This information is massively important, considering that there is such an array of adverts that saturate websites and social platforms that often turn consumers off to a brand’s message. After all, a resounding 96 percent of consumers don’t trust ads.
Because of this dynamic, most businesses can sing their own praises all they want, but few shoppers will actually put any weight behind the claims. However, if a fellow consumer were to make the exact same pronouncement about a business’s products or services, others are far more likely to become believers. This assertion is rooted in the fact that a full 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from folks they don’t know, over branded content.
For retailers, this juxtaposition is precisely why user generated content works for increasing trust, loyalty, sales and other vital components to eCommerce success.
When merchants take the time not only to enable, but highlight, customers who are sharing their own opinions, experiences and personalities about and through a company’s products, it dramatically increases the chances that they will engage with a business and inspire others to do the same.
As a bonus, user generated content saves eCommerce retailers untold amounts of time and money in crafting marketing materials.
An example of this principle at play is when a nightclub or restaurant has a line of people stretching around the corner. What most people don’t know is that many clubs limit the number of folks the let in to intentionally create that line. Then, when someone walks by, they see that the club is popular and they think that people must have a good time there and that they would probably like it too.
In effect, what social proof (and therefore user generated content) does is cultivate trust in a brand. Given that consumers don’t benefit financially from their content, others perceive it as more valuable and trustworthy.
In fact, user generated content is one of the key methods Amazon sellers use to maximize sales. Consumers are more likely to purchase a product on Amazon that has a four-star rating out of 500 reviews than they are to buy an item with five stars from 11 reviews.
Testimonials are undoubtedly an excellent component to include on a landing page. These types of reviews provide consumers with that much-needed social proof that often convinces them to convert.
However, the deployment of user generated content on landing pages can be reimagined a bit to provide a more compelling experience.
Enter: Calvin Klein.
In 2014, the famed fashion brand debuted its #MyCalvins campaign, generating a metric ton of engagement and user generated content. To date, the #MyCalvins hashtag carries over 750,000 posts on Instagram.
Recognizing the massive potential for consumer engagement, loyalty and conversions the company had tapped into, the brand decided to create a landing page dedicated to #MyCalvins, featuring a seemingly endless supply of user generated content.
This approach is like testimonials on steroids. By showcasing authentic examples of consumers loving their Calvins, shoppers instantly recognize other consumer’s endorsing the brand, while simultaneously showing how such products look on real people, in real life.
However, Calvin Klein is not the only brand to latch on to this genius utilization of user generated content.
In 2017, Travelex kicked off a user generated content sweepstakes where the company held monthly contest that encouraged users to submit different kinds of travel photos for a chance to win prizes. The images were then employed via a curated social wall on the company’s website. Moreover, with each new month, the brand would create a new theme (e.g., TravelexExotic, #TravelexKiss, etc.) to help keep engagement levels high across Twitter, Instagram and the brand’s website.
By utilizing multiple social channels and creating a landing page dedicated to the user generated content the promotion engendered, the company was able to engage its audience in a fun way, while also increasing its visibility, reach and conversions.
Naturally, eCommerce brands that opt to create such landing pages should aim to cultivate a positive brand image, while also highlighting UGC as much as possible. After all, the users are the star of the show.
That said, brands can integrate user generated content into a single section of a landing page, while also featuring popular products, as is the case with the #MyCalvins dedicated page.
Given that 84 percent of buyers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from a friend, it is clear that this form of user generated content is extremely valuable for earning a consumer’s trust and dollars.
Product reviews are one of the most basic forms of user generated content, but they are also one of the most powerful. In addition to the attributes mentioned above, product reviews beget more product reviews, meaning that as these critiques pile up, shoppers will perceive increased excellence in an item and credibility in a brand.
Moreover, as mentioned earlier, product reviews are a fantastic source of keywords and help to bolster a page’s SEO performance. This form of user generated content continually brings search bots back to a site to crawl certain pages. With the added reviews, the page’s freshness ranking factor is enhanced, thereby impacting rankings positively. Also, as a product earns more consumer reviews, the number of long-tail keywords and keyword variants helps to enhance eCommerce SEO outcomes.
Yet, no matter what it is that a business stands for, user generated content is a powerful avenue through which retailers can connect with their audiences who follow the same principles. Even more critical, by engaging followers in this manner, brands create meaningful interactions that are likely to breed customer loyalty.
For instance, the fashion industry is notorious for promoting airbrushed images and idealized, oft-unattainable beauty standards for most people. For this very reason, swimwear brand Aerie ditched photoshopped images with the #AerieReal campaign and, as a result, its sales skyrocketed.
However, this was only one part of the push. In addition to no longer photoshopping its own images, Aerie let its fans know that for every user who posted an unedited photo of themselves in swimwear and used the designated hashtag, the company would donate $1 to the National Eating Disorders Association.
By proudly announcing its values and encouraging customers to stand alongside the brand, Aerie created something of a movement, made deep connections with its audience, amassed tons of user generated content, garnered loads of media attention and grew sales by 20 percent.
Feature UGC on Product Pages
When it comes to product photography, there are plenty of methods for generating stunning images that sell. That said, it is likely that while these photos may look great, they are probably nowhere near as engaging as user generated content.
By utilizing user generated content such as photos or videos of actual customers using a product in real-world environments, retailers can deliver a far more informative depiction of products.
Now, this isn’t to say that professional photos aren’t necessary. However, by employing a combination of pro shots and user generated content, shoppers can get a detailed look at an item and visualize themselves using it in an applicable context.
Using images of real customers not only generates a more authentic experience, but it also tends to increase trust and conversions.
Another fantastically engaging way to use user generated content on an eCommerce site is by gamifying the experience.
Through this paradigm, brands require users to complete specific tasks to unlock rewards and achievements. Retailers can employ concepts like points, levels, high-scores, leaderboards, badges, VIP statues or prizes to promote consumer engagement by creating user generated content.
The gamification process enables merchants to build more in-depth, long-term relationships with consumers by fostering an experience that engenders loyalty and sales.
For instance, Nike employed the gamification model to connect with its audience through the Nike+ fuelband app, where users could track exercise goals like distance, time, calories burnt and other metrics. Given that the app was linked to social media sites, users were able to compete against one another and share their results via social, Nike was able to boost its social presence and visibility through the user generated content created by app participants.
As users completed levels, they would earn badges, trophies and points. These accomplishments inspired customers to continue interacting with the brand and others, while also encouraging them to purchase Nike products.
User generated content is a gold mine for eCommerce retailers as the material gives merchants a compelling format to connect with audiences through comments, images, videos and even more abstract ideas like moral fiber, reciprocation and gamification.
User generated content brings a level of humanization to brands that they would have a tough time achieving otherwise. By posting this type of content on eCommerce websites, sellers place their users in the spotlight and give them a voice, thereby helping to form more of a community than a company.
While there is certainly no one-size-fits-all approach to harvesting user generated content, the tactics outlined above provide a decent spread of options from which to select the right strategies for your brand.
However, if your business feels that it requires a more personal touch in how it might leverage user generated content to build better relationships with its audience and increase sales, reach out to us for a free consultation and we can help assemble a plan that engages your customers in a two-way relationship that generates content and revenue.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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