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Free People to Replace Models With Customer Photos Online

Could regular people sell clothes better than Karlie Kloss and Sasha Pivovarova?
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We've always been struck by Free People's casting of fantastic, in-demand top models, like Karlie Kloss, Freja Beha and Sasha Pivovarova, for its catalogs -- so much so that we've actually written about it. And now, you can join the club as a face for the brand. Well, sort of.

The company is furthering its experimentation with user-generated content (UGC). One year ago, Free People launched FPMe, an online community where customers can upload shoppable photos of themselves in their Free People outfits. Additionally, online items are often accompanied by photos of customers wearing them. Data from the past year has shown a 42 percent improvement in the same session conversion rate (i.e. someone buys something) on when FP Me Pics are associated with product on the page.

So, Free People is launching a special new section on its site this Saturday called "FP Me," where you can browse a curated a selection of the most popular FP Me images, which will replace typical model shots (see an example above) for two weeks.

It's an easy way for FP to further determine the power of UGC to drive sales. Not to mention, it's a whole lot less expensive than hiring Karlie Kloss -- the chosen customers will be alerted to their new model status, but not compensated. In fact, since the subjects bought the clothes they're wearing, it's almost like they paid Free People to be models.

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A lot of companies are experimenting with UGC these days: Modcloth has a similarly thriving community and BaubleBar, New Balance and Gap have all dabbled in it. And most recently, Calvin Klein launched its #mycalvins campaign, encouraging the public to upload tagged social media photos, which the company is aggregating on its website and linking to products.

Of course, just because UGC has worked well for Free People and its boho, blogger-y customers, doesn't mean it will work for every brand, so don't count on models becoming obsolete just yet.