Today, shoppers no longer look to celebrities and style magazines for advice on what to buy.  Instead, brands are seeking advice from the shoppers on what they should promote.  According to a recent study conducted by social shopping site, Shopa, one in seven women snap selfies trying on new looks before waiting for an average of two ‘likes’ from friends online before making a purchase.  The overall process of shopping has now doubled from an average of 16 minutes to 31 minutes.

Most users of popular social media sites will go to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to post their selfie so their followers can choose to ‘like’ or disregard the post.  But it is not only their followers who are ‘like’-ing this- some companies will “like” publicly shared photos through a software code called an application programming interface, or API.  This photo-sharing technology allows brands to start buying Instagram ads and planning for automated posts alongside digital ad buys on Facebook or Twitter.  This is a great advantage for brands as they can see what products or services are well liked by their consumers.  Thus allowing brands to put more time and money into marketing those products and services.  

While many users may not be intending to promote their new pair of sunglasses, the authenticity and credibility of visual commerce has proven to be a great opportunity for brand marketers.  There are currently no laws forbidding publicly available photos from being analyzed in bulk, because the user has posted images to be seen by anyone which are available to downloaded.  The U.S. Federal Trade Commission does require websites inform their users on how user data will be shared with third parties, but gives room for brands to decide on the parameters of use.  

Here are the best practices for gathering and executing Visual Commerce into your marketing campaign:

Gain Permission. Once you have found content that fits your marketing campaign, the first step is to manually request permission to use that content.  One of the simplest ways is to ask for permission is to comment or post on the user’s social media page.  Consider the duration of your promotion and manage content for that particular campaign.

Verify.  Once you have gained the user’s approval, make sure the pictures and content are legitimate and related to the products or services you sell.  

Give Credit. Once you have identified and verified the content, display credit to the user with their name and/or social media username.   

Background.  In your campaign there should be a rationale behind why you are interested in sharing your customer’s photos.  Providing the right context will enhance your follower’s understanding and build brand affiliation.

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