Why pay an agency to concoct expensive creative when your consumers are already doing it for free?
For direct-to-consumer bedding and bath brand Parachute, the answer is simple. Its customers regularly tag the brand in their organic posts on Instagram, which Parachute is able to repurpose for campaigns to retarget site visitors.
Say someone is looking for a specific type of bedding on ParachuteHome.com. Rather than using a piece of slick creative, Parachute will retarget that person with a user-generated post embedded with tags that link directly back to the product on its online store.
“Rich imagery created by users performs better than static product imagery,” said Luke Droulez, Parachute’s CMO.
To transform user-generated content (UGC) into shoppable ads, Parachute works with Curalate, a platform that aggregates user-generated posts featuring brands. Curalate allows brands to tag their products in those posts with a link directly back to their online storefront. Brands can then repost the tagged UGC on their own social feeds and website and in paid ads.
“When they stumble across this content, a consumer has a really easy way of intuitively interacting to understand what’s in the image,” said Apu Gupta, CEO of Curalate.
Parachute is finding that user-generated content performs better than editorial content. In an A/B test this past spring, UGC posts tagged with Parachute products garnered a 35% higher click-through rate and a 60% lower cost per click than editorial content in retargeting campaigns.
“We were able to test how the different types of content performed in different parts of the funnel,” Droulez said. “UGC performed better, especially for people who were familiar with the brand.”
Recycling UGC also helps Parachute save money on production costs. When working with influencers, for example, there is usually a payment agreement and rights management rules the brand has to follow. But regular consumers are generally happy to have their post picked up by a brand without any compensation.
“There’s an element of validation that comes from a great brand like Parachute saying, ‘Hey, we love your picture and we want to use it,’” Gupta said.
If a specific user’s posts fit well with its brand aesthetic, Parachute will send them free products in exchange for creating more posts.
Parachute’s strategy takes advantage of the blurring line between everyday social media users and micro-influencers. As more people become influential on social media in their own circles, Droulez sees the opportunity for deeper creative partnerships with specific customers materializing in the future.
But the strong performance of UGC content doesn’t negate the need for professional photo shoots completely, Droulez said. There will always be a need for professionally produced campaigns during product launches, for brand building and to support seasonal campaigns.
“UGC provides inspiration to users and sets community guidelines of how we envision our brand, but it’s not the end-all be-all,” he said. “It needs to fit within something bigger.”
Plus, UGC doesn’t perform equally on every platform. While it works extremely well on Instagram and Facebook, where consumers are posting daily, it doesn’t do as well on Pinterest, which has a different creative feel. People are also more comfortable shopping on Instagram than they are on Pinterest, at least today, Droulez said.
“It’s not that it’s a different person using Pinterest, it's just a different audience behavior,” he said. “How you present inspirational content is [therefore] different.”
Parachute will continue leveraging UGC as it broadens its marketing mix. The brand has also recently been finding success in offline channels, such as TV and out of home, as a way to drive sales online and in store.
“The goal is to continue to have a diversified marketing mix while maintaining a balanced portfolio to better meet consumer needs by being where they are,” Droulez said.