This is a recap of a Curalate webinar held on June 28 and conducted by Shezeen Ali, Client Success Manager at Curalate. Listen to the full webinar here.

Not long ago, there were just a handful of places where consumers could go to buy your products. They could visit your store, check out your website or head over to a retail partner who carried your merchandise. As a marketer, this was awesome. From music to lighting to merchandising, you had a strong ability to control the experience consumers had around your products.

But today, that’s changed.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a major shift in the way consumers discover content, products and brands, how they share information and ideas — and ultimately how they shop. While the digital web created new and exciting environments for content to live, social media has forever changed the way content is created and distributed. And of course, mobile devices have made all this content available anytime, anywhere.

According to Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends Report, billions of images are now being shared every day across more channels than ever, and this number will continue to explode. More than that, it’s happening everywhere — at home, at work, on the go. According to GSM Association’s 2015 Mobile Economy Report, half of the world’s population has a mobile subscription – up from one-in-five just a decade ago.

Between Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Whatsapp alone, more than 3 billion photos are now being shared everyday — more than doubling over a two-year period, according to Adweek.

Instagram Facebook Snapchat statsBut it’s not just about volume. This widespread adoption of visual channels has changed the very types of content that resonate with consumers. On these channels, visual content is driven by experiences. Whether image, video or GIF, this content possesses a unique ability to evoke emotion, pique interest and drive action.

As a result, brands are now being forced to rethink which kinds of images they rely on. Historically, marketers would optimize their product photos for accuracy (think: a detailed dress — or any other product, for that matter — against a white background.) But today, it’s about conveying a lifestyle. It’s no longer just about the product. It’s about the experience and the places that product can take you.

stock image vs lifestyle contentThe proliferation of lifestyle content presents a huge monetization opportunity for retailers, but only if done right. Lifestyle content is driving discovery across a multitude of consumer channels, but the smartest brands understand how this content can be used to drive traffic, boost conversions, increase revenue and unlock powerful business insight. Here are five common mistakes marketers and brands are making when it comes to effectively using lifestyle content:

1. Failing to “C” the Big Picture

2015 really drove home the power of fan content (user-generated content), influencer content, and all sorts of other powerful videos and images. Authentic and inspiring, this editorial style consistently delivers across numerous channels, driving increased engagement, conversions, ad performance and average order value.

But to maximize lift, you need to maximize the compelling visual content you have at your disposal. Fan and influencer imagery is a great start, but remember, this type of content represents only a portion of the merchandise that lives in your product catalog. For instance, we did a study here at Curalate, finding that on average, user-generated content represents a mere 6% of a brand’s product catalog.

Don’t make the mistake of ignoring all of the content that’s available to you. The savviest brands recommend using not only fan photos, but also blog content, catalog content, social content, influencer content and relevant content sourced from your physical locations (for example, retail stores, restaurants and hotel properties) as well.

Z Gallerie

2. Taking Things That Aren’t Yours

If you are leveraging fan and influencer images, there’s one thing you need to keep in mind at all times: While sharing a consumer’s photo on your social channels or website can create cause for excitement, it’s always smart to ask for permission first. Especially if you have any intentions of using it within the context of an ad. So, whether fan, influencer or store associate, make sure to explicitly ask for permission to use someone else’s photo within a paid campaign, and always provide credit to the photographer.

3. Pictures Not Products

On blogs, on social, in apps, and across a plethora of online communities, ongoing access to content has resulted in more opportunities for people to consume images and discover products than ever before. The problem is that discovery currently leads nowhere. Social images, for instance, garner tons of likes and positive comments. You probably see it all the time — words of excitement (“so awesome!”), curiosity (“where can I get this?”) and even intent (“I have to have this!”) But when brands fail to connect their images to products, the customer journey breaks and consumers lose interest. Make no mistake: Clicks kill sales.

In order to turn visual discovery into retail opportunity, it’s essential to shorten the distance between discovery and purchase across all of the channels where consumers are engaging. In addition, it’s important to start measuring engagement with images at the product level. Most brands have a solid understanding of which images drive clicks, likes, etc. This intel is valuable, but to monetize visual content, you need to be able to pinpoint not only which images are driving engagement but, more deeply, which products within images are fueling that fire. By tagging your images with all of the products they contain, this suddenly becomes possible.

webinar5

4. Limiting an Image’s Lifespan

A well-rounded strategy considers all of the major consumer touchpoints, and yet the majority of brands are letting some of their most valuable assets slip away. That’s why it’s crucial to identify your top performing images and products, and leverage that content across key discovery channels. 

5. Failing to Speak a Different Language

As mentioned, consumers are equipped to discover content and products anytime, anywhere. But that poses risks for brands with global customers. For example, if a customer living in Spain discovers and clicks on your content, the last thing you want them to see is a bunch of products that are unavailable in their region with descriptions in a foreign language. Talk about a bad customer experience!

If you’re not serving up localized product images across your digital properties, you’re missing a major sales opportunity. The global brands we work with tend to agree.

optimize for global

Here are some of the specifics you should be considering:

1. Ease of implementation. What is the workflow required to support different regions? Will I have to tag images multiple times to support all of the different countries in which a product is available?

2. Localized languages. How much work will be required to localize product names and descriptions based on a region’s native language? Can this process be automated? (For example, if your product feed is the same across Canada, is it possible to serve up French descriptions to consumers in Quebec?)

3. Don’t forget about traffic. The fact that more than 75% of Instagram users live outside of the U.S. makes localization even more important for brands. Especially if you have one global account for all of your fans. Creating a good user experience means directing your customers to the right e-commerce pages, where they can shop for products that are available in their region.

Five takeaways to remember:

1. The most effective content programs are diverse.

2. Don’t just take. Ask first.

3. The most valuable lifestyle content is connected to products.

4. Your best images can (and should) be shared across consumer discovery channels.

5. Think globally.