Content marketing has dominated digital trends and strategies in recent years, in a bid to gain exposure in SERPs and herald the way for brands to be a source of valuable knowledge and advice. And don’t get me wrong, it works, I’ve seen plenty of cases where content has driven leads that would have otherwise been somewhat unattainable to a business.
User Generated Content (UGC) is any form of content that has been created and shared digitally by contributors that aren’t seeking reward or acknowledgement, they’re simply advocating a brand that they trust and believe in – in essence they’re super fans. In the past, UGC would simply have been considered as company and product reviews, but since the dawn of the influencer, UGC has taken on the form of blogs, vlogs and videos, with the most authoritative being photographs.
It wasn’t really until Instagram that UGC took off and became such a phenomenon across the digital space and since, it’s become a tremendous asset to brands – especially smaller, less known independants that rely on customer satisfaction and relaying that gratification online.
Social Media Today reported that 64% of consumers will actively seek out reviews before they’ll trust a brand and make a purchase, and that 75% of their survey respondents found that UGC made marketing more authentic, by increasing the influence that marketers can’t recreate themselves. Consumers want a deeper connection with the brands that they love and 48% of marketing professionals believe that content created by customers can help humanise their marketing.
That’s because consumers are more likely to trust their peers recommending and advocating a brand than the brand itself making statements about its product or service. People want to know and understand other people’s experiences before taking the plunge with a purchase.
The two-way communication between brand and consumer develops from great products and great services. In some instances, brands will actively ask their consumers to “Share a photo” of themselves in a product or using the product, and then it’s down to the consumer’s belief in the item to physically do it.
And so, UGC has become extremely valuable for ecommerce and is redefining the process of helping consumers with their buying decision. We’re not talking about celebrity influencers or even micro influencers for that matter. User Generated Content is your everyday buyer that made the shift from consumer to brand advocate by promoting a product with no solid promise of reward.
It’s an invaluable resource and where consumers once had conflicting thoughts about new brands and retailers making their way into the world of ecommerce, positive endorsements combated universal hesitation and fuelled impulsive buyers to be even more spontaneous.
As consumers, we’re ardent researchers that look for the very best deals and read reviews on products before we’re comfortable in making the ultimate decision to buy. That’s why ecommerces seek the next level in brand advocacy and use consumer approval to market their product.
Brands heralding the way with UGC
Coco and Eve
Coco and Eve are a brand built on two ingredients; raw virgin coconuts and figs. They claim to have produced the world’s finest hair masque which will take your hair back to its pure state. Sounds a little fanciful or is that just the cynic in me?
The brand has taken social media by storm and I rarely go a day scrolling through Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest, without being served an ad by Coco and Eve. Whilst social media is mostly noise when it comes to online retailers trying to be noticed – Coco and Eve have embraced UGC to market their product, peer-to-peer.
Their honest reviews of what their customers say about Coco and Eve not only prove the miracle work of the product with written reviews, but also highlight the difference with ‘before and after’ shots of the consumer’s hair. Coco and Eve feature this UGC on their ecommerce website and through their social networks. However, it’s easy to search for the product and find raving reviews, images and vlogs from women and men that are delighted with the masque and its effectiveness.
Their inviting brand identity gets them so far and their USP a little further. It’s the positive UGC that supports their brand promise to market, assure and sell the product through visual peer guarantee.
Batoko are rubbish, literally. Their swimsuits are made from 100% recycled plastic bottles found in our oceans. It’s a challenging arena and one which has faced prominent exposure in recent months – why recycle? Why be part of the big clean-up?
They’re another brand that I was first introduced to through social media. It’s habit to click directly onto a new (to me) brand’s Instagram profile to see their content. Batoko are fervent users of UGC and fill their social media calendar with candid and positive visual testimonials from their customers.
UGC contributes to an endless supply of promotion without draining marketing budget on influencer campaigns or asset creation. These consumers are taking sincere photographs of themselves in Batoko swimsuits and hashtagging the brand of their own accord. Why? They’re advocates. They believe in and love the product, and that sells. It markets itself. It builds trustworthiness and credibility for a brand without them really having to do anything but make a brilliant product.
Shein are an international fashion retailer with a focus on women’s wear and a philosophy that “everyone can enjoy the beauty of fashion.” They offer on-trend styles that promise not to break the bank as a one-stop-shop for the modern yet economical fashionista.
Unsurprisingly, you guessed it, this is another company I found through a brand awareness campaign served through Facebook. It’s one that I didn’t really pay much attention initially but then I took the plunge and downloaded their app.
That’s where my opinion changed and I saw the way in which they use UGC within their reviews to assure and secure a sale. Shein give their consumers the ability to review and rate their products and upload an image of themselves wearing it.
It’s perfect. It allows their consumers to see the product on someone’s body that’s not posed and airbrushed to show an items best fit. It’s real and it’s honest and there are so many reviews detailing that they (the customer) bought the product based on its reviews and associated UGC.
Brands not adopting UGC
Considering the user base that Asos has, it’s surprising to see the lack of UGC that the brand actually shares based on the amount their consumers are generating for them. Some brands, seemingly like that of asos, appear to be more focussed on the impact of influencers, micro influencers and celebrities when it comes to sales and brand recognition.
However, consumers are becoming more and more aware of paid advertisements and a lack in authenticity. If consumers don’t feel like they’re part of the brand experience and by consumer, we’re talking your everyday person, then their loyalty to a brand quickly fades. Just looking at asos’ Instagram feed compared to their tagged posts, there’s a clear divide between the verified posts that are shared by the brand and those that remain tagged unmentionables.
It’s becoming more obvious that the smaller and lesser know brands such as Shein are more aware and more connected with their community of consumers.
Thread is an ecommerce for men that initially helps to find clothing to suit their style and ultimately sell them the products at the end of the process. Whilst the approach is personal and tailored to the individual, that same ethos doesn’t seem to extend across their social platforms and tie in their advocates through user generated content at all.
It’s quickly apparent that Thread stick to traditional means and use their own model photography rather than introducing the vast UGC on their tagged feed. That keeps consumers a step away from the brand, rather than opening a two-way dialogue, where the consumer can feel like they’re a part of the personal experience offered through Thread’s website on social media too.
So despite portraying an authentic and connected user experience for a bespoke process similar to that of a personal stylist, it’s hard to find attachment and loyalty to Thread, when they aren’t showing the same appreciation to its consumers after their purchase. Especially when their tagged feed shows a much more natural and advocated brand.
Online retailers are more convenient for the fast-paced and digital world we’ve come to know. Ecommerce owners are intelligent and look for new ways to market and sell, in a world of declining profits and businesses claiming to have the same item for less.
We’re amongst “selfie takers” and an always-on generation who are an emerging force with spending power and they’re more switched on and aware of brand credibility than ever before. And how do they perceive brands? Through peer-to-peer experience and user generated content advocating them.
The strategy of UGC embarks on driving a consumer to their website or social profile (evident through the awareness campaigns across varying social networks), and then giving their customers the ability to market the product for them. That continual assurance in the brand, whether from the initial impression or a deep dive into the product pages itself, has found a means of connecting with the consumers at all the key points in their journey; but connecting them through peer-to-peer advocacy – not paid, not rewarded – just a sheer love for a brand.
The genuine truth and delight in UGC will work to improve consumer disappointment, returns and cart abandonment and continue to see ecommerce dominate retail.