In a Stagnant Holiday Shopping Season, Trust is Pivotal  

By Joshua Buxbaum

Co-founder and Chief Growth Officer, WebPurify

Experts predict holiday spending could reach $1.19 trillion globally this year, virtually no change year-over-year compared to 2022, which itself was a year of slow growth compared to 2021.

As consumers restrict spending, retailers are pulling out all the stops, including more discounts offered earlier, a diverse range of products, and a convenient shopping experience with easy returns. But these aren’t the only changes retailers should be making this holiday season.

Holiday shopping accounts for 40% of a company's annual sales, making consumer trust especially important in a tight market. In retail, users encourage web content in various forms – from product reviews to livestream shopping videos to customized products – yet in the eyes of the consumer, the responsibility, and ultimately, the blame for any unsavory content will fall on the brand.

For retailers looking to maintain the holiday spirit, and the surge in sales that comes with it, they must understand the risks of user generated content and how to combat the dangers associated with it.

Product customization – naughty or nice? 

Customizing and gifting often go hand-in-hand. There’s a reason retailers like Things Remembered have always had a strong presence in American malls. Many times, when one can’t think of the perfect item, they’ll turn to a brand they trust and customize a product they already love. This holiday season is no different.

Over half of consumers believe customized products make great gifts and are willing to pay more for them. And while we’d like to believe personalization is as simple and wholesome as adding in a special photo or touching message, illicit content is bound to sneak in.

If not properly moderated, brands could find offensive text or even other brand logos on their products out in the wild – and 42% of these contain copyright infringement. That’s bad for business; 67% of consumers say they would likely stop using a brand's product or service if they saw the brand alongside false, objectionable, or inflammatory content.

Jonathan Nikols, Senior Vice President, Global Enterprise Americas, Verizon Business

"Retailers must be vigilant about the risks of user generated content and invest in AI-led moderation tools to combat the dangers associated with it."

Live stream shopping heightens risks  

Holiday shoppers dig deep on retail reviews 

Saving the holiday shopping spirit 

In a season of budgeting constraints, shoppers are exploring all avenues to get the right present at the best value – they’re even turning to social and live shopping. In the U.S. 35% of shoppers see live shopping as a way to secure better prices and deals. This form of social shopping also allows brands to collaborate with influencers who sell and promote products with a more interactive online experience, often leading to new customer streams. With any UGC, retailers must be aware of the risk that coincides with the opportunity.

While participating influencers often have contracts and brand guidelines to follow, that doesn’t always stop harmful or off-brand content such as nudity or paraphernalia from slipping into the conversation or even the background.

For live video, AI alone is not fast enough to immediately take down nuanced content, though it can quickly flag potentially risky content to a human moderator to review and remove, ensuring the holiday shopping experience remains untainted.

It’s no secret that holiday shopping is a stressful time and nearly half of Americans reported the most challenging part of gifting is choosing the “right” gift for their recipient. As shoppers search to find the perfect present for their loved one, they rely heavily on reviews.

Almost 90% of users say reviews have impacted their purchasing decisions. Offensive, irrelevant, or spam content in these forums can quickly turn a consumer off and spark them to abandon shopping with a particular brand all together, directly impacting sales.

Due to the sheer volume of reviews – from images, videos, and text – that exist on a brand’s site, retailers can again look to AI to filter out harmful content, even if it’s from years prior.

Even the smallest mishap can drive a customer out, with 61% of consumers stating they would switch to a competitor after just one poor experience. When properly moderated, customized products, live shopping and reviews can be a trusted and powerful source for revenue generation.

The right AI-led moderation tools should block clearly harmful content and escalate questionable, more nuanced videos, images or text to a real-person with deep training. This approach works best in a retail environment where consumers expect fast approval and delivery on customized products, fair moderating of reviews (not just removing the unfavorable ones) and authentic shopping experiences.

With the proper guardrails in place, businesses retailers can take full advantage of the busiest, most wonderful time of the year, offering all the features shoppers have come to expect without sacrificing brand reputation or customer loyalty.