For fans of future gazing, the month of December simply can’t be beaten. Already we’ve been treated to 2023 trends reports from (among others) Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, and Reddit; each one undertaking the unenviable balancing act of processing the past year’s goings-on to capture a zeitgeist still yet to arrive.
And while we’d encourage you to go and read each of those lovingly-prepared reports for yourself (just make sure you’ve put an hour aside before tackling the TikTok report) there’s a theme running through them that we couldn’t help but want to draw your attention to. Authenticity (Pinterest), community and connection (Instagram), and “keeping it real” (Reddit) are concepts that dominate the conversation.
Those same concepts go a long way to representing the past year at StoryStream, too. In 2022 we launched our first eCommerce Content Trends Report (spoiler: it’s all about the importance of authenticity); we partnered with our customers to pioneer new ways to connect with their communities (link in bio, Live Video Shopping); and we helped brands from an ever-growing list of industries embrace the power of authentic, User-generated Content (all of that summing up to what we like to call “people powered commerce”).
So in this annual review, we’re also going to throw our hat into the ring with our fellow forecasters and try to eke out an answer to the question on the lips of marketers everywhere: “what’s next?”
User-generated Content: a strategic priority for global marketing teams
In 2022, StoryStream has been proud to announce partnerships with some of the world’s most beloved brands (John Lewis & Partners, JD Group, and Stellantis among them). And at the same time, we’ve deepened our relationship with customers through globally-minded projects too (check out the Mazda global case study for a fantastic example of UGC “going global”).
Across the board, we’re seeing first-hand the strategic importance for global marketing teams of User-generated Content. There’s a growing awareness in the market that having a solution (i.e. a platform for acquiring rights to content, distributing it, etc.) is important … but that without a dedicated strategy to make the most of the opportunity, an extraordinary amount of value risks being left on the table.
The reasons behind the trend are myriad – UGC is a demonstrably powerful tool for inspiring engagement and conversion across all digital channels – but overwhelmingly there’s a sense that UGC and social proof have reached a moment of maturity. Shoppers agree: in our eCommerce Content Trends report, we learned that 73% of shoppers have been directly influenced by UGC while making an online purchase decision.
In 2023, we think that more brands will become alert to the broader strategic value of User-generated Content – not least because UGC represents precisely the sort of “reuse, reduce, recycle” ethos that’s increasingly important to consumers.
UGC and experimentation – redefining the metrics that matter
“Experimentation” has been having a moment. Marketing teams now operating within a context of unprecedented global macroeconomic upheaval are facing a near-constant requirement to “shake things up.” It’s always been true that what’s worked before isn’t guaranteed to work again, but never have the goal posts shifted quite so regularly.
To that end, in 2022 we’ve seen brands really pushing the envelope with what’s possible with UGC – innovating at pace, and creating value in increasingly novel ways. McLaren offers a good example; through StoryStream, McLaren is collecting fan-generated content, making it shoppable, and then sending that content to both the McLaren store and driver biography pages (read the full case study here). A first within the world of sports merchandising, and a brilliant example of taking the content they’ve been collecting and curating for one purpose (in this case, fan engagement) and then leveraging it to help solve a different kind of business challenge.
Over at Porsche, the North America team is using StoryStream to offer a guided questionnaire experience to its customers, and collecting compelling customer testimonials to infuse into their marketing as a result. Under the banner of “Electrifying Stories”, Porsche is surfacing critical social proof about the realities of owning and operating its first all electric vehicle, and users are loving what they see: users who have interacted with an “Electrifying Story” customer testimonial are 36% more likely to convert (read the full case study here).
Looking toward 2023, we expect that brands will continue to find new ways to work their UGC harder (be that through the placement of UGC across more of their site pages, or by including UGC in channels like email marketing, in-store displays, etc.). And we expect teams to find new ways to articulate the value of those efforts too …
In an exercise run recently to identify the value of User-generated Content from an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) perspective, we found proof that the content being curated by brands is helping them rank for more keywords than they’d otherwise be eligible for (read “Five Ways That User-Generated Content Can Boost Your Organic Search Strategy” here).
In a challenging economic context, it stands to reason that brands will look for more proof that the technology they’re investing in can return value. We expect them to ask more from their suppliers; suppliers whose role it must be to help them find that value against a broader array of marketing metrics.
Live Commerce – a foundation year
If 2022 was the year that a critical mass of marketing teams understood the role that UGC plays in driving continuous improvement for their organisations, then we could say that 2022 was the year that Live Video Shopping started its journey along that adoption curve. And while the technology – and the market uptake for it – is still developing, there are encouraging signs of a promising future ahead: 57% of shoppers surveyed in the IMRG eCommerce Content Trends report said that Live Video Shopping would increase their likelihood of purchasing a product (and significantly higher when looking at millennial and Gen Z demographics – download the full report here).
Over the course of the past year, StoryStream has partnered with brands including Ameliorate, Braun, Look Fantastic x Lancôme, Oral B and Zavvi to bring live commerce to life.
Taking the most social elements of shopping – the immediacy of experience, the ability to ask questions, the opportunity to really see how a product looks, feels, and acts – and translating them for digital commerce channels, the opportunity presented by Live Video Shopping is sizeable. Forecasts indicate that in the USA alone the market will top $25 billion in 2023 (up from $1 billion in 2020).
In 2023, we expect that Live Video Shopping’s trajectory will be largely decided not by the marketing efforts of platform providers – though we’ll try! – but instead by word of mouth; discussion among technology buyers, and among the shoppers themselves. The fact is that live commerce requires investment (something that can be hard to justify in more risk-averse environments) – but shoppers looking for extra validation ahead of making purchases will be open to precisely the sort of personalised experience that LVS provides. Successful Live Video Shopping strategies will start from the perspective that a positive experience for a customer results in a positive experience for the brand. And when that clicks, the conversation around live commerce will move up a couple of gears…
B2B buyers expect collaboration, and that extends to their suppliers
Having options is never a bad thing, but with the list of marketing technologies that avail themselves to brands only ever increasing … marketers can be forgiven for feeling like they’re sprinting just to keep up. It’s a phenomenon reflected in the data too: according to the 2022 CMO Survey, “digital marketing spend” will outpace every other facet of marketing spend – growing by an average of 16.2% in the next 12 months.
As the market for SaaS technologies becomes ever more sophisticated – solutions narrowing down to sharper points, or hitting increasingly edge cases – the need for interoperable, highly complementary technologies redoubles. As the marketing stack evolves into an ecosystem, the feeling is that no tool is an island.
At StoryStream our partnerships are a huge part of the way we go to market, and the way we work with our customers. And in 2022, our partnerships with the likes Brandwatch and THG have led to some of our most innovative work. Case studies abound (Grow Gorgeous, Christophe Robin, ESPA, Tommee Tippee to name just a few!) – in each instance, it’s through the power of a partnership that we’ve been able to deliver value to our customers.
So while it’s always a daunting task to bring new technology into a business, knowing that the tools you’re investing in are created and maintained by teams who understand the value of collaboration can help to assuage any number of concerns. In 2023, we expect B2B buyers to be looking for new ways to create recipes from their technologies – blending solutions to affect outcomes at scale. And for that, they’ll need tool providers that proactively look for ways to drive collaboration against outcomes.
It would be a shame to sleep on the opportunity to reflect on the huge strides made in the shoppable link in bio space by our customers (Garnier among them – full LinkStream case study here), or the badges we’ve earned in Winter 2022’s G2 Reports (including “Leader” in Content Curation – thank you!). We end 2022 so appreciative of our customers’ continued partnership, and grateful for the fact that we’re able to talk about the success we’re driving together.
As we head into 2023, StoryStream is gearing up for some exciting roadmap announcements (sign-up for our newsletter to keep up to date with all things StoryStream) – but first, some much-needed rest! Happy holidays, all.