Online shopping is convenient. No doubt about it. You can browse products from brands anywhere—on your desktop while you’re at home sitting on the couch or on your mobile device while you’re out and about.
Basically, if you have access to the internet, you can shop. But there is a downside to such widespread accessibility—there’s a digital partition between you and the products you’re browsing.
There’s a digital partition between you and the products you’re browsing.
What is UGC?
User-generated content is information provided by customers that brands can use in their marketing efforts. Different types of content include written online reviews, images, videos, or social media posts of people using a brand’s products in their daily lives.
UGC content is cost effective because your customers essentially become your content creators. Their testimonials can help you create an effective content marketing program that builds brand awareness and improves your conversion rates.
Among online shoppers in the US, 62% said that customer reviews were very helpful before making a purchase and 41% said they almost always read reviews before buying, according to Statista.
And 93% of consumers find user-generated content very helpful in their purchase decision-making process.
93% of consumers find user-generated content very helpful in their purchase decision-making process.
How UGC impacts your marketing strategy
A lot of shoppers trust a customer who is reviewing a product over a marketer who’s trying to sell it.
That’s because the opinions from customers are genuine, unbiased, and aren’t necessarily trying to get you to buy. They’re just a reflection of someone else’s experience—which for other consumers, is relatable.
It brings a level of authenticity to a brand that marketing or promotional messages simply cannot provide, but that’s not all.
Customer reviews and UGC are essential because they:
- Give context to potential buyers
Customer reviews help provide other members of your brand’s community with valuable insights about your products, straight from the people who actually use them.
Marketing images and positioning only get you so far. Reviews with UGC, on the other hand, can show customers what your product looks like in the wild—from the size of a product or the quality of its materials, to what it looks like on different body types, or in different environments.
“Without the physicality of a brick and mortar store, customers heavily rely on product descriptions, images, and reviews to validate buying decisions,” says Jen Zapp, director of marketing at Stamped.
Through UGC, your customers can better visualize how your product might fit within their own life.
Their feed is a representation of a wide variety of dog breeds in various colors of their products. Potential customers can get a sense for say, how a Wild One collar might look on their dog, or whether their toys are the right size for their pet.
And diverse representation matters.
The more scenarios your product is showcased in, the more context you’re providing—which translates to a larger portion of your audience who can see themselves wearing or using your product.
- Build trust in your brand
As a marketer, you can make all sorts of promises or claims about what you’re trying to sell. Even if they’re valid claims, it’s hard to corroborate them or play the “take it from me” card when you’re not actually the one using said item.
But when you display customer reviews and UGC in your emails, on your product pages, or on your social media platforms, you can cleverly play the “take it from them” card instead.
And “they” are the real people who simply love your brand’s products.
Not only that, it builds a trust-worthy online community of people who’ve graduated from customers to fans.
- Help you figure out what is or isn’t working about your product
Positive reviews shouldn’t be your only focus. Negative reviews or people who unsubscribe from your brand present a fantastic opportunity for you to ask for feedback and better understand what may be a roadblock for your customers.
“Understanding the pain points of your customers not only gives you an opportunity to win back a customer’s trust, but it also gives you a chance to correct the course for future customers,” says Drew Himel, CEO and founder of PCR.
Zapp agrees. “Negative reviews are an opportunity to solve a challenge for your customers,” she says.
How to collect user-generated content and reviews
Now that everyone’s on the same page and understands the benefits of collecting customer reviews and UGC, let’s get into how you can mine it from your customers.
- In a post-purchase flow
It’s pretty common for someone to ask you what you think of something after you try it for the first time—a new kind of food, a different exercise class, or a new type of moisturizer for example.
So it doesn’t feel out of place for a brand to ask their customers the same kind of questions. The best place to do so is in a post-purchase email automation.
This is an email that’s sent out a few weeks or a month after a customer makes a purchase—remember you have to give someone time to actually try your product and form an opinion—depending on your product and its proven time to value.
- Organically on your website
Explicitly asking for UGC is a direct route to take toward collecting customer reviews. You can also take a slightly more indirect route that’ll get you to the same end goal.
Have a place on your product pages where your customers can freely leave reviews at any time.
Companies like Stamped provide brands with technology that make it easy to implement a reviews program on your site and for customers to leave reviews that include images of the product they use and love.
“Collecting and displaying site reviews, product reviews, and user-generated content builds trust with your customers by giving them a platform to share their voice and opinion,” says Zapp.
- Through branded hashtags
You can also invite your customers to share their own pictures that include your brand’s products through a social or branded hashtag.
You can include that hashtag on a webpage, in the footer of an email, an SMS campaign, or your social channels so your customers know exactly what to tag when they post their images.
Rothys includes their brand’s hashtag in the bio of their Instagram account and then curates product pages with the images and social proof that flood in from customers using the hashtag.
Let your current customers help you acquire new ones
The customers who know and love your brand can help you bring new people into the fold. Their opinions and their loyalty to your products speaks louder than any marketing message you can concoct in a team huddle.
That’s because reviews and user-generated content comes from the people who use your products regularly and are deeply familiar with them.
“Put your customers at the forefront of your brand,” says Zapp. “Investing time up front to build a scalable strategy that reliably gathers and showcases high-quality customer reviews and user-generated content will set you up for success in the long run.”