Growing eCommerce Brands with User Generated Content Marketing

April 28th, 2016 |Humayun Rashid

Content marketing, particularly user generated content, is no longer an optional marketing consideration but a necessity for growing eCommerce brands. User generated content curated by loyal consumers can be beneficial and help boost revenue. These brand ambassadors are driving growth in consumer engagement and are influencing customer purchases. It’s no surprise that digital first eCommerce brands like Bonobos, Alex And Ani and Nastygal have a strong follower base totaling millions of loyal fans on social media outlets such as Instagram.  Leveraging their following on the popular social network, they continuously drive direct traffic to their site and ultimately increase sales. We’ll be exploring the growing popularity of user generated content, why it’s an important marketing strategy and best practices for your brand to implement.

According to Pixlee, a leading visual marketing platform for brands, user generated content is a form of social media that’s organic and created by your customers. Consumers share their experiences with the brand across all digital channels. It can come in many forms such as tweets, videos, customer reviews, and images. Typically, visual assets in the form of Instagram images or video reviews have proven to be the most effective. UGC has become the go-to marketing strategy for brands focusing on driving organic growth by targeting the coveted millennial demographic. Millennials are typically inclusive, socially conscious and care about brand authenticity. They want to believe in your company story but are also aware of strategies that may come off disingenuous, such as paid referrals. It’s important to understand that UGC marketing is all about organic growth based on how your brand communicates with your audience. You can’t fake authenticity but you can control your story and make the customer part of it.

Why Should Brands Invest In UGC Marketing?

For starters, it’s a highly effective marketing strategy that garners results, especially in the form of increasing brand awareness and driving engagement. In a recent Adweek post, 83 percent of online consumers hear about a brand or product on social media before they hear about it from any other source, including paid media. This is a testament to investing directly in UGC marketing via your customers. During the initial research phase, potential buyers seek out purchase validation by asking for recommendations from family members and friends. You don’t sell to your customers, you instill trust first. Provide them a platform to share their story via UGC marketing and let them tell their family and friends about your product.

83 percent of online consumers hear about a brand or product on social media before they hear about it from any other source.

Compelling Storytelling  

The best brands leveraging UGC create compelling storytelling and involve fans as champions of their storyline. Let’s take a look at the ‘Charmed & Arms’ campaign by popular jewelry brand Alex And Ani. The interactive social wall features customers and followers posting pictures of their loved ones. There’s no product that’s being sold directly. Instead, they are simply showcasing their fans’ love for each other. This type of authentic UGC marketing helps Alex And Ani’s message of ‘togetherness’ resonate with their customers by sharing their own story and becoming part of the conversation. This campaign is evoking an emotional connection with their fans and establishing mutual trust that’s beyond transactional. Brands like Alex And Ani win big when they view their customers as communication partners first and providing them the proper digital tools to let their voices be heard.

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Brand Ubiquity

Your brand is only as good as its potential reach. Consider the fact that UGC is an affordable marketing strategy that leverages your customers network of friends and family. If you can establish your customer as a loyal brand ambassador and provide them the tools to share their experiences and interactions with your product, then you can expect to see dividends via a network effect. There’s a substantial opportunity to get your product in front of millions of additional eyeballs by establishing loyal customers as champions of your brand and product.

Increasing Conversions

A key business problem for all eCommerce companies and most first time buyers is customer purchase anxiety. This is a simple idea of instilling enough trust in first time shoppers and helping them complete a transaction. Your brand’s trust and product is important for long term growth and ensures higher customer lifetime values. There’s no better way to instill trust with shoppers than providing real world use cases, reviews of products, customer images and other forms of UGC. In fact, 50 percent of consumers find UGC more memorable than brand produced content.

50 percent of consumers find UGC more memorable than brand produced content.

Brands need to understand that purchase anxiety is a common barrier for shoppers and need to do everything they can to ensure trustworthiness. 92% of customers trust online content and opinions from family and friends over other forms of branded messaging. Conversion rates drop significantly from initial browsing to checkout if shoppers don’t trust your brand and what you stand for. How do you instill trust in a potential shopper who’s never purchased your product before? Have your customers share personalized stories via product images and positive reviews. Making your customers part of the conversation and providing them a platform to do so will help motivate other shoppers purchase habits. If executed properly with an original and unique campaign, this marketing strategy can be effective and significantly improve overall conversion rates.

Forms Of User Generated Content

Social eCommerce

Innovative digital-first eCommerce brands such as BB Dakota have started to experiment with seamless integration of original branded content and eCommerce. It’s important to point out that identifying your ideal customer is just as important as how you market to them. For BB Dakota, their shoppers are young, brand loyal females who care about authenticity and relatable content. You can’t simply publish a series of Instagram images and expect your engagement to increase. Consider the messaging and approach to your customers and offer them content that speaks to them and to their needs. For BB Dakota shoppers and other young females, the idea of visualizing a style-guide is important. They care about wardrobe curation, video reels of dresses being worn, style tips from experts, and curated collections that provide them helpful suggestions on what to wear and when. This highly sophisticated form of personalized content marketing infused directly with their eCommerce initiatives pairs nicely to tell a deeper and richer story about the BB Dakota brand.

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BB Dakota creates lifestyle inspired style guides.

 

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User Generated Merchandising

Beauty and skincare giant, Sephora, is no stranger to user generated content as it’s become a main staple in marketing their products to female shoppers. Each product page is filled with user generated content submitted by satisfied customers. More importantly, they’ve created an innovative Beauty Board where it aggregates all UGC submitted by shoppers in a collage of images. These images are also linked directly with purchasable products that have helped ‘complete the look’ and is easily shareable across all major social networks. Consider the value this presents to Sephora’s millions of shoppers sharing their own unique looks to friends. This level of authenticity does not only motivate shoppers but enhances their browsing experience. More importantly, Sephora is seeing a considerable increase in brand awareness, engagement and building a lasting following in the process. UGC is no longer a trend, but part of a larger focus in social commerce where the product itself takes a back seat to the customer’s lifestyle.

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The interactive Beauty Board aggregates user images and links products directly.

Community Engagement & Verified Reviews

Creating a vibrant community of engaged customers on your eCommerce store is just as important as creating original content for your users to share. More and more brands are creating online communities where shoppers can discuss all aspects of the product in forums, usually in Q/A format. Customers can communicate with each other and ask questions pertaining to the quality and real life applications of the product. This allows brands to monitor and engage with current and future customers. It’s also one of the best forms of user research for new product development.

Taking a cue from Amazon, verified reviews housed directly within product pages have sparked a significant surge in customer engagement. According to Yotpo, leading review and content sharing platform, uncertainty is the biggest deterrent to online sales and what better way to remove doubt than providing customer verified, positive reviews. Verified reviews are the easiest form of UGC to display and one of the most important, as it helps increase customers trust in your product and ultimately, the brand.

Take a look at the sophisticated community built into Estée Lauder’s flagship eCommerce store. For each product listed, there is a verified review by a current customer with all the attributes a prospective buyer would expect to see such as average review rating, age of the buyer, skin type, how long they’ve been an Estée Lauder shopper and more. This type of granular detail in the product review page helps shoppers make their buying decision much easier, instills trustworthiness in the brand,  and ultimately shortens the path to purchase.

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Business Impact & Benefits

UGC matters because it’s an affordable and easily accessible marketing strategy. It helps brands curate user submitted images on a regular basis rather than spending internal resources creating original content. Brands need to figure out how they want to communicate with customers and provide them a platform to share their voice. Companies need to recognize that their customers are potential brand ambassadors that can share your story across social networks. UGC opens up a democratic channel of communication between buyers and brands. Customers can leave helpful reviews on product pages, interact with other shoppers and provide helpful feedback, and submitting images of them using your product. This level of direct brand interaction is unprecedented. If executed properly with authenticity and originality, it can significantly impact brand engagement and sales.

UGC marketing also provides consumers a voice in which to share their opinion and be part of the conversation. This form of word of mouth marketing is incredibly valuable for brands that want to promote their brand across social channels and reach new audiences. A satisfied consumer will happily share their shopping experience with family and friends (potentially creating new fans in the process) if you provide them a platform to do so.

Key Takeaways

Content marketing, specifically user generated content is no longer a consideration but a necessity for brands seeking to drive organic growth, increase brand loyalty and conversions.

  1. Brands need to maintain authenticity and originality when marketing across social channels.
  2. Consider the overall business benefits and long term impact of UGC marketing.
  3. Identify your ideal consumer and create a marketing strategy that’s relevant for your company.
  4. Create a platform or set of tools in which buyers can engage and interact directly with your product and other shoppers.
  5. Effective UGC marketing techniques include branded content, social merchandising, and verified reviews and community engagement.

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