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This is a guest blog post by Olapic, a Demandware Certified LINK Technology partner. 

It’s no secret that technology has had a profound and fundamental impact on the relationship between retail brands and their consumers. Social media, for one, has empowered consumers like never before, enabling them to communicate with brands they love and perhaps more importantly, help shape perception of brands they do not. Forward-thinking marketers have opted to fully engage with their customers, and even leverage their loyalty to drive business.

But even for these brands, the strategy behind traditional brick-and-mortar experiences is often disconnected from the digital experience. Indeed, one of the key challenges retailers face is to identify and activate the connective tissue between online and offline brand experiences. A cursory glance at this year’s NRF Big Show agenda, which features many sessions dedicated to this topic, proves this point.

At Olapic, we believe that connection exists through visual user-generated content (UGC) and that, in the next generation of marketing, visionary retailers will move beyond traditional marketing content, unleashing UGC to simultaneously expand reach, improve customer engagement, and reduce their own creative burden, both online and off.

One example is NYX Cosmetics, one of the most socially-savvy cosmetics brands in the world, which recently unveiled a brick-and-mortar concept deeply rooted in UGC and experiential marketing. The brand was looking for a way to integrate their online audiences with their physical store locations. Cosmetics is an industry ripe for this integration, since shopping for makeup on the web is challenging due to the factors that impact buying decisions such as skin type, skin color, eye color, etc. NYX wanted to produce and feature high-quality, authentic visual content that provides users with a realistic idea of what products look like on other users with similar features and attributes.

NYX (an Olapic client) has been able to leverage its loyal fan base – it has more than 5 million Instagram followers – to build a large library of UGC. Olapic’s platform enables NYX to tag its user-generated images with specific products – down to the shade level – and publish it across their site, an invaluable tool for the brand and for consumers.

In order to translate that online experience to the offline environment, NYX introduced digital screens throughout their stores, allowing users to scan a barcode and see relevant UGC associated with that product. The brand also implemented additional in-store digital UGC integrations, including a “Selfie Wall” that encourages consumers to share UGC with the branded hashtag #NYXCosmetics, digital screens above each category section displaying applicable UGC, and a large digital screen showcasing UGC from a particular make-up look that is chosen to match a strategic theme for the month – (October was “Rocker Chic” for example).

Certainly, there are other verticals and brands where this type of integration would prove exceptionally powerful, both for consumers and marketers. We look forward to being a part of the continued activation of user-generated content, as consumers and brands work together to create more meaningful retail experiences

We will be discussing this and more at the NRF Big Show January 17-19. Find us in the Demandware Booth #4103 and join me for a Big !deas session on January 19th at 10:15 during which I will talking about how savvy marketers are reinventing traditional content for commerce.