StoryStream was delighted to welcome panelists from Boden, Facebook, Sweaty Betty and Vauxhall to give their views and insight into the Role of Diversity in eCommerce. The evening was full of lively and thought-provoking discussion.
Panel chair Alex Vaidya, StoryStream CEO, set out to explore with them why they think the drive for more inclusivity and diversity in ecommerce has become so important. Making the following observation:
“I see the role of customers in ecommerce becoming even bigger, because brand story-telling and engagement are now as important as the actual transactions. And, diversity and content are at the core of this. So if your brand doesn’t offer diversity and inclusiveness of experience, then you’re going to lose market share.”
Here’s what our invited experts thought, in 5 key takeaways.
1. Delivering authenticity from the inside out.
With savvy consumers leading the way, it’s more important than ever for companies to be genuine and authentic. Consumers can spot a token gesture a mile away, so brand ethics, values and behaviour change have to come from within.
“As brands we have a position of privilege, so we need to harness that. At Sweaty Betty we have a platform, and therefore an opportunity and a responsibility to be part of the change. To really make a difference, we need to be internally diverse and inclusive. That in itself will generate a much more authentic output for our company. The internal view is about real root and branch change, not just how we select the models and locations, or superficial messaging.”
“The events of the last 18 months have given us an opportunity to reflect on the part we play in diversity and inclusivity,” said Annabel Thorburn of Sweaty Betty. “We’ve seen consumers become much more reflective in who they engage and shop with, and they’re much more vocal.”
Alessandro Fragiacomo, Digital Content and Influencer Marketing Lead at Vauxhall, believes it’s crucial that companies genuinely believe in the causes they back “if a customer asks why we’re supporting Black Lives Matter or Pride month, for example, we need to have our own houses in order first. Are you really ready to jump on that trend? Because you need to really believe in it and have a long-term plan.”
2. Think broad with data.
Interestingly, the panel discussed the notion of whether diversity meant not being so focused on targeting individual types, and going against the programmatic, hyper-targeting world that we’re in.
“We have this big thing about ‘discovery commerce’, said Facebook’s Georgia Waboso. “People are on our platforms but they’re also expecting brands to reach out to them, and spark their interest … I think we’re moving away from that age of making a decision about who your customer is, and allowing data driven marketing to decide what’s going to appeal,”
“Variety of creative has a massive part to play in that – different scenarios, different people – it’s going to be so important in driving campaign effectiveness,”
Alessandro Fragiacomo of Vauxhall’s view was that, “We need to realize that people can’t be boxed in. People are different. Even the mainstream audience is not the person they were two, five, ten years ago. We need to find the space in-between the different categories, ”
3. Use UGC to deliver more diversity in your content.
With businesses unable to get out and shoot as much content over the course of the pandemic, StoryStream has seen a growth in interest in User Generated Content, but one of its core benefits is that ability to act as a fast, agile way to increase the diversity and inclusivity in your brand campaigns
According to Nicola Huet of Boden, “Because Boden wants to be more accessible as a brand, we have been using User Generated Content for a while. The combination of imagery and product reviews is powerful together. I think brands and businesses need to embrace diversity because it’s actually beneficial to everyone who gets involved.”
“We’re seeing customers engaging with our User Generated Content,” Nicola continued. “We’ve done lots of user testing and they say they want to see more of it, so we’re designing our product page to bring up our User Generated Content, because purely from a commercial view it makes sense, and from what we’ve seen it does help drive conversions.”
4. Diversify channels and locations to better represent and reflect society and cultures.
“Targeting a wider range of people drives better results and performance,” said Georgia Waboso. “And, for example, buying online opens up the market for women and makes the process more comfortable, whereas going into a dealership might have been quite an intimidating experience.”
“It makes it interesting for the brand to think about how they sell to women. But I think there’s also a need for diversity in the type of creative you use in, say, car advertising, as well as the people you are including in that creative.”
Annabel Thorburn of Sweaty Betty responded that, “We have a very active Facebook group who gives us a wealth of feedback, all of the time, and they are passionate advocates of the brand, and we’re getting insight and feedback really, really quickly for us to respond to that makes us better, and better at serving our customers, making us more authentic, so it’s a really powerful platform. And they will call you out if you’re doing something that is not authentic. It keeps us on our toes as a brand.”
5. Diversity and inclusivity is a commercial imperative.
The panel were fully agreed that inclusivity and diversity were not just a moral imperative, but a commercial imperative.
According to Boden’s Nicola Huet, “there can be a bit of a commercial barrier, but ultimately we believe it’s the right thing to do. We have to be part of that change, as both consumers and as part of the industry, we’re accustomed to seeing a certain body size and shape, and when you see someone who is a different size you notice it. There’s an awful lot that we need to do to change that and it’s not going to be quick or easy. We’re moving in the right direction, but we’re not there yet in terms of diversity, whether it’s size, colour, disability.”
For Alessandro Fragiacomo of Vauxhall, the path to purchase in the automotive industry in particular is not as linear as it used to be, “We are moving more towards the need to see people inter-acting with the vehicle, what role the vehicle plays in your daily lives, and what benefits can come from having that particular type of product. We want to showcase great content for people, to not only be interested in what we do, but also to engage with our content and start a conversation.”
The discussion ended with a question about the future, with all panelists agreeing that a sure sign of success would be that this kind of discussion would no longer be needed. “The hope is that diversity will become entirely normalized,” concludes Alex Vaidya. “And I’m excited by the role that StoryStream and all of our clients are going to play in that.”
Our special thanks to: Nicola Huet, Digital and Marketing Director, Boden; Annabel Thorburn, SVP of E-commerce, Sweaty Betty; Georgia Waboso, Client Solutions Manager Automotive, Facebook; Alessandro Fragiacomo, Digital Content and Influencer Marketing Lead, Vauxhall.
Ready to start your story? Contact us and one of the StoryStream team will be in touch.