The more recent explosion in social media has meant that consumers can now create and share their own content, like never before. Whether it’s via Facebook, Instagram, blogs or Pinterest, allowing consumers to share images and content on social networks is helping to increase engagement and build a community around brands online.   

The downside of this is that control of images has been somewhat reduced for brands, which is something many marketers will naturally feel uncomfortable about. 

The dramatic growth in smartphone usage in the last decade and the prospect of wearable technology have the potential to extend the reach of a ‘like’ or an image from online forums down to in-store experiences. 

Consumer research we commissioned earlier this year highlights the potential power of Google Glass in allowing consumers to share images in-store, with one in six (16%) saying that smart glasses would make them ‘more likely’ to share images and information on social networks about products they like.  

For 18-34 year olds, a key demographic for many retailers, this figure rises to 26%.

Whether it’s consumers taking a picture with their mobile phone or Google Glass, this trend is likely to revolutionise how people shop and share content in-store, as well as online. 

For example, our research into Google Glass also revealed that the ability to share an image with family and friends in order to receive instant opinions on an item was a major attraction for a 38% of shoppers.  

The challenge for retailers in this new social world is walking the line between conversations and social etiquette, while also taking advantage of the tremendous opportunity that social media offers. 

Two brands leading the way in how to use consumers’ social images to their advantage are Urban Outfitters and Under Armour; both are already starting to use images of fans wearing their products sourced from social networks for their ecommerce sites. 

Shoppers are more connected than ever, and whether they are shopping online at home or in-store, they expect to be able to share their experiences through social channels. 

Far from being scared of this phenomenon, brands must embrace the opportunity social sharing offers, giving them a new way to promote products in an engaging and novel way – by making the consumer a willing advocate. 

Ultimately, retailers that are willing to use images in these new ways will not only benefit from amplified brand and product awareness, but by creating brand advocates they will have the opportunity to increase loyalty and, ultimately, sales.