West Elm Is Lifting Sales by Using Customers’ Instagram Photos in Facebook Carousel Ads

Return on spend better than normal

Headshot of Christopher Heine

West Elm, the furniture and housewares retailer, has been consistently testing user-generated content (UGC) across channels for the last few years, mining pictures from the #mywestelm hashtag. More recently, it found a sweet spot by employing UGC from Instagram posts in Facebook carousel ads, which allow marketers to use multiple images in a single ad unit which viewers can swipe through. 

Olapic, the brand's tech vendor, ran a classic A/B split test that pitted the Instagram UGC versus West Elm's regular Facebook content. Click-through rates for UGC were 2.6 times better than regular ads, and West Elm's prospects that visited the website converted to sale at a rate of three times greater than those who clicked through thanks to a regular ad.  

"I think it works because it looks like what people expect in a Facebook news feed," said Aaron Able, West Elm director of social media and digital content. "It's a natural space."

At the heart of the work is a new partnership between Olapic and SocialCode, which are teaming up to bring their clients more user-generated/curated native creative. Olapic for years has offered brands a software-driven, automated ability to capture UGC from social platforms, curate the images and then receive permission from the consumer to use such pics for marketing. SocialCode, which works with Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as a partner, specializes in actionable data to zero in on consumers' interests.

One of their joint goals is to help marketers spend less money on creative and more on social media buying by collecting and managing UGC at scale then employing data to create high performing posts. SocialCode said that return-on-ad-spend for five major clients has been seven times greater for UGC compared to regular ads. 

"Brands can now spend more on advertising," Olapic CEO Pau Sabria said.

SocialCode CMO Max Kalehoff added, "It's incredibly, incredibly authentic. And the size and the speed to scale sets [the system] apart."

Lastly, West Elm, which has tested UGC in catalogs in the past, is utilizing more of such content than ever in its summer catalog, which it recently mailed out. The brand sounds like it's just getting started.

"We are constantly trying to push UGC in other channels to see how it performs," Able explained. "I really like it because underline our overarching message which is West Elm helps you express your personal style. It is keen to what we like to promote about our brand."

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.
Publish date: June 17, 2016 https://dev.adweek.com/digital/west-elm-lifting-sales-using-customers-instagram-photos-facebook-carousel-ads-172076/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT