User-generated content (UGC) is quickly becoming an invaluable asset for ecommerce businesses. By leveraging reviews, images, videos, and other content created by customers, brands can drive sales, improve SEO, and create more engaging shopping experiences. Read on to learn how implementing a comprehensive UGC strategy can help you thrive in the world of online retail.
What Exactly is User-Generated Content?
Before we dive into the benefits and strategies, let’s clearly define what we mean by “user-generated content.” UGC refers to any type of content that customers or users of a brand create and share online. This includes:
– Product reviews and ratings
– Social media posts about a brand
– Images and videos featuring products
– Responses to surveys or polls
– Customer service feedback and questions
– Ratings and reviews for services
– User forum and community posts
Essentially, any content created by your customers or fans as opposed to content produced directly by your brand. UGC is free, authentic content created by real customers based on real experiences. This gives it a level of credibility and authenticity that branded content lacks.
The Powerful Benefits of Embracing UGC
Implementing a strategy to actively collect, display, and utilize UGC provides a wide array of benefits:
- Boosts conversion rates – According to studies by Bazaarvoice, consumers are 270% more likely to make a purchase when they see UGC like customer images and reviews integrated into product pages. This makes sense—UGC provides social proof and inspires trust in potential customers.
- Improves SEO – UGC creates fresh, original content that search engines value. This new content improves page rankings, as does UGC in the form of backlinks when users reference your brand. Customer photos can also boost your visibility in Google Image search results.
- Provides rich product content – Stock images have their place, but visitors also want to see products used in real life. User-generated images and demo videos provide that authenticity stock assets can’t capture. This organic content shows your products in action.
- Creates an interactive experience – UGC turns customers into active participants rather than just passive viewers. Features like review forms, contests, and hashtag campaigns foster engagement and give customers ownership in your brand story.
- Drives repeat purchases – Positive UGC like favorable reviews instills confidence in your products. This leads to improved customer retention and repeat purchases. Displaying UGC across your site also keeps past customers engaged with your brand.
- Valuable consumer insights – UGC provides unfiltered feedback you can use to improve products and services. Reviewer demographics, pain points, and insights become clear through customer-created content.
- Humanizes your brand – UGC presents real customers’ perspectives. This human element resonates and creates an emotional connection that branded content struggles to achieve.
- Cost-effective marketing – Customer photos, videos, reviews, and other UGC provides free, high-quality marketing content. User content cuts your owned media production costs significantly.
Clearly UGC provides tremendous value. But what kinds of UGC should you encourage, and how do you effectively collect and manage it?
Choosing Impactful Types of UGC
Focus your efforts on gathering UGC that aligns with your goals and creates the biggest customer impact:
- Reviews – In-depth product, service, and brand reviews influence 93% of purchasing decisions according to BrightLocal. Ratings and long-form reviews build trust and minimize buying risk.
- Photos – User photos with products provide visual social proof of their real-world performance. Photos of customers engaging with your brand also tell your brand’s story.
- Videos – Customer videos bring products to life through motion and sound. Short smartphone videos work well, like unboxings, demos, or capturing enjoyment.
- Q&As – User-generated Q&As allow customers to have product questions answered by fellow buyers. This facilitates organic research.
- Hashtags – Launch branded hashtags to collect visual UGC. #OOTD and #foodporn style hashtags work for visual product displays.
- Contests – Creative contests drive UGC submissions around themes like Halloween costumes or DIY projects. Prize incentives and voting components maximize engagement.
- Forums – Active branded forums create a community hub for customers to discuss products and generate insights you can utilize.
Think holistically about the customer journey to determine the most strategic types of UGC to fuel each stage—awareness, consideration, purchase, and loyalty.
Best Practices for Managing UGC
Once you identify the top UGC targets for your goals and audience, establishing processes to manage ongoing collection and implementation becomes crucial:
- Make submission easy – Reduce friction in the submission process with prominent review forms, contest entry portals, hashtag instructions, etc. Optimize for mobile submission.
- Incentivize creation – Encourage UGC with free samples, discounts, public recognition, and prizes. But avoid incentives that could influence objectivity.
- Screen effectively – Have a workflow for screening UGC for quality and compliance with your guidelines. Control damaging content before publication.
- Respond promptly – Be agile in responding to reviews—thank happy customers and resolve issues raised by unsatisfied ones. Delight them with your attentiveness.
- Display UGC prominently – Integrate UGC across your site, especially on category, product, and brand pages where it’s highly relevant. Refresh content continually.
- Credit and tag creators** – When reposting UGC, credit the creator and tag their social media handle when possible. Customers appreciate the recognition.
- Keep content current – Monitor UGC closely and update or remove outdated or irrelevant content. Maintaining freshness maximizes impact.
Following UGC best practices helps ensure your strategy delivers results, not risks. Implementation is an ongoing process requiring diligent management.
UGC for SEO: Improving Visibility
The search engine optimization (SEO) benefits of UGC are worth emphasizing separately. Integrating UGC aligns perfectly with core SEO best practices:
– UGC adds new, original content pages crave.
– Backlinks from UGC spread brand awareness.
– UGC uses semantic keywords naturally.
– UGC improves click-through-rates from search pages.
– UGC boosts dwell time due to engaging info.
– UGC images enhance image search visibility.
Reviews are particularly impactful for SEO by becoming new landing pages filled with search-friendly content. Overall, UGC makes your site more vibrant, interactive, and worthy of ranking highly—exactly what search engines want to see.
Managing Legal and Ethical Concerns
With UGC, brands cede some control over their public-facing content. While the benefits outweigh the risks, addressing legal and ethical concerns remains important when outsourcing content creation to customers:
– Maintain a clear user content policy for your site or community guidelines for UGC forums. Communicate rules and enforce consistently.
– Retain the right to remove or edit inappropriate, inaccurate, or objectionable submissions that violate policies.
– Require user consent and waivers before reposting UGC in your owned channels. Respect creator copyright.
– Anonymize personal information of reviewers to protect privacy. Avoid disclosing email addresses, locations, etc.
– Disable or filter profanity within UGC to avoid damaging brand associations.
– Fact check reviews that make questionable objective claims. Design review forms to minimize unsubstantiated claims.
Overall, being thoughtful about policies, moderation, attribution, and privacy preserves the integrity and benefits of your UGC strategy.
Real-World Examples of UGC Transforming Ecommerce
Let’s look at some real-world examples that demonstrate the transformative power of UGC for ecommerce success:
- Crowdsourced product images – Wayfair sourced over two million home decor product photos from its own customers. This provides authentic visual content at massive scale.
- Curated customer videos – Patagonia customers submit short product videos that the brand features in its blog and social channels. Videos of customers hiking in Patagonia apparel build an aspirational brand image.
- Ratings and reviews – Ulta Beauty sees 3 times the conversion rate for products with user-generated ratings versus those without. Reviews drive £1.8 billion annually in sales according to the retailer.
- Visual hashtag campaigns – Lowe’s #LowesSpring photo campaign attracted over 18,000 user images showcasing Lowe’s products in real home and garden environments.
- Co-creation contests – Redbubble engages its artist community to design t-shirts and phone cases. Contests drive new product designs organically from Redbubble’s passionate users.
- Influencer product seeding – Lululemon sends popular fitness influencers free clothing to feature in classes and social posts. The authentic influencer content drives awareness and sales cost-effectively.
These examples showcase the diverse possibilities of UGC to deliver business results. Testing UGC strategies tailored to your product and audience is key.
UGC Tools and Platforms
The good news is you don’t have to build complex technology to tap into the power of UGC. Numerous tools and platforms exist to help streamline UGC collection and implementation:
- Collections – Tools like Curalate, Olapic, and Photoslurp simplify aggregating and optimizing user images from anywhere online.
- Community building – Brand communities and forums powered by platforms like Tribe and Circle provide hubs to generate UGC.
- Reviews and Q&As – Software tools like Yotpo, BazaarVoice, and PowerReviews make it easy to collect and showcase ratings, reviews, and Q&As.
- Contests and promotions – Solutions like Wishpond, Shortstack, and VYPER enable you to quickly launch engaging contests and campaigns to drive UGC submissions.
- Analytics – Platforms like SocialChorus and Stackla provide analytics on UGC performance to optimize your strategy over time.
The right tools tailor-fit to your needs and budget can streamline UGC processes that drive results. Focus on platforms that simplify implementation and provide actionable analytics.
Key Takeaways and Looking Ahead
The key points from our in-depth exploration of UGC:
– UGC delivers authenticity that resonates with customers more than branded content.
– The right UGC types align with your audience values and shopping needs.
– Structured processes for collecting and managing UGC drive benefits while minimizing risks.
– UGC improves critical factors like SEO and conversion rates to impact sales directly.
– With the right strategy and tools, any ecommerce brand can tap into UGC’s power.
Looking ahead, innovating with emerging technologies could unlock new UGC capabilities. For example, augmented reality and 3D could allow customers to interact with user images and videos in new dimensional environments. Voice search and assistants may also provide new opportunities to feature UGC.
The possibilities of UGC will only expand as technology evolves. Savvy ecommerce brands who embrace UGC now will have a competitive advantage as the space continues to grow. Consumers worldwide have made it clear—user-generated content is the marketing they want to see. Will you answer that call?