This year has seen store closures, restricted shopping, and an unprecedented rise in e-commerce that has urged many brands to fast-track online initiatives to meet consumer demand. Though restrictions will fluctuate in the months to come, the shift to online is here to stay – with 56% of consumers planning to shop online more than they did pre-pandemic.
With the high street in decline, and the online experience booming, it is crucial for retail players to elevate their digital presence if they are to continue trading. The e-commerce sector has never been more challenging for brands to thrive in, or more crowded with competition. What is the key to standing out from other brands? Amplifying the voice of the customer through user-generated content (UGC).
UGC has been recognised as one of the most important tools for businesses to emerge in the last decade, with research from Salesforce revealing almost half of marketing leaders have already been employing UGC as part of their ongoing marketing strategy, this past year has elevated the importance of UGC for brands. During lockdown, it emerged as a vital communications strategy across all online platforms. A combination of reduced marketing budgets and a scramble for new content has enabled existing UGC to come to the forefront of brands’ communication.
What is so powerful about UGC?
UGC refers to any content created by consumers instead of brands. Not only is UGC influential, it’s also free creative that can fuel marketing campaigns across any channel. It can include a range of content from ratings, reviews, and Q&A responses, to photos, videos, and social media posts. With almost all (95%) shoppers now using some form of UGC to gather information about products, it has become a crucial component in leading retailers’ marketing strategies.
It builds authenticity and trust
It’s crucial for retailers to realise the value UGC adds to their brand in terms of trust and authenticity. The combination of declining high streets and the pandemic mean it’s harder than ever for consumers to browse in store, trying out items for themselves. This means that it’s even more important for them to hear what others say about the product to help them make a purchase decision. This is where UGC comes into its own.
This content, created by consumers for consumers, instills a sense of trust that cannot be achieved by brand-led campaigns – at least not to the same extent. Research reveals 85% of consumers feel UGC is more authentic and more influential than content created by brands, and 70% of shoppers trust consumers’ opinions over brands’ information.
This is because UGC provides insights into customers’ real experiences with a brand and its products. It shows how consumers use a product in their day-to-day lives, either expressed through written reviews or demonstrated visually via user-produced imagery. It can provide consumers with greater insights into how a product might fit into their own lives, what is good and bad about a product, and whether it would be suitable for them. This authentic content has been shown to establish trust among consumers, with research demonstrating over three quarters of shoppers (78%) trust reviews.
It is for this reason that UGC is far more powerful than traditional brand content. By empowering their existing customer community to share authentic opinions of products and brands, retailers can look to build authenticity and trust among consumers.
It increases engagement
Customer engagement is a key component to any marketing strategy. UGC ought to be central to a retailer’s engagement programme, as it offers an opportunity to strengthen relationships with customers. By engaging with consumers and providing quick responses to customer reviews and questions, brands can build reputation and maintain excellent customer relations. These engagements will not only inform purchase decisions, but will help to build authenticity and trust in a brand.
But this can be taken one step further. By amplifying and sharing UGC on their own platforms, retailers and brands can boost engagement and stand out from competitors. The most followed brands on social media are those that share their followers’ content, and with customer posts being shown to receive 28% higher engagement than original brand posts, the reasoning behind this is clear.
Take cosmetics company, LUSH, for example. The brand regularly re-posts and shares UGC on its Instagram page, with credits to the original poster included. By sharing users’ content, it helps followers and prospective customers visualise the products in a realistic and relatable setting. A similar technique can be observed by MADE.com. The online furniture brand has fully incorporated UGC into its marketing campaigns, sharing customer content on its website to illustrate how consumers style the products in their own homes, and according to the brand – this has resonated well with its community.
Placing UGC at the centre of a marketing strategy not only builds trust and engagement, but can help increase customers’ affinity for the brand and product.
It drives sales
One of the most powerful aspects of UGC is its role in driving sales. UGC has been shown to be an effective conversion driver – even more so than brands’ own content. In fact, research has shown that images created by real people are five times more likely to convert other customers, compared to brand-created content. Further research from Bazaarvoice’s Shopper Experience Index demonstrated that product pages with at least one review experienced a 354% increase in conversion rate and a 446% lift in revenue per visitor compared to product pages with no reviews.
This is ultimately because consumers buy from people they can relate to and they buy products that other consumers have validated earlier. With over three quarters of shoppers (79%) claiming UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions, brands ought to utilise these assets to drive conversions.
Looking ahead to 2021, UGC needs to be central to any retailer’s marketing strategy as they aim to drive growth and recovery. It is the brands that fully harness the power of UGC that will be able to build trust with consumers, increase engagement with potential shoppers, and turn browsers into buyers.
Loran Gutt, VP of Corporate Development, Bazaarvoice