September 16, 2013, 3:16 PM

A tagged Instagram photo is worth…what?

Urban Outfitters seeks to find out with Curalate technology.

Lead Photo

Urban Outfitters' UOonYou web page.

Every day, customers of fashion retailer Urban Outfitters tag between 100 and 200 Instagram photos with the hashtag “#UOonYou” (Urban Outfitters on You)—all of their own volition—and the images upload to the UOonYou page of the retailer’s e-commerce site, senior marketing manager Moira Gregonis says. While Urban Outfitters can see how many likes on Instagram and comments each image receives, until now it hasn’t been able to say how much revenue the images are driving, she says.

This week, however, the retailer is relaunching its UOonYou page on a new technology application from visual marketing and analytics vendor Curalate. Called Fanreel, it brings the UOonYou Instagram feed into a Curalate dashboard, where Gregonis and her team can search for the products featured in the customer-generated images and link them to the photos. That way, when shoppers click on images in the UOonYou page, they will go to a product page rather than to Instagram’s web site.

In addition to helping generate sales, Fanreel will give Urban Outfitters a precise measurement of how much money each image drives on the e-commerce site, Gregonis says. “That’s our biggest issue overall with social media—it’s hard to tell if it is doing anything,” she says. “That’s what we’re hoping Fanreel will help us with.”

The software, which replaces an earlier tool Urban Outfitters had used, will also simplify managing and organizing the shopper-generated content, she says. Urban Outfitters developed its first application for collecting #UOonYou-tagged images in-house, and in order to go through and edit the feed—which Moira does every morning, removing low-quality pictures or ones that don’t show the clothing well—the marketers had to go through the retailer’s I.T. department each time, she says. With Fanreel, they can log into Curalate, see all the images at once and add comments or remove poor photos without having to click separately into each one, she says.

Selecting which product pages to link to the images is also simpler, because Curalate crawled Urban Outfitters’ entire e-commerce site and indexed the products with tags describing their attributes, Gregonis says. That way, the marketing team can search for products to link the images to by entering just a couple of words that describe what they’re seeking. “All you have to do is type ‘striped sweater’ into Curalate and all the potential matches come up. Then you just choose the right one,” she says.

Additionally, if Curalate reveals that a particular product—say, the striped sweater—is trending on both Instagram and Facebook, Gregoris will likely promote the sweater in an e-mail campaign or share it on another social network like Pinterest, she says.

Urban Outfitters already uses Curalate to manage its Facebook and Pinterest activity, Gregonis says. The platform enables her marketing team to schedule posts or pins to Pinterest and analyze the responses they generate, she says. In about a year of using this data to improve its marketing tactics on Pinterest, Urban Outfitters has increased its customer engagement with the brand on the social network by almost 750%, according to Curalate. The retailer plans to begin managing its Tumblr activity via Curalate soon, Gregoris says.

Curalate costs between $1,000 and $5,000 per month, the company says. So far, the time Urban Outfitters’ marketing team has saved in pinning on Pinterest and managing its campaigns through Curalate has made the tool well worth the investment, Gregoris says. “For me the real value is that it’s one platform,” she says. “It saves tons of time. Each person on the team can log in whenever and see what everyone else has pinned.”

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