While loyal customers are implicitly the greatest champions of a business, its success is also a melting pot of the activities of its employees, brand ambassadors, and followers. And in an attempt to recognize these actors, businesses are finally stepping away from the spotlight to make way for such individuals who act as stepping stones of success. After all, they are the ones who make a difference in this consumer-centric world!
Thus, businesses are adopting marketing strategies that involve using organic, user-generated content to shape public opinion, gain more customers, and earn credibility.
In this article, we will take a detailed look at user-generated content - what it is, its relevance, especially in relation to eCommerce stores, and how different businesses have leveraged it to their benefit.
What is User-Generated Content, and Why Does it Matter?
As the name indicates, user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated content includes images, videos, audio, reviews, testimonials, and all forms of content shared by a user about a product or a service. These assets are typically brand-specific and original and are published across various channels such as social media.
The value of UGC lies in its reliability, authenticity, and believability. Its importance and impact may be quantified through the following numbers:
Three Types of User-Generated Content for eCommerce Stores
As stated above, user-generated content encapsulates the different forms and formats of content. But when it comes to eCommerce stores, the following types of UGC are highly relevant:
Customer Reviews and Ratings
Customer reviews and ratings made their first appearance in 1999 over sites like eBay, Deja, Epinions, and RateItAll. Since then, they have been a staple for all eCommerce sites - which makes sense considering that on-site customer reviews can boost conversion rates by a staggering 74%!
These act as social proof and lend credibility to your product. Prospects can check these out to understand the product intimately and gauge how brands perform against customer expectations.
While positive reviews play their part in clinching the deal, negative reviews also influence organic growth by setting realistic expectations. Plus, it infuses authenticity into the brand because let’s face it, not everyone can be happy with your product! Thus, the mix of positive and negative reviews will allow customers to make a well-rounded decision on whether the product is right for them.
Visual User-Generated Content
Reviews and ratings are relevant to MoFu and BoFu customers - those who are already in the market to purchase an item. But what about the ToFu customers, those window shoppers simply exploring your eCommerce store or a casual buyer scrolling their social media feed? How can you convert them?
Through visual content! And not just any visual content, we are talking about UGC visual content.
In an interesting turn of events, which is hailed as the “Instagram Effect,” about 77% of consumers prefer UGC visuals to professional content! Giving in to these preferences will only increase buyer interest and engagement.
You could encourage customers to share images and/or videos in their reviews. Alternatively, you could reshare UGC content on your social media handles (with due permission, of course!). You may also include images from social media on your product page - a trick that makes customers 6x more likely to purchase the item!
Social Media Posts by Customers
Sure, Instagram is insanely popular as a visual media (more so as shoppable content becomes a reality - but that’s a story for another day). However, text-based or mixed content platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter act as the final piece for a well-rounded user-generated content marketing strategy for eCommerce brands.
They allow customers to share their experiences over neutral territories, which adds to the brand’s credibility and trustworthiness. After all, a customer may be skeptical of the reviews posted on your eCommerce store given the amount of control you can exercise on it (we’re looking at you, Amazon).
Further, such social media users can use their clout and authority for generating brand awareness and recommending products that have served them well and are worth it. Considering that 76% of shoppers have purchased a product based on another buyer’s recommendation, it can be a viable way to get the word out.
What Makes UGC the Secret Ingredient in eCommerce Marketing?
By this point, the role of user-generated content in eCommerce marketing may be evident. Here’s how it fits the larger goal:
Create a Content Library
Content is the backbone of every marketing activity, from social media contests that create brand awareness to video testimonials that can retarget customers. However, the pressure to create content that resonates with the target audience can be far too high, especially with what’s at stake here.
Sharing irrelevant content will only result in loss of engagement that translates to churn. However, you can offload this task with user-generated content to those who advocate for your brand! Such an opportune alignment can only result in a rich, diverse, and creative library of content that businesses can use and reuse in various marketing campaigns to gain the desired results.
Drive Conversion Rates
Like every piece of content, UGC can seamlessly fit into any stage of the eCommerce marketing and sales funnel - from awareness to consideration to decision-making. As such, the integration of UGC with the marketing strategy will enhance the buyer journey and improve conversion rates.
That being said, UGC does a better job at driving such results since it is viewed as more authentic, reliable, and trustworthy. Case in point, the average conversion rate of global eCommerce websites is 2.58%. However, adding UGC to the mix boosts it to an impressive 3.4%!
Generate Brand Awareness
Here’s a fun fact: Content shared by employees enjoys 8x higher engagement as their network could be 10x larger than the business’ follower base. And these numbers are just for your employees. Imagine how much these figures will compound when you think of your average customer who is fairly active on the target platforms and groups!
The rise of influencer marketing is a testament to how businesses can harness UGC in creating brand awareness and molding brand perception. If anything, UGC is 9.8x more impactful than even influencer content.
Humanize eCommerce Marketing
Having one’s comment pinned by their favorite brand is enough to make their day. So imagine how exciting it would be to feature on their website or social media handle! On the flip side, audiences are tired of seeing airbrushed models or products in perfect settings. They want the raw, the ugly, and the messy to truly connect with the product.
Here’s where UGC works its magic.
It offers a unique opportunity to give marketing a humanized twist to forge emotional connections with potential buyers. Given how emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as even your highly satisfied customers, investing in such bonds will pay off.
Build Trust and Foster Loyalty
Social proof may be a buzzword that has got various eCommerce stores curious about its logistics - especially since it has now become a competitive differentiator. However, it is nothing more than a qualitative and relevant UGC collection across different social networks. It could be a selfie of a customer with the product or a full-fledged blog analyzing its pros and cons or even a simple unboxing video!
Such assets add to the brand’s reliability, authenticity, and trustworthiness; thus, paving the way for unwavering brand loyalty. It is proof that customers are purchasing the product, it acts as feedback for the brand, and allows customers to form a balanced opinion about it.
Enjoy Scalability and Affordability
As stated already, UGC contributes to the marketing collateral of a brand. Brands will virtually never run out of fresh content to engage and delight their customers with UGC by their side. Plus, the volumes of UGC generated will grow the more you use it in your marketing activities, making it somewhat of a positive feedback loop! At the same time, brands will no longer have to spend big money on large production houses, studios, and professionals to create polished content.
This combination of abundance, scalability, and affordability makes UGC a sustainable channel for growth.
Boost Shopping Experience
The shopping experience precedes the purchase and is far more valuable than even the product price or quality! Businesses have to find ways to enrich the shopping experience to earn a large following of loyal customers.
Here’s where UGC steps in to cover several fronts.
For a start, it inspires purchases by making products more discoverable and emphasizing the demand for them. UGC is also crucial for prospective buyers to assess the product's value through reviews and ratings. Viewing the product in action also ascribes greater trust in its abilities. And finally, shoppable UGC could be the final push required to make it to the checkout!
Examples of Two Brands That Got UGC-led eCommerce Marketing Right
At this point, you may be rearing to take UGC for a spin and we would not want to keep you from it for too long. But before you put all this knowledge to practice, we have two stellar user-generated content marketing examples that are no less than success stories.
SkullCandy has cleverly used UGC to transform its online store. The brand leverages high-quality product images shared by customers to retain the overall touch and feel of the website and keep it in line with its overall design aesthetic and visual appeal.
The website also showcases user experiences and ideas to market to audiences and connect with them through collaborations.
In addition to the branded content features and other creatives, the website makes use of customer reviews to drive conversions.
As a culmination of these elements, the website flows beautifully in a medley of product images, key features, social proof, and reviews.
Lush Cosmetics integrates eCommerce and social to create a social commerce store - a juggernaut of a force responsible for its billion-dollar revenue.
Its marketing strategies feature a good amount of UGC converted into shoppable content and linked to relevant products.
Plus, its ethical stand on social and environmental issues, paired with its colorful product line makes it easier for the brand to gain traction through word-of-mouth marketing.
The brand’s use of creative hashtags to engage followers, social media to strengthen customer relationships, and micro-micro influencers as brand advocates has resulted in a successful UGC-based marketing strategy.
UGC could be the fine line separating revenue from churn if you are looking to build a customer-oriented eCommerce store. Further, it offers tangible benefits in the form of increased ROI, enhanced shopping experience, accelerated growth, and competitive differentiation. Given how UGC enjoys immense and (more importantly) unrealized potential, now would be a great time to incorporate it within your marketing activities to achieve success on all fronts!
The success sauce for any eCommerce store is the mix of personalization and UGC. The ultimate aim for any online store is to boost conversion rate. While UGC can help you grab store visitor’ attention and build a credible brand image, personalized product recommendations can convert those visitors into customers.
Want to know how you can add personalization to your eCommerce store’s product pages? Get in touch with us!