You’ve heard it by now a hundred times: “User generated content will be everything this year!”, “UGC will take over ecommerce marketing!” It seems that UGC is all the hype these days.
It makes sense. Visually-rich social media such as Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube are outrunning all other digital media in terms of popularity among consumers. This is especially true for the content created and shared by consumers featuring products and brands. Think of it as reviews on steroids, powered by rich visuals and social elements that encourage interaction. A seemingly mundane five-minute consumer-made video about sneakers on YouTube or an inspirational photo of a meal on Instagram are consumed with equal interest as TED talks or prime-time TV shows.
The ability to share experiences with products and brands with the world with a click of a button makes UGC irresistible for consumers, who have insatiable thirst for authentic and original content. UGC is also growing more powerful by the day. 51% of US consumers now trust user-generated content about a product more than other information on a company website. UGC is also driving sales. According to insights from L2, UGC from sources such as Instagram can improve conversion rates up to 2.4 times, and is effective for a wide range of products, from apparel to jewelry, footwear, beauty and consumer electronics.
Let’s have a closer look at some of the main benefits UGC brings for a better customer experience in ecommerce.
UGC Helps Tackle Online Shopping AnxietyPut yourself in your customer’s shoes. While online shopping does bring us the convenience of ordering just about anything from our comfy sofas, there’s still a lot of ambiguity to it. Will the dress arrive true to the size? Are the shoes going to fit? Is the new gadget really going to work?
Online shopping anxiety might sound like a first-world problem, but it’s real. In many cases it’s the reason why shoppers abandon shopping sessions, leaving your conversion rate to stagnate. There are many ways you can tackle the uncertainty. You can add large, detailed product photos, write lengthy descriptions, add instructions and manuals, and throw in a dozen of customer reviews with star ratings. But if you want to deliver that knockout punch that will chase the doubts about a product from the minds of your visitors, then you can’t go wrong with UGC.
To put it bluntly, consumers trust other consumers more than brands and companies. So a gallery of videos and photos showcasing how regular people who have purchased your products are using them in their everyday life is much more effective at tackling shopping anxiety than even the most elaborate creative copy. Shoppers love to see concrete evidence that products and brands deliver on their promises, and user-generated photos and videos can be a powerful testimonial to that.
UGC takes the products outside of the cookie-cutter world of polished catalogs and ads, and places them in a real-life context. When added to ecommerce pages, it improves customer experience by delivering a complete picture about products, so that shoppers don’t have to look elsewhere on social media for affirmation. Sites that feature UGC report 340% increase in time spent on the site, while conversion rate increases 74% on average.
Consumer-Made Content Adds CredibilityYou trust your circle of friends when they recommend a food processor to try out, so by extension you’re likely to have positive bias towards the brand or online store they purchased from. UGC works in a similar manner. We trust people who are like us, and we can easily visualize how their positive experiences are transferable to our situation.
So, when an online business features UGC on its product pages, we’re predisposed to view their offering more favorably. We might not know the people depicted in those galleries of YouTube videos and Instagram photos personally, but they look and behave just like us, so there’s a connection. There’s a lot of power in being able to put a face to a testimonial, which is why visual UGC is more effective at creating a sense of credibility than just text-based reviews.
Sharing consumer-made photos and videos featuring your product gives customers a signal that you’ve got nothing to hide and that you’re proud to share your customers’ real stories. Businesses who actively listen to their customers and are not afraid to share their experiences are perceived as credible. It’s a statement that you’re a customer-centric company, and this is something that people always appreciate.
UGC Adds Authenticity to the ExperienceThe genius of UGC is in its authenticity. People appearing in product video reviews on YouTube or Instagram photos are not models, but average folks very much like your customers. They talk and interact with your product in an unscripted way, which appears far more authentic than carefully planned and staged professional editorials and videos. If your goal is to add depth to the experience on your online store, then UGC can certainly help breathe life into your pages.
Some companies, however, are afraid that informal style of user-generated content runs the risk of distorting the carefully built brand image and “cheapens” the experience. Of course, there’s tons of content out there on social media: from quirky cat videos and spoof product reviews, to really high-quality photos and videos made by people who are committed to creating good content and sharing it with others to raise awareness for the products and brands they love. The key in working with UGC is curation - meticulously sifting through the content to find the most relevant and high-quality UGC that can add value to your business. Authenticity doesn’t have to mean compromising your image; it means adding depth to your narrative by engaging your customers to contribute to your story, and picking the best of their efforts to showcase on your pages.
Relate With ShoppersUser-generated content helps establish that link between the product and the customer that adds a human element to the overall experience. Consumers want to know they’re not alone in their daily problems and seeing that their worries, doubts, expectations and experiences are shared by others gives reassurance in their purchasing decisions.
UGC works especially well with millennial shoppers. While they appreciate clever and witty advertising, they’re also rather cynical about product promises and prefer more down-to-earth, realistic depiction of features and benefits over polished ads and commercials. This is why UGC appeals to them - it helps them understand the possibilities and limitations of products in the context they can relate to.
What’s nextUser-generated content is a great opportunity for an online store to add an extra dimension to the shopping experience. It helps chase doubts and address common questions about products, fosters a sense of trust and credibility by adding social proof, and helps shoppers visualize their purchases via authentic and relatable content. An important thing to remember with UGC is that curation is essential in order to discover and showcase the right content for your business. It’s worth looking into software tools that will help you navigate social media in search for the best user photo and video reviews of your products that your customers will enjoy.
About the author
Miljana Mitic is the Content Marketing Manager at Goodvidio (www.goodvid.io), a SaaS solution that helps online stores bring the best product videos from social media to their product pages. Miljana has a PhD in social media marketing and writes about visual commerce, user-generated content, and how online stores can make the most out of product videos.