Customer acquisition and conversion rate are important for eCommerce success. An often overlooked tool to boost both of these is user-generated content (UGC), which merchants can encourage and utilize within the buying process.
User-generated content is a goldmine of social proof, referral networks, and interesting new use cases for your products. In this article, we’ll explore what UGC is, why it’s important, and how you can leverage (and request) this content for your business moving forward.
What is UGC?
UGC refers to the photos, videos, text, and/or audio content your buyers post online featuring your products.
This content can live in a variety of places online, including blogs, forums, your product pages, and on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, or Snapchat.
UGC can be organic — “I found X and I really love it” — or sponsored, wherein you work with an influencer to create the content. It can also include reviews, photos that users submit as part of a contest, and more.
User content gives you a wealth of assets to incorporate into your promotional efforts as well. You can repurpose publicly posted content (with credit and permission) on your social media and digital marketing channels to highlight your products and celebrate your customers.
Why is UGC important for eCommerce businesses?
Customers trust people more than brands. Consumers are almost 2.5x more likely to view UGC as authentic compared to content a brand creates. This is huge for eCommerce professionals, as it boosts credibility for your products.
1) Gain social proof
Beyond simply getting your name out there, UGC is also one of the most useful forms of free marketing. It’s authentic, trustworthy content from your existing fans and/or influencers who feel compelled to share reviews or images and videos of your product online.
UGC provides important social proof for prospective customers to rely on when considering your products for purchase. Seeing others use your items allows customers to imagine themselves using those products, as well.
2) Leverage word-of-mouth marketing
Word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) is the OG social media platform. Consider your own behavior: When you find a product you love that makes your life easier or otherwise blows your mind, what’s the first thing you do? You probably tell your friends and family about it. Now, imagine that type of positive review on a 100,000-follower scale.
If a fan with 25,000 followers shares content about your product, they’ve gone well beyond the “tell two friends” WOMM of yesteryear. Rather, they’ve potentially introduced your content to tens of thousands of prospects who, if they engage with that content, help spread the word even further.
A whopping 64% of marketing executives believe word-of-mouth is the most effective form of marketing, supporting the long-standing belief that WOMM can’t be beat.
3) Boost your product rankings
Having lots of positive reviews helps you appear higher in Amazon’s search results with a higher organic ranking. What’s more, as you receive positive reviews, more will flow in, further increasing your rank and making you and your products look even better.
4) Higher conversion rates
Here’s a fun fact for you: Ads based on user-generated content experience 4x higher click-through rates, and the cost-per-click is cut in half compared to average ad performance. More reviews means higher conversions and increased sales, too.
Once again, it goes back to trust and authenticity. If shoppers observe people just like them using and loving your products, they’re more likely to believe they themselves will do so as well.
5) Better SEO
As the cherry on top, UGC creates an important SEO channel for your online store.
If someone reviews your products on their blog, they’re likely to link to your website. If someone posts on social media, Google is working to index social content, including videos. If someone writes a review on your website or product listing, they’ve gifted your SEO team with voice-of-customer copy straight from your ideal users.
All positive content about your products boosts the probability of potential customers discovering your brand and making a purchase. Plus, what marketer would say no to free content creation for their products?
Dos and Don’ts of a UGC strategy
If you think UGC is beyond your control, think again. You can build a powerful UGC strategy that aligns with and complements your overall marketing plan and supports your SEO strategy. You can engage in lots of activities and tactics to increase UGC production for your business. Let’s dive in.
Do identify your best customers
Your best customers are low-hanging fruit for UGC creation. Look for those who make multiple or regular purchases. Your loyal and long-standing customers are proven fans of your product and are more likely to respond to your outreach than a one-time buyer. Once you’ve determined your best customers, you can cross-reference names or email addresses against social media users on various platforms or blogs to see if those users are active social influencers.
Also check to see if these customers are already creating content on your behalf. Have they left reviews? Did they share your store on Facebook or Twitter? If so, engage with those posts and keep track of those users.
Do craft a genuine, personalized request
Asking your customers for reviews, videos, or social shares is an important part of your UGC strategy. Sharing might not be at the top of your customers’ minds, even if content creation is at the forefront of yours.
However, you must make the ask carefully carefully and deliver it strategically to ensure you’re a welcome voice rather than an annoying distraction.
Imagine yourself in the customer’s shoes. Which of the following requests would you answer?
“Hi there, thank you for your purchase. If you liked your product, please leave us a review <link>.”
I wanted to reach out and thank you for your recent purchase! I hope your Fuzzy Puppy Seat is keeping your fur-family warm and cozy and has met your expectations. If not, please don’t hesitate to get in touch so we can make it right! If you’re happy with your purchase and experience, I’d appreciate it if you could share a review here <link>. Thank you!
Mark @ YourFavAmazonStore”
A genuine ask shows you aren’t simply sourcing reviews randomly; rather, you know who your customers are and what products they use.
If you have a longstanding or loyal customer, communicate your appreciation of their repeat business. You can ask them for feedback on how you can best meet their needs (which helps build trust) and then make your request for a review, post, video, or any other UGC.
Reach out to your customers on social media for an even more personalized approach. Making a private request via direct messaging demonstrates your interest in their content while simultaneously strengthening your seller-customer relationship.
Do invest in building authentic connections
Relationships are everything in business, so building strong connections with your customers is imperative for success. Start by going to the places where your customers are: namely, online. If your customers are active on Instagram and Twitter, you should be on Instagram and Twitter checking regularly for content featuring your products. When you see your product mentioned or displayed, engage!
For example, let’s pretend you sell baby products and you happen upon an Instagram photo displaying your exclusive wall art on a nursery wall. Like and comment on the post to open up a dialogue:
“We love how you’ve hung this piece! We’re curious — how did you come up with this nursery theme? It’s so cute.”
You can also reach out directly through direct messages (DM) to thank your customer and compliment their photo, as well as ask for permission to share their image (give them credit by tagging them in your own posts). This opens the lines of communication while simultaneously exposing your customer to a wider audience and supporting their personal brand online.
Do consider creative ways to ask
A one-size-fits-all email might come across as tacky or lazy, but a creative insert in your packaging that helpfully and cleverly points your customers to connecting on social media or leaving a review could be a welcome surprise (and part of your brand experience). You can work this step directly into your Amazon prep (or have a partner like MyFBAPrep handle this for you).
Some ideas for custom inserts could include a guide to how to use their product, a pop-up thank you card, an insert explaining where your raw materials were sourced from, a CTA to recycle and how to return used bottles to your company, or more.
Do follow up
Following-up is a key component of customer outreach and engagement. For starters, you want to make sure your customers are happy with their purchase. This contributes to a solid customer experience, as it demonstrates to your customers that you care about their satisfaction. In this form of outreach, you can ask for a review or rating as well.
Always follow up with your customers after you request they leave a review or share your product with their followers. This is especially important if you contact a customer out of the blue. You can frame your follow-up as a check-in on how they like the product and invite them to share their feedback with you if they’re unhappy or have concerns.
It’s also good manners to express your gratitude after a customer creates content for your products, or to check in if their review was less than positive.
Do maintain ongoing relationships
Your customer relationships and your UGC strategy don’t end with a single piece of content. Regular communication with customers is important to maintain those relationships.
You can maintain your relationships in many ways, but the best is by meeting your customers where they are and regularly engaging with them there.
Don’t forget that relationships are two-way streets. If your customers share reviews and content that promote your product, spotlight them right back. You can do this by sharing their blogs and social media posts on your own platforms.
This tip is primarily for sellers on marketplaces that disallow incentivized review requests. For example, sending an email to your customers offering them incentives in exchange for reviews goes against Amazon’s community guidelines and policies.
Incentivizing your customers might look something like offering a 20% discount or free gift for leaving a review on your product listing.
While this is a big no-no, partnering with influencers isn’t…at least, not entirely.
While you can’t tell your influencer to leave positive reviews on Amazon, you can enter into a professional contract with influencers as brand partners who generate content on your behalf.
You can also send a thank you gift to your customers after they’ve left positive reviews to express your gratitude. Unlike incentivizing and offering a freebie before the review, sending a token of thanks is an endearing way to continue to build your relationship and show your customer how much you value them.
Chances are, your customer will also take the time to share your gift with their followers or leave a review for you!
Don’t forget to say thanks
“Thank you.” Two simple words that pack a (polite) punch when fostering relationships with your customers.
Hopefully, you thank your customers for their purchases, either through outreach after delivery or with inserts in your packages. However, you especially want to express your gratitude when customers take the time to share their feedback and leave a review on either your product listing or their own platforms or web domains.
Don’t be pushy
Sometimes, people prefer not to review your items publicly, even if they’re repeat buyers. It’s better to keep a loyal customer than to offend (and potentially lose) them by clogging their DMs and inbox with calls for UGC.
Make it clear from the start that you aren’t going to push the subject and that their feedback is entirely optional. After you follow up, mark that contact as non-responsive to UGC requests and ensure they aren’t bothered again.
5 Ways to collect UGC
Now that we’ve covered some of the basics and best practices, let’s talk about a few tactical ways to start collecting user-generated content.
1) Create a branded hashtag
The first step in your UGC strategy should be figuring out how to collect all of your user-generated content without having to hunt it down.
Creating your own branded hashtag and sharing it everywhere you inspire UGC will help keep all of your content easily searchable so you can discover and filter through it all at your convenience.
The last thing you want to do is invest time and resources into inspiring video reviews, shares, and posts, only to lose them in the social media void.
2) Delight your buyers with surprise freebies
A great way to inspire user-generated content is by delighting your current customers into showing their appreciation online. Throw in a free product for different occasions as a nice surprise, and add an insert with a prompt to leave a review or post on social (with your hashtag, of course).
Some ideas include:
- When a customer has purchased more than X times, add a freebie as a thank you for being a loyal customer.
- Add a freebie on an order they place during their birth month as a special surprise.
- If someone is a subscription customer, consider throwing in a special surprise on their first year anniversary to say thank you for sticking with you for a whole year.
3) Run a few contests
Hosting contests that promote user-generated content is a great way to incentivize your userbase to create content around your products in specific ways that you determine.
For example, if you’d like to promote a new product you just released, you could offer it as a giveaway prize for people who post themselves using it or another complimentary product online.
Consider a DTC luggage brand asking their followers to share photos of where their suitcases have been, complete with a tag to the company social media profile and branded hashtag. The top three most-liked posts will get a complimentary, newly released travel sling sent to them wherever they are in the world.
4) Incentivize engagement
Some brands incentivize engagement by providing loyalty points for reviews, bumping customers to a new membership tier for posting online, and gamifying the process by providing a rewards checklist for every customer who signs up for an account.
For example, once someone signs up for an account and makes a purchase, show a pop-up checklist at the corner of their screen or via a thank you email (or both) that shows different actions and the corresponding points they can earn for completing them. A few can be:
- Follow us on Instagram – 1 point
- Follow us on Twitter – 1 point
- Join our community on Facebook – 1 point
- Post a photo of yourself using our product (and tag us) – 5 points
- Share a video of how you use our products (and tag us) – 20 points
- Complete this checklist and earn superstar status – 30 points
Tip: You may want to delay this to show up on their second purchase, depending on the results you get.
You can also use more creative tactics to incentivize buyers who haven’t signed up for an account with you, but follow you on social media.
For example, consider selecting one of your most active, engaged, and vocal fans every month and saying thank you publicly (with their permission). Announce that you’re sending a special thank you box their way, and show a teaser about what’s inside.
This goes a long way to building rapport with your biggest fans, who will likely create more UGC about it. It also encourages all your followers to start engaging with you and sharing their experiences with your brand online, and tagging you for visibility.
5) Prompt UGC across your post-purchase experience
Sharing a prompt to post a review or photo/video of buyers using your product at key points in the post-purchase experience helps achieve a few things:
- You can ensure buyers that you’ll welcome their thoughts and value their feedback. That way, there’s no question about whether or not you’re listening.
- It can remind users of your hashtag and/or social handles for when they post organically (so you don’t miss out on the content).
- You can build up your brand culture and invite them to be a part of it, especially now that they’ve purchased and can experience the product themselves.
Consider adding a message on your confirmation page that welcomes buyers to the “club” and prompting them to follow your social profiles. This is an excellent time to introduce your branded hashtag and nudge buyers to see how others are using your products.
Then, a few days after they receive their purchase, send an email asking if they have any questions or concerns about the product. Give them an easy way to rate how they’re finding your product on a scale of one to 10, and for those who give you high scores ask them to leave a review.
Wrapping up — Use UGC to encourage trust and earn more sales
Now’s the time to think about how you’ll use UGC to promote and grow your business moving forward.
Creating a UGC strategy will increase the number of reviews you receive and help spread your name and products to new audiences and prospects. It also provides you with incredible content for your advertising.
Additionally, a strong UGC strategy will reveal new SEO opportunities, increase your rankings and conversions, and enable you to grow your business faster through authentic, trustworthy content.