In today’s retail environment, consumers are hungry for information. They want to know more details about products and services, they want to actively participate in the brand, and they want an experience they can’t get anywhere else.
So, they consult videos, photos, and online commentary. They leverage innovation and technology to see the product in new or different ways. Once they have a satisfying experience, then they’ll make a purchasing decision.
And what drives these new and exciting customer journeys? Content.
Retail’s winners are the brands that use innovative content to influence the customer journey. To gain market share, retail brands must find, define, and communicate their own editorial voice across channels — and do so in a manner that resonates with consumers.
Emerging Content Types
Marketers are familiar with websites, blogs, and white papers, but new forms of content — from e-commerce videos to augmented reality — are influencing in-store and online retail in exciting ways.
Today, content isn’t just about having an online presence or earning a high ranking in search. Rather, content is created for a specific purpose and held to standards defined by measurable results.
Brands Are Publishers Now
Brands are no longer dependent on traditional media outlets to tell their stories and connect with target audiences. Facebook, YouTube, search engines, and other digital innovations have made it possible for brands to attract and retain consumers with compelling content that builds trust and authority.
One of the best examples of brand-as-publisher is Recreational Equipment Inc. REI has established itself as an authority on outdoor recreation by offering a breadth of sporting and sports-related products, and by creating content that demonstrates its authoritative voice. This content focus has served the brand well, and when consumers need advice about camping, skiing, biking, or other outdoor adventures, REI is the name that comes to mind.
Brands that want to connect with customers can do so with a variety of content formats, including user-generated content (UGC), video, and augmented reality.
The Power of UGC
There’s no better brand advocate than the people happily using your products. In our digital age, communicating consumer sentiment is so simple and effortless that UGC is one of the most powerful and influential marketing tools.
GoPro, the definitive leader in action cameras, has shown the world the power of UGC by encouraging customers to shoot and share their adventures online. More than 6,000 GoPro-tagged videos are shared daily on YouTube, making the brand one of the best at turning happy customers into marketing gold. GoPro’s user-generated content is so successful that the company has its own editorial department to curate and edit the content — and its camera sales hit $1.18 billion in 2017.
Because UGC is a first-person account, it provides instant credibility for the brand. (And reviews, videos, comments, and images can also positively influence search rankings.) In fact, UGC is so influential that customers often consult it before buying. Research firm DMN reports that 86% of millennials think it is an accurate indicator of brand quality, 59% of millennials rely on UGC when making purchase decisions, and 70% of consumers listen to peer recommendations and reviews.
Video Marketing Connects Storytelling and Sales
E-commerce video marketing leverages storytelling to introduce customers to the brand, and it can even enable customers to purchase products by clicking on a link embedded in the video. By empowering a customer to purchase from the video in real time via mobile or a smart home device (think Amazon Echo devices such as Alexa), customers can make decisions in the moment. This technology also makes it easy for the customer to share on social media, thus further influencing the customer journey — and brand sentiment — across channels.
Augmented Reality Leads to Real-Life Purchases
One gold star example of augmented reality is the Sephora Virtual Artist, which enables customers to virtually try before they buy thousands of makeup products. Through augmented reality technology, Sephora’s app scans an image of the customer’s face and then invites her or him to experiment with the brand’s makeup. In 2014, L’Oréal launched a similar app called Makeup Genius.
Great Content Impacts the Bottom Line
Content marketing is expected to be a $313 billion industry worldwide by 2019, according to Statista. As part of an engagement marketing strategy, content can be a powerful tool to influence retail spend, prompting consumers to explore additional brand content, visit a different part of the store, or make a purchase.