Are you a fan of Michelle Phan or Nitraa B? If so, you likely love your beauty products. If you don’t know who these beauty vloggers are, now is the time to start paying attention to them. Beauty vloggers and their millions of followers are changing how beauty products are discovered and how brands engage with their customers.

Social media has become a go-to source for beauty inspiration and now has a major influence on the beauty industry. From #cateyes to #balayage, there is an endless stream of beauty tips and trends that capture our attention and garner millions of views across platforms like Instagram and YouTube.

When a product or brand is embraced by the beauty community on social media, it can be the ultimate blessing. For example, the recent rise of beauty masks has been partially attributed to social media. Their eye catching appearance sticks out on social feeds; when influencers and celebrities like Victoria’s Secret model Sara Sampaio share their own photos using face masks, they further drive consumer interest. Beauty consumers are constantly seeking new, inspiring ideas about which beauty products to try next — how can beauty brands better connect with these shoppers?

Feelunique

Understand the digital path to purchase

Like the rest of the retail industry, beauty has morphed from predominantly in-store commerce to an increasingly digital experience. The path to purchase now runs through a number of online channels.

Think about it — how do you look for and learn about new skin, hair, or beauty products? Maybe you read your friend’s Facebook post about a new lipstick, saw a celebrity you follow on Instagram tag a haircare brand they love, or watched a makeup tutorial on YouTube. Most of us start our purchase journey online where there is plenty of inspiration and easy-to-find recommendations from other makeup fans.

Sites like Pinterest provide an image-centric social media experience, and cosmetics are a popular category. But no platform has proven as effective at engaging likely shoppers as Instagram and YouTube. Beauty vloggers, like the two we mentioned above, and other influencers have captive audiences online, and consumers seek recommendations on these social platforms rather than from an in-store makeup counter.

Retail stores no longer capture attention or draw shoppers to new brands like they used to. Inspiration is being found online, and it’s becoming increasingly important for beauty companies to seed ideas to consumers throughout the digital decision-making journey.

Embrace millennials as the force of change

Millennial women ages 18-34 are the biggest portion of the $13.4 billion cosmetics market, and they are likely to buy more than 10 types of products a year. Their behavior is changing the way all consumers shop for beauty and changing the strategies brands use to communicate with their audience.

This generation has substantial spending power, and they expect social content to validate their purchase decisions. Three out of four US millennial online shoppers would be more likely to purchase an item based on photos from others who have used it, and 60% were more likely to click over to a product based on a friend’s social post.

Clearly, this generation connects with imagery and storytelling. In fact, 48% of shoppers will leave a site if visual content is not available. Beauty companies without a sophisticated digital and visual content strategy are losing these increasingly digital-minded customers. It’s time to meet shoppers where they are — online instead of in-store — or risk losing to more savvy competitors.

Behold the beauty of authentic consumer photos

The brands that take advantage of and showcase visual content from both beauty influencers and everyday fans are able to build a more authentic, human connection with their customers.

A great example of this is Feelunique, a UK-based online beauty retailer that aims to give its shoppers increased confidence to buy makeup, haircare, and skincare online. To do so, they are consistently improving the user experience across their site, and an important component of this is their consumer-generated content (CGC) program:

“Making social content shoppable is a key objective for us,” says Tom Newbald, Marketing & Customer Experience Director at Feelunique, “As a fast-growing business trying to keep customers at the center of everything we do, our CGC program is a way for us to do that.”

In addition to Ratings & Reviews, Feelunique has used Bazaarvoice Curations to capture and displays photos that customers and influencers are already sharing on social media — a crucial tactic to engage and persuade consumers.

“Visual content is key to helping convey someone’s experience of a product…[there is] already a wealth of fantastic imagery out there from customers who love using social channels to share.”

Feelunique

The results have been impressive. From January to March 2017, Feelunique’s shopper gallery generated more than 675,000 views from site visitors, and 13% of those viewers engaged with the gallery by opening photos, cycling through additional photos, or clicking on Shop Now links. “Providing our customers with the ability to read reviews and see photos adds to the conversion rate, which in turn increases average order values and helps grow our business more quickly,” says Newbald.

How did it impact the bottom line? Shoppers who viewed visual content across the site converted twice as often as those who did not.

Using our reporting and analytics, they are also able to identify their most passionate brand ambassadors. One customer received 124,000 impressions and 1,600 interactions on the company site from just three Instagram posts — with those numbers, they may have found the next up and coming beauty influencer! Feelunique is currently working on a strategy to leverage these super users to foster brand loyalty and increase reach.

Because this consumer-generated visual content is so valuable, Feelunique also uses the photos in marketing and advertising material and plans to incorporate even more: “We have tested many different types of content, and visual content harvested from customers has proven to be more engaging and have higher click-throughs than professional or stock photos. Visual content from advocates goes beyond the stock imagery from a brand,” says Newbald. “It creates a connection with our customers that they prefer to stock or brand imagery,” says Newbald.

Put consumer stories to work

If you’re not taking advantage of your consumer-generated visual content, it is time to take a hard look in the mirror. Particularly in the beauty category, social media and influencers play an integral role in deciding which products are desirable and which brands are successful. Beauty brands and retailers that understand the power of Instagram likes and YouTube vloggers will be the ones to outshine their competition. Learn more about how Feelunique coupled ratings and reviews with consumer photos to drive engagement and conversion.

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