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Research: Earned Content Effective Beyond Social Channels

Today’s retail and e-commerce brands are faced with increased and unprecedented complexity when trying to engage and convert consumers. There are seemingly endless channels to consider, with more popping up each day, and an equally overwhelming amount of content for consumers to sift through, making it difficult for brands to become part of the conversation. In addition, consumer expectations are at an all-time high, as brands are tasked with creating personalized, meaningful marketing experiences. So, what should brands do? At Olapic, we believe in the power of visual user-generated, or earned, content as a way to fill all brand channels with high-quality, purposeful content.

To better understand the state of the earned content marketplace for retail and e-commerce brands, we recently partnered with Worldwide Business Research to conduct a study entitled, “The Mid-Year E-Commerce Outlook.” You can download the full report, but here are some of the critical insights we found, and what they tell us about how brands are using earned content to solve the content gap.

Channels Being Filled with Earned Content

We asked retail leaders to tell us which marketing channels they were already optimizing with earned content. Perhaps not surprisingly, 70% reported using earned content on the brand-owned website, 43% reported using it in social advertising, and 36% reported using it in email efforts. Most telling, 30% of those surveyed reported using earned content offline, meaning in print or direct mail, at events, or even in-store, which is something some of our clients have already started to do as well.

Earned Content Impact on Brands

While it’s interesting to learn how brands are adopting earned content across channels, the more telling insight is how that earned content is impacting their efforts. We posed a series of questions to identify the effectiveness of earned content, starting with how it is changing the customer/brand relationship. We found that 51% surveyed believe that earned content “generates more authentic marketing opportunities,” 43% said “it is getting consumers to be much more engaged with our brand,” 28% noted “it improves our customer feedback loop,” and finally, 26% reported “it reduces the amount of new content we have to create ourselves.” While these figures indicate a wide-array of the perceived benefits of earned content, there was one element that respondents seemed to agree on entirely:

90% of those using earned content “are seeing measurably positive results from their campaigns.”

While an overwhelming majority see positive results from earned content campaigns, how are they measuring those results? Unsurprisingly, given the relative ease of measurement, the top metric used was “engagement” with 42% of respondents, followed by “sales and conversions” with 31%, and finally “brand awareness and publicity” with 25%. It seems brands still have some work to do to connect the dots on their earned content efforts, especially as they continue to service all channels and audience profiles. Fortunately, 81% are already measuring the effectiveness in some capacity, but more brands will likely want to get to a place where they are able to track all three criteria instead of only one.

Barriers to Entry

While a vast amount of retailers and e-commerce brands reported already using earned content across several channels to engage consumers, there were some that have still not implemented an earned content strategy, roughly a quarter of those that were surveyed, to be more specific. We asked them to share the reasons that have prevented them from successfully optimizing their channels with earned content. Here is what we found:

29% – We don’t have the proper technology to collect UGC from our consumers
24% – We don’t have a cohesive UGC strategy to make the most of our efforts
24% – Our consumers don’t regularly create UGC for our brand
18% – We don’t have a strong analytics platform to measure its effectiveness

Notice the bookended statistics, in aggregate, 47% reported that a lack of technological capability was the primary reason they hadn’t implemented earned content. A whopping 91% believe that earned content would fit the tone and personality of their brands. This is consistent with our experience in the marketplace, as we work to enable brands frequently that are seeing enormous amounts of high-quality customer-generated imagery, but aren’t able to collect, curate, and activate it properly.

So, what does it all mean?

Well, there are plenty of conclusions you can draw from the report. While earned content hasn’t reached critical mass as of yet, the responses of our survey indicate that the industry is reaching a critical moment in its lifecycle. Driven by changing consumer behavior, brands are now fully recognizing the need to tap into earned content as a way to engage and convert their consumers. As an industry, we’ve moved past early adoption and into late adoption. Now, the task is continuing to innovate and increase the ability to measure effectiveness and connect the dots across all channels. This is validation for us as Olapic has continued to evolve ahead of the curve to guide our clients to a place of earned content maturity.

The full report is available for download here, which also includes insights into marketing spend, overall industry challenges, and trending KPIs.

Success with Earned Content for Retail Brands


Image Source: / By: Ryan Pouncy

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