Buyers love marketing that isn't marketing, especially if it comes not from a company but from people like them. Reviews and recommendations are two examples of this, and there is another, largely untapped source of user generated content for e-commerce marketing: real-world photos.
Who's doing this today?
Some fashion companies, such as Dannijo, are already doing this well today. You can see Instragram, self-shots in mirrors, and other photos from their customers featured in their product pages.
I don't think this technique is limited to fashion sites at all. Any product used to make other products—basically anything you buy at Home Depot or Michael's would also really benefit from this. But let's go even more boring: lightbulbs. If you're a new LED manufacturer you'd love to have action photos of your brand new bulbs in your customer's beautiful kitchens. I know I sent around photos when I had my new, dimmable LEDs installed to my family.
Dannijo shows off its customers' photos.
Why use photos of your users instead of perfect models?
Using pictures from your products' users has a few key benefits:
- A consumer is much more likely to buy if she can picture herself using the item, which is much harder if she looks nothing like the size 0 model in the marketing image.
- Consumers love brands that connect with their customers.
- Just as with other people's blogs, you don't create the content; you just have to find it!
Sure, the photos might be grainy, the lighting not perfect, the user not top 1% attractive. But that's exactly the benefit. By giving up perfection the photos become more relatable to the buyer.
A recent Wall Street Journal article talked about this:
Showcasing amateur photos of people who aren't models is an about-face for the hyper-controlled fashion industry...But retailers are learning new approaches in the do-it-yourself digital world, where word-of-mouth can be more powerful than a well-funded national advertising campaign.
Brands are coming around to the fact that while perfect photos are nice, engagement and community can be more value in the long term.
If you want to do this yourself, you've got a fair amount of work cut out for you, including figuring out how to store the images, how to add them to your page templates, how to enable users to upload photos, how to screen for inappropriate content, etc.
If you're a big retailer with a big IT team, this might be doable. If not, you'll want something that works faster out-of-the-box. Olapic is the first player in this space. Think of them like Bazaar Voice but for user generated photos instead of for reviews. They don't currently publish their pricing, but this may be due to their being a young company than anything else.
I haven't personally used them, but the idea has a lot of promise. If you've tried them out please let us know in the comments below.