Selfies are good for business


We take pictures of everything and anything. Since the photo camera has been replaced with our mobile phone, we constantly take pictures of our feet and the shoes we’re wearing, the beer we’re drinking while out in a bar, a new gadget we bought and many other products or events. Sometimes we take these photos as memories, but most of the times we do it because we want to share them for the whole world to see – on facebook, twitter, instagram, etc. Could anything useful come out of this new hobby of ours, except building our self-esteem?

Well, Olapic found a way to leverage this: marketing. They realized all these images contain important product information related to how products are used, how they actually look in real life and even who uses them. And, they made collecting our photos their business, hence, crowdsourcing.fp1

Olapic is a startup based in New York that makes it easy for companies to collect and display photos that their customers or users take. This is done via a widget embedded in the website or via social networks by using specific hashtags. The business model is quite simple: Olapic’s clients are charged a monthly subscription fee based on their reach (i.e. the number of monthly unique visitors to their website). Initially, Olapic’s clients were mostly news publications but now the startup has developed into apparel and serves brands such as Walmart, Sears, Guess, Threadless, Calvin Klein or Vans.


One of the brands supported by Olapic is Urban Outfitters, an American fashion retailer, and its brand Free People specifically. Free People draws a large fraction of its revenue from online sales. However, it faces the same issue as any other online store: when customers buy online they still question: “Will this piece of clothing fit my body?”. In an attempt to answer this and to bring the brand closer to the consumer, Free People has integrated Instagram on its product pages with a little help from Olapic. Thus, anyone who wears Free People jeans proudly can post a photo with that specific model, which shows up on the product page under what they call “fp me: Free People’s Style Community”. What is the added value? Customers see how the jeans fit different body shapes, how an item can be accessorized, they can buy an already built look and finally, they interact with the brand a lot, bringing in plenty of value back to Free People.

So far, the business works very well, even though the founders were initially concerned if users would be willing to share their photos without compensation. However, it seems “vanity coins” (so glory and love in terms of the collective intelligence genome) are a sufficient incentive for people to participate. Would YOU be willing to share your photos this way?

— Alina —

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