User-Generated Content – Why Should Brands Use UGC on eCommerce Sites?
Oct 17, 2019
This is the first in a series of blogs by Shane Orchard, Head of Digital Trading & Marketing Operations, LiveArea EMEA. Shane will explore the benefits of user-generated content, how brands can incentivize consumers to share content, plus the different types of content and how to curate these throughout an eCommerce strategy.
The democratization of retail means consumers no longer crave the dictatorship of brands stating what they should eat, wear, watch, or do. Consumers have a voice and a choice, and crave a two-way conversation. They place as much weight on the opinions of peers as they do the airbrushed models and million-dollar celebrity endorsements behind traditional ad campaigns.
Shoppers look to peers for purchase recommendations and product reviews. Thanks to five-star ratings, YouTube review videos, and social media comments, user-generated content (UGC) is an unavoidable part of today’s eCommerce experience.
This is not a brand-new phenomenon – Amazon, Trustpilot, TripAdvisor, and Google reviews have been used for years – but it is one that’s becoming more prevalent and visible on eCommerce sites and social media, charged by Gen Z and Millennial shopping habits.
In fact, 84% of Millennials claim that UGC on company websites has an influence on what they buy. Further research shows 92% of consumers trust organic UGC more than they trust traditional advertising. Particularly when buying from a new retailer, purchasing a new product, or buying from abroad, the testimony of others is an authentic means of gaining trust in a merchant.
Think ratings and reviews, real photos and videos of consumers using products, influencers, tutorials and demonstration videos, and blogs. This is all valuable, free, first-hand content that brands could use to promote their brand in an authentic way.
Boost conversion rates
It’s been proven that consumers are more influenced by other shoppers than brands themselves: 85% of consumers claim user-generated content is more influential than branded content. Social media and review sites have provided an instant forum for authentic reviews and opinion. Social proof can now be make-or-break for brands and their products.
The key to this is authenticity. Brands can run their multi-million-dollar campaigns and claim to have the highest quality products, the lowest price, the quickest fulfilment, or the best customer service. But this can all be exposed by consumers online. Likewise, if brands utilize the power of real-life customer testimony, other consumers are more likely to trust what they see.
On a product page, a five-star rating, a review that makes a customer stop and think “that’s just like me”, or a photo of an item fitting or working perfectly can secure a buying decision. The stats speak for themselves: UGC-based ads get 4x higher click-through than average ads. UGC results in 29% higher web conversions than campaigns or websites without it. On-site consumer reviews and ratings can increase conversions by 74%.
Creating a sense of community around a brand is an excellent way to foster loyalty. It’s claimed that eCommerce has destroyed brand loyalty. With competitors just a click away, and shoppers habitually comparing brands and retailers online, there’s always a cheaper or faster option in the next tab.
But, as a consumer, not every brand will share that selfie of you looking glam in your favorite dress to all their followers. Not every brand will respond to your feedback about those jeans that didn’t quite fit how you were expecting, or the refund that took three weeks to show in your bank account.
These interactions help create a sense of community around brands, as consumers feel invested in their story, and see them as more than a provider as a product or service. It’s also a snowball effect. The more consumers see their content being appreciated and shared, the more empowered they’ll feel to continue doing so, and the more fab content brands will have to work with.
It also says much for a brand if it’s willing to empower its customers in this way. It shows a willingness to listen, take on feedback, and develop products and services with the consumer in mind. In this age of social media, vloggers, and unboxing videos, everybody has a voice and wants to be heard. Brands that heed this are likely to be popular.
It doesn’t all have to be positive. In an age where everything is laid bare on social media feeds, there are increasingly fewer secrets. People expect honesty and transparency, and in many ways, this is as important as a killer product.
Transparency is mainly to do with pricing, which has become a significant factor for social media-savvy consumers who’ve grown up expecting more for less. It’s is also wrapped up in issues around supply chain, sustainability, and business ethics. Engaging in honest conversations online, as opposed to sugar-coating or burying these issues, can be a powerful PR move.
Delegate content creation
Content marketing is hot, and a solid content strategy has become the holy grail of growth. Yet the creation of unique content is often a stumbling block for brands. A comprehensive content marketing strategy requires budget, people, time, and creativity to curate, maintain, and refresh.
Google likes original content. Therefore, websites need a steady stream of unique, engaging content to keep ranking, and keep audiences returning. And eCommerce sites are no different. User-generated content can keep a site fresh with unique content, requiring minimal effort in terms of creation. Internal teams can then curate the best content on product pages, social media, and throughout the site.
Sure, internal resources are needed to curate the content, but this is really a small price to pay.
Brands spend huge budgets on photo and video shoots, scripts, and ad creatives to gain media to resonate with audiences. But there are potentially thousands of photographers, writers, and spokespeople out there, for free, generating what we already know has proven to be the most powerful content of all. Brands just need to find a way of anchoring this media.
Gain audience insights
Finally, user-generated content can work as a source for first-party consumer data. This is often overlooked by brands but analyzing the content created by audiences can provide key insights into various parts of the business: product reception, customer service, fulfilment, marketing efforts, and brand perception.
Such insights can help brands better understand their target audiences, and drill down into what they find engaging and why, or why not. When utilized, this can be an incredibly powerful source for driving new products, customer service initiatives, and marketing efforts.
This can be as simple as running an audit on social media and online reviews and ratings to see where customers are finding friction, and improving on these issues.
But it can extend to analyzing the pool of photos customers are uploading to Instagram, and spotting patterns. Are certain products being shared more than others, and if so, can you develop a new version, upgrade, or complementary product to increase revenue? Do you need to increase marketing efforts for these products? Can you partner with another brand that many of your customers also purchase? Do you need to provide more information about how a product is used?
But before brands can start using these insights, they need to ensure their audiences, channels, and formats are aligned and ready for users to contribute content. Our next blog will explore how to encourage and incentivize consumers to share their valuable content.
Shane Orchard, Head of Digital Trading and Marketing Operations, LiveArea EMEA
Shane has extensive experience in the utilisation of product information, user-generated content and digital content strategy. He leads the digital trading and digital marketing operations team, delivering multi-channel growth for international eCommerce brands through paid media and search, personalisation, merchandising, CRM, social media, email and analytics.