produce newer content.

Why is UGC so effective?

One reason why UGC continues to have increased conversions is:  trust.

Multiple surveys showed that UGC plays an important role in a customer’s shopping journey. Some important findings being - 84% of people trusted online reviews as much as they trusted recommendations from their friends, and 74% of people said that positive reviews dramatically improved trust in a business.

Furthermore, almost 82% of consumers said that user-generated content (like reviews, for example) was extremely valuable in helping them make a purchase decision.

Sourcing UGC is not difficult, yet, deciding what needs to be done after, is important.

Incorporating Customer images in Product pages

Product pages benefit greatly from high-quality images. That being said, every brand going online is upgrading their images to better quality images. E-commerce brands can make their products stand out by skipping the usual images provided by the suppliers and manufacturers and instead, are turning towards customers.

Ex: Popular video streaming service Netflix utilizes UGC to promote fans’ posts about specific shows or movies on Instagram. UGC shows that other people are also getting excited about new shows and movies.

Instagram Netflix screenshot

This can be done if e-commerce brands do away with models, and start looking at their customers as models. Seeing real customers using and wearing products builds significant trust and generates interest in the product. Furthermore, it can also help deliver powerful messages during campaigns using the target audience as representatives for the brand.

Showcasing product benefits

Some brands have to come up with innovative ideas to use user-generated content. While brands selling tangible products such as fashion accessories, or home care products can easily benefit from using UGC easily, brands selling either a service or a software have to get creative.

When there are no tangible products that can be showcased, e-commerce brands can focus on the benefits to the customer and what they may experience using the service or product.

Example: Social media scheduling tool Buffer created #BufferCommunity to showcase photographs and personalities of its many users from all around the world. The aim for this campaign was to source UGC featuring exotic spaces to promote the freedom that Buffer provides.

Instagram Buffer community screenshot

Brands have to focus on how customers use their products and find ways to source UGC, and then insert that into various marketing campaigns - or reshare onto social media to boost engagement and brand awareness.

Including photos with product reviews

Reviews are the easiest UGC on the internet. E-commerce brands generate reviews without doing anything other than providing tremendous customer service and quality products.

To create a more lasting impact with reviews, e-commerce brands can opt for a review platform that enables users to add images as well as videos alongside their written reviews. E-commerce giants such as Amazon leverage this facility for their users.

Customers are more than happy to share their experiences, and that matters tremendously for brands. Many customers prefer to view the product reviews before choosing a particular product as it gives an authentic sense of how the product would appear on them.

The more customers share images alongside their reviews, the more value it brings to the e-commerce store.

Featured photo credit: Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

bird's eye view of a supermarket with shoppers looking at fruits and vegetables

Automation and AI in Retail: How are stores coping with the change?

AI & Automation in Retail: How are stores coping with the change?

The retail shopping experience is constantly evolving. The stores of the future may look completely different than the ones that customers visit these days. A large contribution to what would make them different would be the integration of AI and automation. Almost every retailer in the world is competing against e-commerce giants like Amazon, and with the introduction of its physical store, Amazon Go, which uses cameras and sensors to charge customers, there is more competition. Tech companies are seeking to roll out powerful automation tools for retailers, but will these tools be able to entice customers?

Automation is a preferred choice

The benefits of automation have already been experienced on a smaller scale with supermarkets offering self-checkout kiosks. While retailers invest considerably in these innovations, some of the benefits can be decreased reliance on the staff, and ensuring that the customers complete their shopping journey seamlessly. Furthermore, a study also concluded that a majority of US consumers believe that self-checkout kiosks enhance the store experience.

The checkout process can be made faster and simpler using a smartphone, and customers may no longer need to stand in long queues. They can use apps that are designed to read barcodes of  products and automatically generate the bill for the customer within the app itself.

It is important to note, however, that these innovations do not replace the human effort and it simply supports the staff and makes the logistics process more efficient.

robot standing near luggage bags

Going beyond checkout

Automating the checkout is only one application of automation. Some other applications can be bots that can automatically stock shelves or smart devices that can provide signals for products going out of stock or nearing expiration dates. These applications can help store managers to efficiently manage the inventory with the right data.

Automation as Customer Service

Retailers are increasingly using Robotic Process Automation to make transactions and providing answers for simple customer queries faster. This ensures that the customers are provided with the help that they need, without the need for engaging the store staff. The US retailer Lowe, as an excellent example of application of this idea, introduced the LoweBot – an in-store robot that converses with customers and helps them locate items in the store using real time inventory tracking. Furthermore, it acts as an alternative source of information for customers who have simple questions, freeing up employees to attend to customers who need more guidance with their queries.

Automation and Pick-Up Trends Merge

Many retailers, such as Target, provide customers with the option of placing an order online and having it picked up at a nearby store without having to get out of the car, much like Drive-Thru at fast food chains.

This facility in its current model, however, requires human involvement. . As soon as the store receives an order, a staff member is required to bag the order, while another may be required to take them to the customer’s vehicle. While this is a convenient option for the customer, it creates  labor inefficiency for the store. Automating these processes would free up the staff allowing them to help the customers in-store and streamline the pickup routine for customers.

selective focus photography of group of people selecting vinyl record sleeves

Despite the stiff competition online, in-store shopping will survive, however, it needs to change to meet changing customer needs and preferences. Retailers must realize the importance of AI and automation and capitalize on it to stay ahead. The goal should be not to out-do e-commerce giants like Amazon but to provide an involved face-to-face customer service in a welcoming environment.

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