The way people discover and buy things online has dramatically changed, and smart brands are capitalizing on it.

In 2016, 2.34 billion people will access at least one social media account regularly — that’s 32% of the world’s population and represents 78% of all Americans. Many people log in first thing in the morning, meaning they literally check Facebook, Instagram or Twitter before they even drink coffee.

The experiences people are having on social are fundamentally changing their expectations of every other online environment — particularly e-commerce. Here are three big changes we’re seeing:

  • Content is more engaging. Social content is visual, in-the-moment and authentic. Plus it’s filled with beautiful lifestyle imagery showcasing people, landscapes or gorgeous backdrops. Why are brands still releasing traditional product photos shot against a white background?
  • The experience is intuitive. People expect other sites to function like social sites. On Instagram or Facebook you can tap the photo to reveal the names of people inside of it. In a commerce environment, why can’t you tap an image to reveal the products inside?
  • Influencers are crucial. Social gave rise to many voices. From your foodie friend on Facebook to the fashionista offering makeup tips on Instagram. Why aren’t brands partnering with those influencers to drive discovery?

The current landscape presents an interesting business challenge: How do brands capitalize on these changing expectations and use them to modernize consumer experiences in a world where commerce is continuous and ubiquitous, leading consumers to take an increasingly complex path to purchase?

At Curalate, we’re linking moments of discovery to places of purchase. Take Crate and Barrel for example. Consumers might discover the brand on Instagram and immediately want to know what’s inside of those beautiful pictures. Because of Curalate, the consumer can not only get more information but can easily buy the product. But it doesn’t stop at social media. When consumers go to the Crate and Barrel blog, they’re met with content curated by style influencers showing off different looks — and all the imagery is shoppable. When shopping on the Crate and Barrel site, you see compelling images created by consumers, helping you envision how these products will fit into your own life.

Companies that capitalize on the changing consumer expectations are seeing tremendous results. Fashion brand Forever 21 launched Curalate’s Like2Buy product which makes its popular Instagram account shoppable. Within the first two weeks, it brought 38,000 people to their website, and 50% were brand new visitors. Those people stayed on site 24% longer and looked at 19% more web pages.

Sigma Beauty partnered with Curalate to improve its e-commerce experience by complementing stock photos with fan photos. To do so, it implemented Curalate’s Fanreel feature that collects and displays the best user-generated content — featuring lots of varieties of skin tones and makeup combinations. It’s led to a 4x increase in time-on-site and a 16x return on the investment it made to implement the program.

Brands are also applying these concepts to advertising. Take Brazilian shoe maker Schutz for example. In its Facebook Dynamic Ads (which retarget shoppers who had been browsing their products on the web) Schutz started using lifestyle imagery curated and smart cropped by Curalate. The program resulted in a 98x return on ad spend.

Social media has changed the rules of e-commerce. While it’s complicated the path to purchase, consumers have come to expect compelling imagery, intuitive experiences and educated voices leading them in the right direction. Brands that transform their marketing strategies will appear authentic and engaging. Those who don’t will be left in the dust.

This article was originally published in the 2016 Remodista Retail Look Book.

Curalate powers consumer discovery for the world’s smartest brands — turning pics and videos into portable, actionable content assets. Get a demo now and learn how we can increase your average order value, return on ad spend and unique site visitors.

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