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How One Outdoor E-Tailer Is Making Waves With UGC

Austin Canoe & Kayak (ACK) is in the business of adventure. Their customers are enthusiasts, fishermen, boaters, hikers — and they all use ACK products in interesting (and highly-visual) ways.

Two years ago, the outdoor sports e-tailer saw opportunity in tapping into their customer base to help tell their brand story. But to do it, they needed some organization.

“We had a lot of customers just giving us their content on social media, but there wasn’t a hub for it,” Trent Lootens, digital marketing manager, ACK, said. “It was all sporadic, and it would just get lost.”

So ACK turned to Rivet Works, an automated UGC platform, to help make sense of their content, and capitalize on insights.. Over the last two years, ACK has developed a viable marketing strategy that’s attributed to a 90 percent growth in product page conversions, the brand says.

How did they do it? Here’s a closer look behind the scenes:

A more dynamic product page

At ACK, a customer photos carousel is included on product pages, with a call-to-action to “submit your own picture” underneath. When a shopper clicks the link, they’re taken to a landing page where they can upload photos, tag locations, and write their own captions. Contributors can choose what topics the photos best represent (something that could help ACK organize content on the backend) before opting-in to their terms and conditions and/or other product offers.

“When they engage the consumer, they’re being very transparent of what they are asking for,” Michael Svatek, CEO and co-founder, Rivet Works, said of consent. “They’re saying ‘we would like to know your experiences with service and your product.’ It’s very, very clear what the brand is asking.”

The images are then curated by the ACK team (shoppers are emailed if their photo is chosen) to create living photo galleries that spice up individual product pages. When coupled with other mixed media (as seen above) product pages are transformed into more engaging customer experiences, with visuals that can give more context that just plain-text product reviews.

Building loyalty with value

ACK implements the same user-friendly experience to foster loyalty programs. The brand recently launched an “anniversary” email campaign, that targeted shoppers who have owned or purchased products over the last 12 months. ACK asked these shoppers to share feedback using the products they purchased, and to include a few photos.

“You already have all these customers, you just have to build a relationship with them, and keep them loyal,” Svatek said.

Incentivized programs (like offering discounts or rewards points for contributions) can also be a route, especially when introducing customers to new products they may align with.

“There’s a great opportunity for the retailer to then segment and target them differently,” Svatek said.

Or, maybe you just want to give an extra bonus to repeat customers, or frequent buyers that have remained loyal to your brand.

“Your most passionate core customers are always going to be the ones who actually submit,” Lootens said.

Inspiring organic content

A wealth of user-generated content can open up new opportunities for organic content creation across different channels. The key is identifying different trends that can be used to tell new stories.

“Say, for example, we have five posts over the last few months that have someone’s dog riding in their boat with them — we can throw up a quick blog post on that,” Lootens said.

ACK also publishes regular customer photo roundups, and shares “top picks” across their social channels.

When shoppers submit their photos, they’re given the option to share their own social media information with ACK. This gives the brand an opportunity to tag contributors, increasing the likelihood of audience engagement.

“It’s not just a picture of a kayak. It’s a picture of them on the lake…or with a fish they caught, or their time traveling down the river,” Svatek said. “So there’s this whole story around it, and there’s a narrative too.”

Looking ahead

Visual recognition and machine learning technology is on the horizon for UGC, Svatek says. For example, visual recognition can help brands identify what other products (or brands) appear in user-submitted photos, providing insights for better targeting, segmentation, or partnership opportunities.

Though ACK has seen early success, Lootens says they’re not done yet.

“We’re just on the cusp of really accelerating the program.”

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