Episerver is Investing in UGC & Distributed Order Management
Content created by a brand is still informative, but when it’s written by peers, that content is instantly considered more trustworthy. In fact, 70 percent of consumers place peer recommendations and reviews above professionally-written content, according to a survey conducted by Reevoo. The reason behind this behavior is that user-generated content (UGC) essentially creates a sense of community and authenticity. While some customers will willingly share reviews as they are simply excited about your products and services, executing an effective UGC strategy shouldn’t rely on the goodwill of customers alone. Therefore, marketers and merchandisers need agile tools that help them timely leverage authentic customer content and recommendations while still staying compliant. To that end, Episerver launched enhanced user-generated content (UGC) powered by Stackla, a UGC platform.
Hot on the heels of the release, we reached out to Justin Anovick, VP of Product at Episerver, to inquire about what Episerver UGC means for their customers. "UGC is one of the best ways to create unique, engaging digital experiences, and we're excited to bring these platform enhancements to our customers,” he said. “Episerver UGC, powered by Stackla, finally makes discovery and curation manageable for brand marketers and merchandisers because of the combination of both content and commerce capabilities in our single, unified platform.”
Episerver UGC is designed to make it easy for marketers to utilize user-generated content to increase customer engagement, strengthen trust, and ultimately drive sales. Since the solution is an out-of-the-box, self-contained cloud service that uses advanced machine learning algorithms, Episerver customers now gather and filter the most effective user-generated content through hashtags, keyword search, and mentions of their brands across more than 15 social networks. From there, they can present relevant user-generated content through personalized experience on brands' sites.
There are two versions of Episerver UGC available, with an advanced edition offering additional functionality for content rights management, automated visual recognition, and advanced geolocation discovery, Episerver stated.
Social Proof Prompts Online Sales
Have you ever heard of the idiom “keeping up with the Joneses?” It refers to the comparison to one's neighbor as a benchmark for social class or the accumulation of material goods and clearly demonstrates the profound impact of social proof on making purchases and decisions. It comes from the fear of missing out which is, scientifically, a form of social anxiety and also known as FOMO in pop culture.
Marketers had started harnessing this psychological element long before the internet when they were injecting canned laughter into TV shows to accelerate the comical perception of scenes. With the widespread adoption of social media, the concept has seen some tweaks and come in the form of user-generated content such as reviews, shout outs on social media, recommendations and so on as today, nearly 99% of UGC is owned by the social networks. In fact, a study conducted by ShareThis and Paley Centre for Media suggests that content sharing can influence consumers more than price and brand, and motivate people to spend 9.5% more.
In recognition of the power of authentic social proof, Episerver UGC now allows its users to turn social posts into shoppable content across the customer journey. To me, shoppable content is a great influencer driver as it blurs the line between moments of inspiration and actual buying. After all, consumers don’t care whether they end up making the purchase on the company’s website or one of its social channels because they expect brands to deliver a coherent experience regardless of channel. To drive sales with social advocacy, Episerver customers are now able to:
Create shoppable catalogs of user-generated content with "Buy Now" product tag buttons.
Follow and aggregate content from influencers, experts, and trusted accounts.
Tag and link content to their product SKUs and create custom CTAs.
Source localized content with geolocation search to leverage their local campaign.
As a result, brands may reduce shopping cart abandonment while increasing their conversion rates.
Not Limited to E-commerce Websites
Episerver UGC also enables users to embed user-generated content into Episerver Campaign or any marketing automation platform with certified connectors. Therefore, Episerver’s customers can enrich their digital advertising by including dynamic user-generated content.
To put this technology into perspective and give some inspiration, one of Stackla’s clients Toyota launched a global marketing campaign named Feeling The Street where street musicians could capture their acts and post videos and images on social using the #feelingthestreet hashtag over 6 weeks. The community would vote to assemble the 2016 Feeling The Street Band who would embark on the road trip of a lifetime, visiting and performing at spectacular locations around Australia and sharing the whole experience with fans on social. Media Blanco, Toyota’s creative agency of choice, used Stackla, which powers Episerver UGC, to discover and curate the best street performer content from Instagram. Additionally, through the built-in UGC rights management tool and content workflow, the agency made sure content creators gave permission for their images to be featured in advertising promoting the campaign. As a result, Toyota saw a 440% increase in total engagement from the previous years’ campaign as the six-week campaign drove over 1.2 million engagements (likes, comments, shares), surpassing the initial target of 800,000. Kirsten Matthew from Media Blanco explained the strategy behind the campaign from a marketing perspective:
“We knew authenticity was the key. Slick product photography and cheesy montage videos weren’t going to resonate with our core audience of 18-24-year-olds. Instead, we put a focus on authentic user-generated content, using it to power our social display advertising. We kept the focus on talented street artists, in fact, you never saw a car until the final road trip stage of the campaign.”
Paddling back to Episerver UGC, the technology is not limited to online as doling out UGC content and recommendations to consumers via email also delivers a significant conversion rate and efficiency. To let its users maximize the impact of UGC, with this addition, Episerver enables them to boost their emails with relevant user-generated content for a personalized experience for each individual subscriber. The vendor also claims that the platform helps merchandisers and marketers create two-way conversations at their venues, in-store or at live events. Since Episerver UGC is part of the Digital Experience Cloud, there is no setup, deployment, or hosting required.
Intelligent Distributed Order Management
In conjunction with the release of Episerver UCG, the vendor also announced that it has partnered with OrderDynamics to address increasingly complex omnichannel commerce and order fulfillment requirements with an enhanced distributed order management system (DOMS). Justin Anovick commented also on the partnership and a distributed order management system (DOMS): “Through our partnership with OrderDynamics, we're also making it easier for brands to offer the seamless commerce fulfillment experiences consumers demand." With the new add-on, Episerver customers are now able to:
Orchestrate their omnichannel orders through a flexible workflow
Manage from fraud rules to tax rate calculations to shipping methods
Optimize their margin with order fulfillment that automatically determines the best possible stock location for fulfillment.
Deliver any type of customer order such as buy online - pick up in store, or ship to or from store
Empower store associates to print customer invoice and packing slips that enable rapid picking with product SKUs and images
Re-route orders easily to another store for product fulfillment with the click of a button
Gain a single view of your customer's purchase history with OrderDynamics' native CRM system
Quickly generate returns or exchanges, and seamlessly manage stock reallocation, email notifications, payment refunds and more
Track and manage all inbound customer emails and phone calls with an efficient case ticket management
Get accurate, real-time inventory information to meet their promised delivery dates and make smarter fulfillment decisions
Prevent overselling and underselling with a flexible inventory allocation workflow
"Retailers that give customers flexible and convenient order fulfillment choices, and make it an easy, seamless and positive brand experience across the digital and physical channels, win over customers," said Nick McLean, Chief Executive Officer of OrderDynamics. "Our partnership with Episerver brings world-class applications together, to offer retailers a complete solution that makes omnichannel a winning proposition."
During my most recent conversation with Episerver’s CMO James Norwood, he told me that “the way to be able to differentiate and stay relevant is experience-driven commerce, which is really at the heart of what Episerver does.” Yet again with these newly announced partnerships alongside its significant investments in social commerce and machine learning-based personalization technology, the vendor demonstrates its strong commitment to staying on top of the emerging technology trends and providing intelligent content and commerce capabilities for upper mid-market and lower enterprise companies through its unified platform.
From Episerver’s customers’ standpoint, with the new capabilities added to the platform, they will be able to boost their online and offline engagements with their own customers. On a related but slightly different note, even though marketers would potentially be the biggest benefactors of the power of user-generated content within organizations, there are also some other groups outside of the marketing department that UGC can impressively outperform professional content for. While the human resources department can propel employee engagement or recruit new talents through user-generated content, customer service can reduce the phone traffic by utilizing UGC to educate consumers about their products and services. In fact, 64% of IT professionals claim UGC helped them solve problems in the workspace through experience-based advice. I mean, don’t we all type “how to...” in the YouTube search bar once a while?