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Retail’s next chapter may reimagine relatability, according to a new report by Bazaarvoice — and that means consumers’ original content could take the lead for brand and retailer marketing.

In its report, “A picture’s worth a thousand purchases,” technology firm Bazaarvoice revealed that in addition to social media, visual and user-generated content is driving online purchases, as 74 percent of consumers prefer to see previous customers’ “real” photos and videos on brand and retailer websites, in lieu of professionally shot images.

Its research surveyed more than 8,000 consumers from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, France, Germany and Australia, and was conducted by Savanta in November and December of last year.

Fifty-one percent of global consumers agree that social media influences purchases, while 65 percent find the availability of previous customer photos on social media and websites “essential” in their purchase decision, the report said, adding that video is also crucial for decision-making: Sixty-two percent of consumers are more likely to buy if they can view both photo and video content from previous customers.

What it boils down to is relatability, according to the firm.

Joe Rohrlich, chief revenue officer, Bazaarvoice, said, “Relatable voices commenting on and reviewing a product instill trust in a brand and product amongst other consumers online. The more realistic and authentic audiences feel the review content is, the more confident they become when deciding to make a purchase.”

Perhaps that’s why Facebook, the most used social network globally, wields so much power in the retail space. Bazaarvoice’s report found that Facebook is also the most popular destination in regard to influencing purchases, at 25 percent, and the most likely social platform for consumers to purchase a product on, at 26 percent.

For the younger set, amongst 18 to 34-year-olds, specifically, Instagram takes the title as the most popular destination, with 31 percent using it as “their main source of inspiration” and 27 percent stating that it’s the most likely place for them to buy.

And younger shoppers demonstrate “a particularly strong preference” for visual UGC on social media: Its report said that 73 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds prefer when brands use visual UGC for social media outreach compared to an average of 64 percent across other age groups, further solidifying the collective call for raw relatability.

Shoppable images and videos hold the most influence over buying choices on social media at 19 percent — and that’s ahead of video advertising at 14 percent and posts from followed brands at 13 percent, which suggests that “rich content and the ease of buying on-platform are now critical in the customer journey,” according to the firm.

Generational differences. Image courtesy of Bazaarvoice. 

But for brands, these shifting preferences put them to work: Its survey found that many want to see new visual UGC from brands on social media more frequently than they do on websites, as 47 percent of consumers want to see new UGC on social media at least two to three times a week, with 10 percent of those expecting updates multiple times a day, Bazaarvoice said.

Its survey also found that proof plays a compelling role in purchasing, particularly for pricier products — visual UGC can make or break a purchase as consumers seek “evidence” and certainty about said product’s quality, as well as the accuracy of the description before buying, Bazaarvoice said. And it follows that for 36 percent of consumers, technology and electronics is “the most important category” for reviewing photos and videos from other customers prior to purchase.

“Visual content shared by previous customers can give shoppers confidence to click the ‘buy’ button and reduce basket abandonment. It’s the best way to demonstrate online how the product fits or works and can help potential customers imagine how they would use the product in their own lives,” Rohrlich said.

Reviewer authenticity is another item of consideration when making a purchase, as for 45 percent the quality of other customer reviews is the top priority, compared to how recently a review was posted at 32 percent, or the number of reviews a product has from previous customers 23 percent.

Even correct grammar is evaluated — and expected — in reviews: For 21 percent of consumers, a quality review is “judged to be one that includes photos and videos as well as text, more so than a well-written review with good spelling and grammar, at 16 percent, or a review that clearly states when a product was purchased, at 11 percent.”

“The honesty and credibility of seeing other people’s real-life photos and videos makes visual user-generated content infinitely more valuable than a product description or professional photos. By enabling visual content from previous customers — as well as text-based reviews — on their platforms and social media, brands and retailers can turn a one-dimensional customer experience into a dynamic one, that will simultaneously drive consumers to purchase.”

“The trends across age groups suggest that those most engaged with online shopping — young shoppers — are the ones that find visual UGC most important. There is a huge opportunity for brands and retailers to stand out to these consumers with visual and social content.”

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