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Indie Retailers Challenge Big-Box Stores on Social Networks

In the past, it was hard for consumers to find information. Businesses’ only option was to create brands to convey their product information. But today, new technologies and platforms have provided consumers access to information like never before. The consumer’s voice has become more powerful, memorable, and trustworthy than that of the brand. Furthermore, consumers no longer want the products that everyone else has– we want to be the trendsetters, the nonconformists.

This leaves big brands vulnerable to independent retailers.  Independent retailers have a unique strategy advantage—the ability to quickly build community around their niche products by leveraging the voice of their consumers.

Content generated by users is closely aligned with independent retail values and is easy to collect across existing social platforms. With user-generated content, indie retailers are able to spread brand awareness, capitalize on the mass-individualism trend, and build engagement-based loyalty.

  • Spread Brand Awareness

Name recognition can be a central challenge for independent retailers. However, social media channels can work as a megaphone for your brand name if you can encourage your customers to post about your brand. There are a number of ways to do this. First, if your brand does not have an evergreen hashtag, go ahead and create one. More often then not, your customers will have already created one for you. Hashtags make it easy for customers to discover and interact with your brand and it encourages them to join the conversation. Once you’ve established an evergreen hashtag, 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.  

  • Capitalize on Mass-Individualism

Customers and fans love being recognized by the brands they love and support. Highlighting customer photos on your website, or reposting on your own social media is an efficient and effective way to generate more content and conversation around your products and brand. 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 product pages, the post-purchase inspiration factor is invaluable. 

  • Build Engagement-Based Loyalty

When customers see brand’s celebrating their customers and engaging with real people, it helps to validate your brand’s social presence and reach a larger audience.

With their niche markets and targeted audiences, independent retailers are in a prime position to develop deep relationships with customers. By focusing on social listening (through brand mentions and hashtags), your brand can extend loyalty beyond upsell.  By turning customers into brand advocates, independent retailers can create a peer-to-peer megaphone of online brand endorsement. Ultimately, a brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is—it’s what consumers tell each other it is.

Independent retailers looking to capitalize on the changing marketing landscape should leverage audience voice through user-generated content. This is your competitive advantage over big box stores.  Businesses that use customer content on their websites, apps, and advertising see better conversion and click-through rates, higher average order values, and increased engagement and lift.

Indie retailers should not shy away from today’s technologies, but rather embrace them as powerful means by which to surpass the competition.

Contributed by Juliet Carnoy, a marketing manager at Pixlee, a content marketing platform that helps brands leverage visual content generated by their customers to improve product marketing and help drive sales.

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