How can fashion and retails brands best engage their audiences online? Can listening to what customers are saying help to drive sales? And how can brands integrate customer reviews and user generated content (UGC) into their branded content on digital, social, and mobile channels?
I spoke to Richard Jones, the CEO of EngageSciences to get his best advice about how fashion brands can use social commerce to grow their market. Listen to the interview on iTunes, SoundCloud or keep reading for a summary of our conversation.
HOW DO FASHION BRANDS USE SOCIAL COMMERCE TO BOOST THEIR EXPOSURE TO NEW DEMOGRAPHICS?
That’s a great question, and I think it does vary greatly, whether you’re looking at top end fashion brands, all the way through to how fashion is then driven out through the retail journey. And there is, I think, a difference. So having worked with some very high-end fashion brands in campaigns with media clients, folks like Marc Jacobs, etc., it’s more around curating what’s going on at major events like London Fashion Week and actually putting a brand stamp, if you like, on what’s the buzz and excitement around major fashion events and trends. I think as you move down through to the retail environment, you’re actually seeing user generated content as a way to help people make decisions about fashion. And that’s largely because we’ve now moved into an era where people very much trust other people more than glossy shots, brand generated content.
And everybody, they don’t just want to see how clothes look on a perfect-looking model. They also want to see how clothes actually look on other members of the public. And so what we’re seeing is in a more retail environment, leveraging user-generated content as people are trying on new fashions and styles and mixing-matching them and sharing them on Instagram, Twitter, Vine and other channels, that the fashion brands, the retailers are picking that content up and actually putting it into the purchase journey to help other people make decisions about what fashions might suit them.
WHAT ARE SHOPPABLE REVIEWS AND HOW DO BRANDS INTEGRATE THESE WITH THEIR OWN PLATFORMS?
In terms of the way that we look at shoppable reviews is probably a little bit different from others. So for starters, we believe that the concept of a review is extremely broad. Going onto a site and actually leaving a formal review on a Trustpilot or through Bazaarvoice, one of those recent review systems that a retailer might put onto their site or a fashion brand, is one way of actually creating reviews. But anybody that’s creating and sharing content on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and various other places, by nature, that is a review of sorts. It’s real time affirmation and confirmation that they like that particular product. And so what we do is we’re actually curating all of that content from the social channels. But we also bring in content from ratings and reviews systems, like Bazaarvoice and others, and then mix up the user-generated content with the more formal ratings and reviews into much more visually engaging and immersive experiences that can be put onto product pages. And we also actually use our system to go and engage people on various different social and mobile channels asking them to make very simple choices between questions that a brand frames. Some very simple, very, very quick reviews, but suited for mobile. So people are just clicking on two or three options, circles with content.
And that then feeds our platform and we can then deliver stats, as well as the user-generated content, as well as the ratings and reviews about any subject a brand wants to get information about and display to other users as part of the consumer journey. So it’s a very, very broad concept about advocacy and making all of that shoppable, because if you click on any review or if you click on any bit of user-generated content, we can actually add…say you click on a particular bit of UGC that’s in one of these advocacy areas on a product site, it’ll bring up the Instagram photo. But you could also add a price, an image, etc., on the right-hand side of that pane with a call to action to buy now. And people can click through from that piece of user-generated content from that advocacy or that review off to a particular commerce storefront to continue the purchase journey.
TELL US ABOUT OWNED AND BRANDED SOCIAL NETWORKS WITH SHOPPING REVIEWS?
This is actually something that a number of folks have actually done in the industry. AVON Cosmetics here in the UK does as well, where they’re actually are creating their own community actually on the site, which is an area where people could go in, they can share content between each other. People can like bits of content that’s being shared by other people. They can put forum posts, etc. There is a company that actually creates that technology. It’s actually Lithium, certainly powers Sephora and AVON cosmetics and other sites, which allows you to build that community on your own site.
I think it’s probably useful to comment on this, because I think for certain use cases, it absolutely makes sense to provide that kind of forum community on the brand website. But at the same time, you also need to do that with a strategy which integrates out to the wider community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc. And technologies and tools like EngageSciences will make that bridge between the community tools and the social networks and vice versa, and I think that’s important.