Over the past 10 years, user generated content (UGC) has become a vital marketing channel for eCommerce businesses. Its popularity has grown to new heights thanks to the rise of social media alongside consumer’s ability and desire to share feedback on brands and their products. These images, comments, reviews, blogs, and videos have become an effective resource for businesses to leverage.
But, are retailers and online merchants making the most of this content? We spoke to Ellys Childs (Partner Manager) and Thais Bragheroli (Digital Marketing Manager) from our partner, Yotpo, to find out how brands can leverage UGC to increase engagement and conversions. Take a read for some insightful advice on UGC and how you can get started with a high-converting UGC strategy.
Tell us more about UGC and why it has become a popular tactic for eCommerce brands…
Ellys: So, UGC stands for user generated content, and what is it? It’s any piece of online content that has been created by a user. Or to be more specific, any content that is created and published by people outside of the company. It’s organic in nature and covers a variety of formats including reviews, photos, videos and even hashtags.
The amount of UGC used in marketing strategies has almost tripled in the last 10 years. I think this has come from customers loving to talk about their experience with a brand and their products. Plus, brands have become equally obsessed with hearing and seeing what their customers say and how they use their products. This opportunity for a brand to better understand their target audience with little cost and effort, as well as increase engagement with their customers is one of the main reasons why UGC has become so popular for eCommerce businesses.
Thais: I think another driver is the growth of eCommerce. Due to the current circumstances, it has become difficult for brands to do professional photo shoots, so they have become even more reliant on user generated content.
When you’re a brand without a physical store, your customers cannot physically see, feel or touch your products before purchasing. They rely on what other people are saying about the product. For example, one of our clients recently launched a new lipstick and they’d never sold any kind of makeup before. This concerned them because they only have an online store and they wanted to make sure that shoppers would be happy with the shade of lipstick they were buying without trying it first. By real customers posting pictures of themselves wearing the lipstick and sharing that on social, they could use the images on their own product page and people could see how the lipstick would look on them. This seems very, very simple, but it makes such a difference when you can actually have a point of reference from other people.
How does UGC help businesses build a connection with their target audience?
Ellys: Consumers actually trust other consumers more than they trust brands. Think of yourself when you’re looking to buy a product – you need to feel informed before you go ahead and make that purchase. If a brand offers the opportunity for a customer to read a review that has been left by someone who has the same concerns as them, or to engage with a photo of a real person using the product, this removes doubt and builds trust that the product is going to work for them.
This also helps to build trust between the brand and the customer. For example, if you go onto a product page and see there are no reviews or a product has hundreds of five star reviews, you’d probably be a little bit dubious because, as a consumer, you know that not every single product is going to be perfect for everyone. For this reason, brands need to actually show positive and negative reviews to build real trust with the customer.
Thais: We also advise brands to reply to negative reviews. For example, if someone leaves a negative review on a dress, the brand is given the opportunity to respond and say, “I’m so sorry to hear that, how can I help?”. It’s not only showing you care, but it’s also a point of direct contact with the brand and sometimes you can transform a negative review into a positive one. It brings trust to a new level. I also think when a brand chooses to use customer content, I would be happy if a brand reached out to me and said, “Your photos are amazing, can we use them?”. It’s that recognition and makes customers feel inspired which then makes them want to do more. It’s social proof really.
With Yotpo, there’s a Q&A feature that you can add to a product page. This is similar to Amazon where customers can ask the brand a direct question about the product. But on the actual reviews, whether positive or negative, brands also have the opportunity to reply through the platform as well. We’ve found with many of our clients that the Q&A feature actually reduces the amount of questions their customer service teams receive so it really helps to save time and benefits the wider business too.
Ellys: That’s a very good point on the Q&A feature actually. I think sometimes Q&As and even blogs are a forgotten form of user generated content. But the fact that Yotpo enables customers to visit websites, go to a product page and ask a direct question means the brand is building the connection with their target audience where they want them to be.
For example, it’s great that brands can respond to customers on social media, but they’re not going to buy from that platform. So, if you can create this forum on your product page where customers are coming to shop, you’re responding to them on your site and not taking them away from the page. It helps build those connections directly between the brand and the customer, but also between other customers as well.
And also, like Thais said, use these opportunities to build a further connection from a customer service point of view. So just as you would respond to negative reviews and say, “I’m really sorry that you experienced that, please can you tell us some more?”, it’s just as important to respond to a positive review and say, “Thanks for letting us know how much you love this product. We’re really glad to hear that.”
What advice would you give to a business looking to get started with creating and using UGC?
Ellys: When businesses think of building a whole new strategy, it can be daunting. Many brands probably do not realise how much user generated content they actually already have. This is where they should start, by repurposing their existing content.
This could be Instagram, if you’re already posting photos on Instagram or getting mentions from customers, pull this into your UGC strategy and use it on your website. As a best practice, we always encourage brands to comment on the photo for permission before using it. Yotpo actually has a Rights Management feature where you can identify the photo you want to use and ask for permission to use it. In many cases, businesses choose to comment directly on a photo with a message like, “We love this photo so much. Please reply #yes if you want it to feature on our website galleries.”
For anyone starting completely fresh, you need to make it as easy as possible for customers to be able to share their content with you. So, when you’re asking them for a review, make sure the review process is as easy and quick as it can be for them. For example, if you send an email requesting a review, allow them to actually provide the review within the email itself and ask if they would mind submitting a photo so you have more than one form of content to share.
We see a lot of brands running competitions to encourage people to share their content. Create a competition with a specific hashtag and encourage people to upload their photos as part of it – there might even be some incentives behind it as well such as a discount code or loyalty programme. But yes, first and foremost, don’t be afraid to ask for the content and the reviews, repurpose what content you’ve already got and make it as easy as possible for people to share their content with you.
Thais: Going back to the competitions, you can also give people guidelines of how to get better photos when they’re submitting content which increases your chance of receiving usable, good quality photos.
I also think that brands need to make sure they’re displaying UGC across different parts of the website. You can display it all over the place including blogs, the homepage and product pages. I think it’s such a useful feature, especially right now while we’re buying more online – it just gives an extra vote of confidence. It’s also important to remember that, at first, your UGC might be quite low but it will build up overtime and the more people see it, the more they will want to get involved.
Ellys: I would also reinforce that brands should really look to use UGC on their homepage. Your homepage is like your front store, so when a customer lands on it, it’s important to make sure they can have a look around and be inspired. And then once the user clicks on a specific product page, show them the specific reviews and images for that particular item.
Thais: Yes, the homepage is definitely an important place to feature UGC. As customers land on websites in a range of different ways, you don’t want to lose them in the process. You need to make sure there’s consistency to the experience that you’re providing and that you can reach them in different channels as well as different stages of their purchasing journey.
How can UGC help drive conversions and can you give any advice on how to build a high-converting UGC strategy?
Ellys: We all know that personalised communications are one of the most effective ways of driving customer engagement, and with that engagement comes a boost in sales. When you think of UGC, it does exactly that. It drives customer engagement and therefore positively impacts the conversion rate. We conducted a survey called The State of User Generated Content in partnership with eTail where we surveyed the leaders of some of the biggest names in European retail about their approach to UGC. It was really overwhelming to hear that 88 percent of respondents said UGC increases conversion rates proving it has worked for many brands.
In terms of advice for creating a strategy, it’s important for brands to remember that the customer journey isn’t just a straight line. Shoppers engage with brands across multiple channels before they decide to go ahead and make that purchase. In order for a brand to have a successful UGC strategy, they need to make sure that they’re leveraging UGC on as many different marketing channels as possible. Brands can not only market UGC on different channels, but they can also collect it from different channels. This can be as simple as asking for a review by email or SMS when someone has made a purchase. It’s important to ask people to submit the content, whether it’s uploading your photo to be part of a competition or uploading your review directly on to the brand’s website.
It’s also really important to leverage the content that you already have. Most brands today have Instagram, but how about actually using that content, bringing it on site and making it shoppable? A brand may have an Instagram gallery on their website home page, but in most cases, when a customer clicks on a photo, it drives them off the website and onto Instagram – the most addictive social network ever! But, if you can click on that photo and it identifies what product is featured, allowing the customer to go directly to the product page, that’s going to increase your conversion rate. It’s about keeping people where you want them to be. In the report that we conducted, the results showed that those who read reviews and browse through customer photos are 98 percent more likely to convert than those who don’t. This goes back to that informed buying decision the customers are now making.
How does Yotpo help businesses report on conversions and ROI?
Ellys: So, the platform features a ton of reporting tools. Basic things include how many review requests you’ve sent and how many were submitted, and you can also see how many photos you’ve collected from reviews. In terms of conversions, Yotpo can identify when a customer has hovered over a Yotpo widget, whether that’s the shoppable gallery or a Q&A feature, for example. And then of those people, how many of them went ahead to make a purchase.
I think it’s also important to note that UGC can help improve other metrics such as bounce rates. The more content you have on site, the more engaging it’s going to be, and the more time users will spend on the website, engaging with the brand. User generated photos can definitely help with this. 77 percent of shoppers prefer user generated photos because they feel more authentic and so it’s important to showcase these. I personally know when I’m shopping for any item of clothing how useful it is for me to see a photo of someone wearing the item who is similar height to me. I know I’m not going to look the same as the model who is 6ft tall, so I actively look for those authentic images to help me validate my decision.
Thais: Yotpo has a feature called Smart Filters which helps with this. Let’s say you want to buy a moisturiser, but your skin is sensitive. You go onto the product page and there are 1000s of reviews which you don’t have time to filter through on your own. With Yotpo, you can filter out by skin type and many other filters to just look at the reviews specific to you. It’s the equivalent of a virtual assistant and allows you to use the data in the best way possible.
Ellys: Exactly. If customers can surface the right content for them, it’s only going to increase conversions because they’ve drilled it down to another customer who is similar to them and in the same situation. If you were to tell me the product has worked for X, Y and Z, and that’s what I’m looking for, then of course I’m going to go ahead and buy it.
Many leading brands use Yotpo to improve their customer’s experience, leveraging social proof in the forms of reviews, images and videos to increase user trust and make better decisions based on what customers really want. Interested to find out more about Yotpo and what it can do for your brand and customers? Get in touch with Team Pinpoint today.