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Why Is User-Generated Content so Important for Ecommerce?

Published on Friday, October 23, 2020

Content is still reigning supreme amongst marketers – and no wonder, given how useful it can be for customers and how powerful it can be for advancing your ecommerce website up the search engine rankings. User-generated content, or UGC, is emerging as equally, if not more powerful, than the content brands create.

The holy grail of content creation is to produce something of high quality on a regular basis, but that’s not always possible for busy marketing teams. The answer? Let your customers be your content creators and leverage user generated content.

Statistics show that user-generated content for ecommerce works – and works well:

  • 80% of marketers indicate that building brand communities has increased traffic
  • 53% of Americans who are part of a social brand community are more loyal to the brand
  • 80% of consumers say that authenticity of content will influence them to follow a brand

When it comes to purchase decisions, people trust people rather than the company trying to sell them something. Authentic content created by fans can be a gamechanger and is one of the most valuable forms of ecommerce marketing.

What is User-Generated Content for Ecommerce?

User generated content is exactly as the name implies: content that is created by your customers and followers. This content can be in the form of photos, videos, reviews, feedback, comments, articles, competition entries – the list goes on. You’ll find user-generated content on all social media platforms, as well as blogs, product review pages, feedback sites, and even in the press.

With honesty, credibility and engagement high on most brands’ wish-lists, UGC is more frequently a part of modern ecommerce marketing strategies. That’s because it’s more genuine than any in-house campaign, and brands can amplify user-generated content by using it in their own marketing activity.

User-generated content also takes the attention away from your brand and places it onto your audience. Making it about them is a great way to build a relationship with your customers.

It’s very closely linked to word of mouth marketing – in fact, you could say that user-generated content is word of mouth marketing for the digital age.


Why is User-Generated Content for Ecommerce so Important?

In terms of building social proof, there’s little that can beat user-generated content. In turn, social proof helps to build a community for your ecommerce brand and provides opportunities to engage with your customers. This is a dialogue, not a one-way conversation.

User-generated content also benefits ecommerce brands because:

  • It offers the opportunity to humanize your brand, especially on social media
  • It amplifies your reach, visibility and brand awareness
  • You gain more loyalty and trust
  • It develops your understanding of your target audience
  • Time spent on site or your social media platforms increases
  • It lifts your search engine rankings as you gain links
  • Your customers have a voice and are part of the conversation (if not the driving force)
  • It helps you identify people who could be key influencers for your ecommerce brand
  • It’s unique content that your competitors cannot replicate
  • You can use your community for product development and market research
  • It’s low-cost, and can generate great ROI

Psychology also plays a part. The IKEA effect was a study in which consumers assembled IKEA boxes, LEGO® sets and origami. The results of the study show a clear increase in the value of a product when you have made it yourself – you are invested in it, you want to share it, and you expect others to share your opinion.

From an ecommerce marketing perspective, it means that if you can facilitate user-generated content creation – something your customers make themselves – their willingness to pay should increase. The challenge is convincing your customers to do just that.


How Do Ecommerce Businesses Facilitate User Generated Content?

There are a few things to consider when you look at how to generate content from your users.

  • Know your audience (and listen to them), so you can create a topic they will care about
  • Focus on your audience, rather than on your product
  • Users need a good reason – they have to WANT to create content
  • Encourage content through incentivization – whether that’s a prize or that the content will be made a feature
  • Come up with a snappy hashtag that’s easy to remember
  • Support your user-generated content campaign with paid social ads


The Challenges of User-Generated Content for Ecommerce

UGC can be massively beneficial for an ecommerce brand in terms of awareness, trust, cost and ROI. However, it doesn’t come without its challenges.

This type of content is pretty much outside of a brand’s control. That’s great for authenticity but means that you may get negative comments, trolling, brand mockery, etc. It’s important for ecommerce brands to also use this as a chance for two-way dialogue. If there is negative feedback then taking a professional responsive approach is a must. It can help to build trust and transparency and shows customers that their opinion counts and is valued by your brand – and turning negative feedback around can actually create an even more loyal customer.

Why Is Content Moderation Important For User-Generated Campaigns?

You also need someone who can moderate and curate the content, engaging users in conversation with a clear brand voice, providing support, and dealing with any issues. Building user-generated content takes continual, consistent time and resources.

There is also the question of who owns user-generated content. It is essential to get permission from your users to share or use their content in any way on your ecommerce site or social media platforms.

Examples of successful user-generated content

  • Virgin Holidays increased online bookings by 260% with their Black Friday #RedIsTheNewBlack campaign, which encouraged users to tweet the hashtag. Once it had been tweeted a certain number of times, special holiday offers would ‘unlock’ and everyone who had used the hashtag would be entered into a competition.
  • Tourism Queensland’s ‘Best Job in the World’ campaign encouraged video applications for the position of caretaker on an island in the Great Barrier Reef. They had 35,000 applications, generated an estimated $350 million in media coverage, and had 55 million visits to their website.
  • The Starbucks #WhiteCupContest invited customers to decorate one of its cups and post a photo on Twitter. They received over 4,000 entries and a ton of social activity in just three weeks, all on a low budget – the winner received a printed cup and a gift card. The campaign was so popular that Starbucks started selling the winning cups.

User generated content is the future for ecommerce brands. It’s fresh, organic, instantly garners trust, and has the potential for a big conversion rate. It’s also free for your brand and a solid reminder that great business is built on customer satisfaction.

If you’d like to know more about content marketing, check out our Content Marketing Guide. And if you need help generating and leveraging user content for your ecommerce brand, let’s chat.

Brandee Johnson
Founder, CEO