Experience in A Social Age

By Lyndsay Kelly

The way that people engage with brands is changing. In an era of ‘peak stuff’, people are beginning to define themselves by what they think, the passions they have and the causes they champion – not what they buy. People want more than a logo. They want brands to connect with them on a deeper level by creating an engaging experience that is distinct and relevant to them.

Kantar Added Value’s research has shown that brands which are able to connect with their consumers in the most meaningful and engaging way on social media are also the most successful. To understand how they are seen by consumers, brands must pay attention to the vast amount of visual content their consumers are creating and sharing on social platforms. Only by analysing the visual content their users are creating can brands gain unfiltered insight into how consumers understand them.

By triggering and shaping the way people talk about them on social media, brands are effectively employing consumers to do their PR for them. And with 350 million pictures uploaded onto Facebook, and 80 million onto Instagram, daily – it is a vast and still largely untapped resource.

Kantar Added Value partnered with visual commerce platform Olapic to highlight the ways in which brands can use Instagram to understand how their consumers interact with them, and how their brand experiences take shape via images and interactions on social media.

We looked at five global retail brands (Topshop, Kate Spade, Diesel, Nike and Puma). All are well known for creating rewarding branded retail store experiences. We then examined how consumers were sharing their in-store experiences on Instagram to identify what factors made people want to share and show off when they are out shopping.

In other words, what is driving positive brand value on social media?

Image recognition technology and semiotic analysis was used to make sense of the vast number of pictures. This allowed us to identify the universal characteristics of rewarding retail experiences. We identified four ‘ways to win’ in the retail space and the branded experience, highlighting the brands that are doing this best.

  1. Identify Your Hotspots

Your store is your studio, the physical heart of your brand experience. It is also the opportunity for people to share their retail experience. The most successful brands look to create a truly ownable experience that shows off all they offer and encourages people to do the PR for them. For example, the Topshop store brings out customers’ inner fashionista by giving them ‘permission to play’. More than 50% of the content created in Topshop features people modelling, styling and playing with the clothes on sale. There’s something about the personality of the Topshop brand and their products that means people lose their reservations. It brings out their inner stylist and they show off the results on social media.

  1. Making Your Store Photo Ready

Your store is your showroom, the exhibition space where consumers get up close and personal with a brand’s personality. With ‘selfie’ culture engrained in people’s shopping experience you must make sure you look your best. The Nike store is a place of pilgrimage and worship where the trainers are the object of adoration (65% + of in-store social media content shared features involving the product itself).

They are displayed with the sort of attention to detail once reserved for art galleries – positioning, lighting, labelling – quite literally put on a pedestal. Another trainer brand, Puma, also has a gallery feel to it, but with a difference – more urban and interactive. It is more like an independent art space than Nike’s brightly lit place of worship.

  1. Identifying Viral Potential

Our research revealed the importance of understanding your consumers’ aesthetic and matching it with content that is most likely to be shared on social media.  Get it right and you go viral. Get it wrong and it has the potential to negatively impact brand equity. More than 70% of the content people shared around Kate Spade featured quirky, eccentric design touches entirely in common with its own brand values. “Quick and curious and playful and strong” says the US fashion design house’s Twitter handle and much of its content shared on social media featured pink flamingos, beautiful window displays and flower covered feature walls. In other words, totally on brand.

  1. Make It An Interactive Destination

Brands need to show awareness and understanding of the cultural world beyond the retail arena. Brands will only connect with consumers on a deeper level if they can also show a connection with the wider world around them. Diesel puts interactive experiences at the heart of its in-store experience, with shareable features, live music and art-inspired imagery. It’s more than a retail destination, it’s a cultural experience. This is reflected in the social media content shared around the brand, almost half of which features events, displays, films and other collateral that the brand has created.

By analyzing and embracing shared content you turn the millions of images shared by people every day into a vital brand asset. A vast resource of publicly available content that no amount of traditional market research can buy. Analyzing this material can help make sound strategic choices to develop and grow the relationship between brand and consumer. Understanding and interacting with the wider world in a way that is genuinely meaningful is hard, but in a digital age when the customer is increasingly in control, brands have a lot to gain by doing so.

By Lyndsay Kelly, Cultural Insight Team, Kantar Added Value