Independent retailers have a distinct advantage over big-box stores in the current culture of mass individualism: their ability to quickly build a zealous community around their niche products.
Once upon a time, in an era when it was harder for consumers to find information, businesses created brands to convey a specific product identity and distinguish themselves from others. It was important to build a brand that could become a trusted household name. Consumers often bought based on brand more than anything else. But today, new technologies and platforms have turned us into a hyper-connected and (some might argue) overly informed society. A society where a brand is no longer what it tells the consumer it is—but what consumers tell each other it is. To take it a step further, consumers no longer want the brands that everyone else has. They want to be the trendsetters, trailblazers, and nonconformists.
This trend leaves big brands vulnerable to independent retailers. To seize on this strategic opportunity, indie retailers need to leverage and encourage the voice of their loyal customers and fans.
User generated content is closely aligned with independent retail values. The synergistic value is undeniable. With user-generated content, indie retailers are able to create brand awareness, capitalize on the mass-individualism trend, and build greater customer loyalty.
Here are three ways that user-generated content benefits independent retailers:
One of the biggest challenges for independent retailers is name recognition. Luckily, social channels are designed to make brand amplification easy. To encourage customers to post more about your brand, ensure that you have an “evergreen” hashtag. An evergreen hashtag is a long-term tag that signifies your brand across all channels. More often then not, your customers will have already created one for you (typically in the form of your company name or slogan.) Hashtags make it easy for customers to discover and interact with your brand, and encourage them to join the conversation.
Once you’ve established an evergreen hashtag, create and promote photo contests to incentivize participation. Photo contests are a powerful way to give your fans a reason to submit great content and share it with their own social communities.
2) Capitalizes on Mass-Individualism
Everyone wants his or her 15 minutes of fame. Consumers love being recognized for how they use your products post-purchase. Highlight the innovative ways people are using your products by reposting their photos on your owned media (with their permission, of course.) It’s a symbiotic relationship—you validate your consumers as trendsetters and they validate your brand’s social presence. When it comes to incorporating user-generated content onto your owned media, the post-purchase inspiration factor is invaluable.
With their niche markets and targeted audiences, indie retailers are in a prime position to develop deeper relationships with customers. By focusing on social listening (through brand mentions and hashtags), your brand can extend loyalty beyond upsell. Pay close attention to branded content and make an effort to “like” and “comment” on customer submissions. This often converts customers into brand advocates, creating a peer-to-peer megaphone of online brand endorsement. Ultimately, the consumer’s voice is more powerful, memorable, and trustworthy than that of the brand.
Independent retailers looking to capitalize on the changing social media marketing landscape should leverage their customers’ voices through user-generated content. It is a strong competitive advantage over established big brand stores. Rather than shy away from new technologies, indie retailers should embrace them as a powerful means to surpass the competition.