Shopping today can be a daunting process, as retailers heave with an ever-greater range of goods, both in-store and online. In addition to the variety of long-established “standard” brands, there are now?multiple choices when it comes to healthy options. And?being curious creatures, people?want to learn about?what they use and eat, and have started to form opinions with the help of?consumer-generated content. The opinions of other shoppers just like them are of great?value. Consumer-generated content, including the likes of ratings, reviews, brand-related photos and videos, is trusted three times more than traditional marketing messages. Shoppers gravitate towards the authenticity and relevancy of this content, making it highly influential in the decision-making process. Consumer-generated content is a worldwide market trend, and the best marketers leverage it to reach consumers everywhere they shop: online, on mobile, and in-store. Although the majority of grocery purchases are still made in-store, the way we make purchasing decisions has changed, with the increasing maturity of a seamless omnichannel process. We now research products before, and in some cases during, our in-store visits, with smartphones being used by 82?per cent?to check out items in the aisles of?grocery stores. With the path to purchase now a blend of physical and digital touch points, it is vital brands and retailers respond. This means focussing on two digital strategies: deploy tactics to win the in-aisle shopper today, and feed the information-hungry consumer of tomorrow. Ratings, video, etc lay at the heart of both of these, enabling brands and retailers to reach and engage consumers while enhancing the customer experience, ultimately boosting revenue, and promoting loyalty and advocacy. The importance of authenticity It is sometimes assumed that?consumer-generated content is only valuable for driving sales of high value purchases. That is an incorrect assumption, as 38?per cent of new grocery purchases begin with online research. This can be attributed to consumers becoming more health conscious and concerned with processed ingredients, genetically modified organisms and overall food sourcing, as well as the increasing number of product choices. Continuous pursuit of fresh, relevant?consumer-generated content is key to engagement, and manufacturers and retailers need to deploy a range of tactics to gather this content. Organic feedback tends to skew toward the overly negative or positive, but it will supply businesses with a?rich and current picture of a product?s strengths and weaknesses. Tactics such as product sampling and social media calls to action are also effective volume drivers of honest, unbiased feedback. Powering huge results An example of?consumer-generated content at its best is the Waitrose As Loved By You campaign. Although the supermarket chain was seeing positive engagement and conversion lifts through its online channels, 95?per cent of revenue was still being generated in-store. Through consumer ratings and reviews, Waitrose can see that the highest rated products were also the best performers online. To leverage this, the nationwide campaign was launched to echo this effect in-store and amplify the impact of?consumer-generated content?where the bulk of Waitrose customers were buying. The results were impressive. It was Waitrose?s single most successful in-store campaign of 2015, and subsequently became a marketing focus for multiple campaigns in 2016, influencing the Waitrose website, print ads, and email strategy. Furthermore, with more than 400 brands used in homes around the globe, Unilever is one of the most successful corporations?in this space as well. Consumer behaviour on Unilever brand websites show that engaging with ratings and reviews on product detail pages leads to an increase in intent to purchase ? both online and offline. Unilever uses a variety of tactics to drive review volume. The Hellmann?s brand, for example, asks for reviews in email banners. The Q-tips homepage features a rotating banner with a call to action to leave a review for a specific product. The Dove Men+Care team increased review volume by updating the community management strategy to include requesting a review from people who had provided positive feedback on social media. Putting trusted relationships at the core of marketing strategies Businesses face new opportunities and challenges in 2017 that will compete for attention and investment, but there is no doubt that authentic consumer content will become an increasingly important asset in driving significant business value. Behind every purchase, there is a person. Consumers expect instant and honest information and an effective, productive relationship with the brands and retailers they patronise, but also with other like-minded customers. Businesses who engage with consumers to build those trusted relationships will reap the rewards. Prelini?Udayan-Chiechi is VP Marketing EMEA at Bazaarvoice
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