A new report from L2 and Olapic shows that prestige brands could do more to connect the dots between images and shopping, as social media is moving toward the visual.
Retailers should harness the power of the picture, not only on social networks but on their own sites, according to Olapic.
A report released today by think tank L2 and Olapic, a visual commerce platform that lets companies bring photos from Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook onto their sites, highlights the ways brands are using consumer-generated photos and videos - and says a lot more of them should wake up to the fact that social media is moving toward the visual.
L2 looked at 100 top brands and found that almost all prestige brands have a presence on Instagram, with Victoria's Secret leading them all with approximately 3,904,000 followers. Brands post to Instagram an average of 5.5 times a week, and 43 percent of brand accounts post more than once a day. The top 10 brand communities are dominated by retail and fashion, with beauty brands gaining the most engagement.
Seventy-two percent of prestige brands post Instagram videos, up from 26 percent in July 2013. But video posts account for only 4 percent of brand content overall. That's just as well, because engagement on photo posts averaged 1.5 times that of Instagram video posts. Additionally, reposted advertising and contest posts generate the most engagement.
But connecting the dots between Instagram and e-commerce is difficult because Instagram prohibits links in posts that would let users easily click to buy. And retailers don't always connect the dots as well as they could, either. For example, more than one-third of the prestige brands with Instagram accounts that L2 studied did not link to them from their brand sites.
Brands could do even better by bringing the Instagramming onto their own websites, Olapic says. The 3-year-old company released its e-commerce product in 2012, and it has more than 100 customers, including West Elm, Chico's, Show Pony, and Coach. Its offerings include olaWidgets that can be embedded on Web pages to automatically display consumers' photos or videos that match the product being shown; and olaGallery to generate shoppable galleries of consumer photos or videos on retailers' sites.
Olapic has found that, among its own customers, brands experience a 5 to 7 percent increase in conversion rate and a 2 percent increase in average order value when they incorporate or link to consumer-generated content on product pages.
The social networks seeing the fastest growth today are those that are mobile-first and have a strong visual component, according to Pau Sabria, co-founder of Olapic. He thinks this illustrates a fundamental change in how people are communicating, with visuals becoming more important than words.
With the addition of user-generated photos and videos, "the commerce experience is more visual and more authentic. We see ourselves as an evolution from the traditional text reviews that are out there," says Sabria. "With the study, we wanted to convey that beyond the engagement that brands can tap into within Instagram, there is a lot of value that can be attached if you leverage it outside of Instagram."
Instagram already is changing visual merchandising styles, it seems. West Elm, for example, is now adjusting its marketing photos to better reflect how people are actually using those products, according to Sabria.
He says that, just as websites began to encourage site visitors to write comments at the beginning of the last decade, in this decade they must enable visual communication from their visitors.
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Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.
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