Visual commerce and user-generated content (UGC) are valuable tools for any business wanting to stand out in today’s competitive market. We all have the internet to thank for the meteoric rise in prominence of these concepts among vendors and advertisers worldwide. That’s why it’s vital to learn as much as you can about these brave new marketing formats that are sweeping the digital world. Let’s take a more detailed look into the power of visual commerce and UGC.
What Is Visual Commerce?
Visual commerce is not just one concept or method of marketing. Instead, it’s an umbrella term for a variety of different ideas all relating to visual media in a virtual setting. Visual commerce can be something as simple as displaying pictures or videos of your products and services. It can also be as complex as adding shoppable layers on your website that take your customers to web pages dedicated to your products.
The best and most straightforward examples of the concept are in virtual marketplaces such as Amazon. All of their products come with a collection of images of the item for sale, as well as other promotional content displayed on the screen. By scrolling down, you will also see a visual advertisement for a bundle that includes the product you are looking at grouped one or two other items that pair well with it. And of course, the company includes a list of visible links to other related products.
Most people do not even realize how much of a difference this makes in their shopping experience. As humans, we are much more comfortable with things we can see and understand versus things that are only described to us. The more a person feels like they can interact and vet a product before buying it, the more confident they will feel making the purchase.
What Is UGC?
UGC stands for user-generated content and involves any form of content that has been posted by users on online platforms. This can include blogs, YouTube channels, podcasts, and customer reviews.
User-generated content also provides an opportunity for visual commerce in a lot of ways. Instagram is the most common platform for this type of UGC. Users create and share posts featuring your brand, which in turn exposes your products and services to their audience. Then you can share that content with your own audience, boosting your credibility and trust with your customers.
Through the use of UGC, you can also enlist influential content creators as brand representatives. This may include Instagram influencers with large numbers of followers. Another example of UGC involves professional YouTubers partnering with online vendors to market the vendor’s products. The YouTuber then offers product discounts to their viewers.
Why Is Visual Marketing So Important?
In general, consumers feel more comfortable purchasing something they can actually touch. For example, if you go to a grocery store, you can hit a watermelon to tell if it’s ripe enough or handle a jar of spaghetti sauce to get a sense of how much is inside.
Interactions like these between product and consumer are sorely lacking in online markets. A person cannot touch something they buy on Amazon until after they purchased it. That’s why it’s so important for businesses to maximize the use of visual marketing
The Alternative to Physical Touch
Visual marketing is the most potent tool a vendor or advertiser has online because it is the only tool that matters when selling products. Since your potential customers will not be able to touch your product, you have to show it to them in other ways that will convince them they want it. Their only experience of your products or services are the pictures and videos you show them, so those need to be as good as they possibly can be.
Personal testimonials from people who use your service have a similar effect on consumers. This phenomenon is doubly true if the testimonials come from established social media influencers.
Instagram influencers and YouTube personalities have the trust of the communities that spring up around them. That trust is something no ad campaign could ever hope to replicate in any meaningful way. When an internet influencer advocates for a product, people listen to them. When a YouTube personality talks about a company sponsoring them, people notice. It’s the next best thing to the consumer being able to actually touch and interact with your product. In many of these cases, the merit of the product you are selling is secondary to the trust people have in the influencer or personality behind it.
Results Show That It Works
Regardless of why and how it works, the results speak for themselves. 46% of consumers say that they follow influencers for their recommendations on purchases, and up to 50% view UGC to discover new brands and products. 8 out of 10 consumers have purchased a product through the recommendation of an influencer.
On top of that, UGC sparks conversation and has high shareability. Consumers are more willing to spread awareness of the brand or product recommended by an influencer compared to a professional promotion photo or advertisement for the exact same product. That is the level of effectiveness that UGC has.
Social media has become such a large part of our day-to-day lives that it would be impossible to miss the chance to use it. Major influencers of the platforms also attract hundreds of thousands of people’s attention. For some brands,
the use of user-generated content and influencers is their entire business model. New clothing and beauty brands can base all of their marketing off of Instagram influencers alone and compete with, or even out-compete, long-established brands. Some mobile games and web services exclusively use YouTubers for their marketing and have garnered much success from it.
It would be nothing short of foolish not to take advantage of the opportunity influencers present. The businesses that cannot adapt to the times crumble because of it. So rather than going the way of the dinosaurs, go the way of the influencers.
How eCommerce Stores Use Visual Marketing
Implementing visual marketing in your eCommerce store is relatively simple. Pop-up ads, bottom-scrolling ads, top-scrollers, and automated assistance bots on web pages are all ways of marketing the products and services of a website through visual means.
The only functional difference between a bright and flashy pop-up ad and a billboard beside a highway is the price point to keep it there. Buying ad space on a website is considerably cheaper, but the intent and general strategy are the same. Traffic, either web or automotive, passes by where the ad is placed and reads or interacts with it in some way.
The other significant difference is that pop-up ads and scrolling banners can have links embedded in them, leading people directly to your site. Potential customers can click on any one of your ads placed across the internet and be instantly transported to the about page of your company website or to an online vendor selling your products.
Targeting Audience with Data Trends
Many social media platforms allow companies to view data trends and search histories of their users so that you can tailor ads to the people who will see them. This mirrors the use of UGC and further demonstrates the benefit of virtual ads over something like billboards.
How It All Ties Together
In our modern era, visual commerce is no longer an option like it was 10 years ago. Companies that do not use it are eclipsed and starved-out by companies who do. Visual marketing cannot stop at pop-up ads either. Your website has to be intriguing enough that the people who clicked on it do not click off immediately.
Remember, at this point, all web traffic to your site should be viewed as potential customers rather than actual customers. Once these potential customers arrive at your site, they need to be awed at its interface and structure. You need to have links embedded in pictures. The pictures themselves have to entice people to stay and scroll. Visual commerce is less about what you sell and more about how you sell it.
Again, we return to UGC and influencers. All these influencers have to do is place a link to your website in their comments or bio on their own social media page and people will flock to you. Unlike the people who come from pop-up ads, these people are truly interested. They have heard about your product or service from someone they trust.
Visual eCommerce Trends
An important part of visual commerce is selling your products and services not only as consumer items but also as experiences. You want to cultivate the image of your business as an experience to be enjoyed and shared. For this reason, it is vital to keep up to date with the trends of what people are looking to experience.
UGC is an excellent starting point. Look at who is being successful on internet platforms and why. From there, consider how you could mirror their tactics in marketing your product.
It’s also important to keep your product images up to date. Even if nothing about your product or service becomes outdated or obsolete, not changing the images you use to market your product may make you appear stagnant and stale. Likewise, if an influencer who has been representing your product becomes less popular, do not stay with a sinking ship. Find an influencer who is rising in popularity and offer them the same deal.
The worst thing a company can do when it comes to visual commerce is to fall behind on trends. At a certain point, falling behind on trends can further hamper your future advertising campaigns. The best example of this is the use—or misuse—of “memes” in advertising. Memes have the potential to exemplify visual advertising. They are widely-shared images that a massive population of people shares and interacts with every second of every day. Memes also are easy to change to suit an individual’s needs. The problem is that they also exemplify the nature of internet trends. Most memes only have widespread attention for a matter of days or weeks. After a meme loses favor, the vast majority of people never want to see it again.
As a whole, memes are bad for marketing because they trend in and out so quickly. The only exception is inin settings where they can be used quickly and discreetly. For example, if your company has a Twitter page, that is a place where your customers are less likely to be put off by their use. In short, internet trends are fickle and you need to understand them to market yourself via visual commerce properly.
A Brief Recap
Visual commerce and user-generated content are vital marketing concepts that will shape the future of your business If you want to succeed, you need to utilize visual marketing and influencer representation in order to sell your goods and services.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Internet trends change rapidly, but they are vital to success. Keep a close eye on them in order to market your products effectively for the current times.
- Influencers and online personalities are superior to ad campaigns.
- Excellent images are not enough to stand out anymore. Everything from your website to your representation should sell your business as an experience for your customers.