User-Generated Content: Why It’s Critical to Your eCommerce Marketing Strategy

User-generated Content

If you’re looking for a smart way to build loyalty in your brand, grow your traffic organically and reinvigorate eCommerce sales, you’ve got to leverage multiple factors at once. One of them is user-generated content (UGC). In the most basic terms, user-generated content is the content created by your users or customers. But it also includes the reviews, blog posts and ratings written by buyers, fans, experts or anyone else who engages with your business.

It should come as no surprise that UGC is quickly becoming one of the favored strategies among content marketers. Marketing campaigns are only as good as their biggest fans, after all. UGC marketing also plays into the importance of social proof­ — the idea that almost all of us care to some degree or another what other people have to say about a product or service. But let’s not wax poetic about why UGC works; instead, let’s look at some key statistics for proof.

The Cold, Hard Data

  • Millennials Rely On It — So much so that most of them say that they use UGC to inform their decisions before purchasing a major electronic device (59 percent), a car (54 percent) or a major appliance (53 percent). In general, 84 percent of millennials admit that UGC has at least some influence on what they buy. It’s the users between the ages of 25 and 54, however, who are responsible for the creation of most UGC— 70 percent, to be exact.
  • It’s More Powerful — Simply put, people put more weight on opinions and endorsement that they believe were written by real consumers. In fact, 70 percent of consumers rate peer reviews above professionally written content, and 61 percent of people say they’re more likely to engage with a brand if its ads contain user-generated content.
  • Social Proof is Real — And not just when it comes to the initial perceptions of a brand. Indeed, consumers say that user-generated content is more influential than other kinds of content when it comes to changing negative perceptions of a brand. Online shoppers believe that the most influential reviews come from the experiences of family and friends (21 percent), customer reviews (19 percent) and expert reviews (17 percent).
  • It’s Good for eCommerce — Consumers rely on product reviews more than ever, with UGC seriously affecting their purchasing decisions. 64 percent of consumers actively seek out reviews before pulling the trigger at checkout. And then there’s the conversion factor; UGC brings a 29 percent increase in conversion rates, and user-generated ads support click-through rates that are four times higher. As you probably know, Google prioritizes original and helpful content, so it’s good for your organic search rankings, too.

Need More Proof? Here Are Some Case Studies

Starbucks User-generated content

Coca-Cola, Starbucks, GoPro, Target, McDonald’s: What do these companies have in common? They’ve all perfected the art of the user-generated content campaign. From the viral “Share a Coke” campaign that effortlessly catapulted user shares on social media to the Starbucks White Cup Contest that encouraged customer content in the form of creatively doodled coffee cups, we can look to these companies as the kings of user-generated original content.

The primary takeaway is that these companies produced viral campaigns that encourage users to tag, engage and promote on all their preferred social channels. Plus, it’s proof that it doesn’t take a huge marketing budget to make huge waves with UGC. Indeed, some of the best examples of user-generated content are those that relate to packaging in some form or another, but this is far from a requirement for a solid strategy.

In fact, user-generated content has one of the highest returns on investment (ROIs) out of any marketing strategy. There are numerous case studies showing that UGC can actually help boost the ROI of your entire marketing strategy! That should come as no surprise since the entire idea of UGC relies on garnering free content on your brand’s behalf.

Different Types of User-Generated Content

Now that you understand exactly why a well-designed UGC campaign is vital to your content marketing strategy, let’s take a look at the different subsets that make up this corner of marketing. All of the following channels are worth your consideration when trying to reach your target audience the user-generated way.

  • Ratings and Reviews — Customer reviews are the most basic and pervasive form of user-generated content. Whether written directly on a company website or posted to the consumer’s preferred social network, reviews help potential customers make informed decisions. A recent study confirmed our hunch: reviews are more influential than search engines or ads, so they’re definitely worth integrating into your marketing strategy.
  • Influencer Marketing — This kind of user-generated content enlists the help of brand advocates with big followings on social media, especially Instagram and other social media platforms. Influencer marketing is unique when it comes to user-generated content creation. Marketing teams will often work directly with the advocate to develop relevant content, primarily in the form of videos and images. That also makes it the costliest approach.
  • Blog Posts — Bloggers have always had influence when it comes to the brand-consumer relationship. Typically, they have a built-in audience that inherently trusts their opinion. For this reason, many companies have partnered with bloggers to create sponsored user-generated content that still feels authentic to readers.
  • Videos — Take a stroll through YouTube these days and you’ll see millions of video reviews, unboxings and tutorials that help consumers make wiser purchase decisions. The interesting thing about blog posts, videos and user-generated content posted to different social media channels is that their effects can be exponential. Each one encourages even more user-generated content and reviews in the comments section.

How User-Generated Content Can Help You Grow Traffic and Sales

As we briefly mentioned earlier, user-generated content is good for SEO and conversion rates. Second to the fact that it helps you seal the deal, so to speak, with consumers, this is the most important and most measurable reason to bolster your UGC strategy. Fresh, original content is clutch in SEO efforts, and it can also help bolster the use of long-tail keywords associated with your brand. And you may have noticed that Google now displays visible star ratings on the search engine results page, which means that good reviews can help boost your star rating.

There’s also some evidence to suggest that user-generated content is great for encouraging more conversions in your eCommerce store. In one study, researchers discovered that when reviews are shared to social media, conversion rates skyrocketed by 40 percent over the industry average for Facebook and 8.4 times higher for Twitter. Researchers believe that it’s the social proof factor — which, of course, garners brand loyalty and trust — that’s responsible for the higher conversion rates.

What About Bad Reviews?

One of the primary reasons many retailers are reluctant to encourage customer reviews is because anytime you open up the dialogue for feedback, you’re sending out an invitation for bad reviews, too. But here’s the thing: The benefits of good customer reviews outweigh the risk of bad ones, and bad ones only help you create a better customer experience overall. The bottom line is that reviews matter, plain and simple. Here are some stats:

  • 90 percent of consumers read reviews online before visiting a business, and customers spend up to 31 percent more at highly rated stores, according to a recent study.
  • 72 percent of consumers take action after reading a positive review
  • 10 percent of web traffic can be traced back to online reviews
  • Consumers read an average of seven customer reviews before deciding that a business is a trust-worthy brand.

So, with all this taken into account, it’s evident that you can’t afford to skimp on product reviews and ratings. You should approach a new UGC strategy in two broad ways: by encouraging your customers and fans to leave reviews and by partnering with social media influencers, bloggers and YouTubers to create original content tailored to your brand messaging.

How to Create a Standout User-Generated Content Strategy 

There’s no denying that user-generated content is worth your time and effort. But how, exactly, do you encourage your consumers and fans to engage with your brand without seriously dipping into your marketing budget? Here are a few great ideas.

  • Make it Easy — Consumers shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to provide feedback. Use call to action prompts and add review options directly on the product page to get customers to leave a review when it’s fresh in their mind. Don’t forget to leverage post-purchase e-mails to ask customers to share their thoughts and experiences.
  • Engage in Social — The big social platforms — Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter — are without a doubt the most popular places for user-generated content. Many times, consumers will share their experiences unsolicited, but it doesn’t hurt to open up the conversation. Make sure you’re engaging with consumers online and keep your comments and discussion sections open. Also, be sure to have a readily accessible hashtag on hand for engagers to use.
  • Partner With the Right Influencer — Social media influencers are definitely a great resource to explore, but finding the right one can make or break this strategy’s success. The most important thing you need to do to engage the right brand advocate is to put some serious thought into data and analytics. Springbot’s data-driven eCommerce tools are a smart place to start, so you can properly identify your target audience and use that information to find the perfect influencer.
  • Host a Contest — Hosting a UGC contest is an awesome idea — just take a look at the success of the Starbucks cup contest mentioned earlier. You can ask your followers and fans to pose with your product, use your hashtag or create original images and videos in the name of your brand. Of course, no good contest is complete without a good prize, so make sure you’re incentivizing for the best results.
  • Set Up a Gallery —  You can create powerful exposure when you set up a web gallery or social media feed showcasing user-submitted images or videos. Don’t forget to promote your campaign hashtag to easily group all of the snapshots together in one place.
  • Release Products Early — Since we can conclude that reviews and ratings are crucial to conversion rates, what do you do if you’re starting from scratch with a brand-new product or service? Begin by releasing it in limited quantities to groups at a discount and asking new users to leave reviews and create ratings before it’s officially launched to the general public.

Conclusion

There are many facets to a good marketing strategy. You’ve got to take a deep dive into analytics and data to determine your target audience, spend some time building brand loyalty through inbound content and social media, and implement a smart user-generated content strategy along the way. When wisely positioned within your overall methodology, user-generated content has the power to bolster conversions, boost organic traffic and enhance brand loyalty. Best of all, it will be a top performer that won’t use up your entire marketing budget!