I was an obnoxious teenager. Worse: I was an obnoxious teenager with a camera. My sophomore year of high school is filled with memories of running around the mall taking photos on my beloved point-and-shoot camera1 that I would then edit and upload to one of my many MySpace albums2.

With this love of selfie-ing came multiple reprimands from retail associates to stop taking photos or requests to delete any images3. So imagine my shock (and sense of vindication) when I saw the trend in stores encouraging shoppers to take and share photos – many of which are powered by Chute. We’ve come a long way, my friends.

According to a recent report in AdWeek, 93% of millennials read product reviews prior to making a purchase. More importantly, they trust these reviews. At the same time, 63% are now completely unimpressed by traditional celebrity endorsements. The bottom line: to consumers, the voice of fellow consumers is what matters most.

Benefit Cosmetics Marketing
Benefit Cosmetics’ #Realsies content is fueled by They’re Real mascara fans.

When it comes to reviews, brands should especially encourage visual reviews – not just written ones. Visuals are more positive than text on social – 4x more positive for Instagram and Twitter photos over regular text tweets. Plus, they’re processed by the brain 60,000 times faster and are also more sticky and effective in our minds:

The capacity for recognition memory for pictures is limitless. Pictures have a direct route to long-term memory, each image storing its own information as a coherent ‘chunk’ or concept. However, the images or pictures must be meaningful to be retained.

Imagination comes from the Latin imaginare, meaning ‘to picture mentally’. Images are generally more evocative than words and more precise in triggering a wide range of associations, enhancing creative thinking and memory. (source)

This is the fundamental thinking behind Chute’s Commerce product: your shoppers want consumer reviews, and the ones that are most influential and positive are those with photos and videos.

Ann Taylor UGC Marketing
Ann Taylor encourages shoppers to take photos in-and-out of stores.

This shift in how people shop may be new for brands and marketers, but it isn’t new by any means to consumers who have been sharing, searching, and using social imagery to guide their wishlists and purchases. In fact, the idea that social photography works better than traditional product shots shouldn’t be that new at all. We’ve all coveted the things our friends and acquaintances own – from the friend who had a new GameBoy to the sister who had the cooler wardrobe. Nothing about this is new, but now we have the power to monetize and track those feelings.

This transition towards recognizing the power of fan creators is not exclusive to fashion – entertainment brands have also been grappling with how to handle the emergence of remix culture for years.

TFiOS fan content
Atlantic Records taps into fan art community surrounding The Fault in Our Stars film to power Ed Sheeran’s music video.

Brands no longer have years to figure this transition out. As the saying goes: the future is now. Shoppers expect to be able to both have a voice and also be able to rely on their fellow consumers’ voices for recommendations. The brands that stifle this only earn scorn (or worse, get ignored). The most important lesson all brands should learn quickly is the power and reach of brand advocates far outweighs the brands’ need to maintain complete control over how their products and identity are described.

1 RIP point-and-shoots
2 RIP MySpace
3 Yes that actually happened, and yes I just pretended to delete them like the obnoxious 15-year-old that I was.

About The Author

Monica is a book hoarder and gets overexcited about community-driven marketing. She lives in New York City and dreams of a day when a landlord will let her have a cat.

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