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User Generated Content Marketing – Integrating customer photos into your E-commerce Store

For unsuspecting marketers, the rise of user generated content marketing may seem like a sudden takeover.

However, for ecommerce brands it’s been a long time coming.

Content marketing doesn’t have to represent a black hole of ROI for digital shop owners anymore. In fact, today’s movers and shakers in ecommerce are using UGC to build their followings, convert more customers and keep them coming back to their stores time and time again.

It doesn’t matter if you have dozens, hundreds or thousands of shoppers in your funnel. Simply put, there’s no better time than now to take advantage of UGC.

HypeGrand - User Generated Content Marketing

BONUS: Download  –  Flawless Examples of Ecommerce Customer Retention in Action

 

Why User Generated Content Marketing is Turning Heads

The current explosion of UGC can be attributed to the perfect storm of eager buyers and social shopping.

According to BigCommerce, shoppers spent more online on average ($488) than those shopping in-store ($408) in 2016. Unsurprisingly, the biggest winners in the world of ecommerce remain those in the niches of fashion, beauty and specialty accessories.

And there’s no doubt that a bulk of those shoppers regularly purchases via mobile and social media.

Think about it. It’s obvious that the public at large is glued to their smartphones. Mobile web usage has recently surpassed that of desktops, and the numbers tell us that those same users aren’t afraid to spend.

So, where does user generated content marketing come into play?

Rather than smacking social buyers with ads and sales messages, UGC allows brands to sell subtly.

This post from Fitbit is a prime example of how a user-submitted photo can be used just as effectively as a product page:

FitBit - User Generated Content Marketing

No flashy “buy now” messages.

No begging or desperate pleas for clicks, either.

Meanwhile, Instagram drives a higher average price per sale ($65) than any other major social network according to Shopify. In other words, social feeds can be used to consistently push products to followers.

The biggest benefits of UGC can be boiled down into three points. In short, user generated content marketing…

  • Represents a form of advertising that costs little more than time (think: curating content via hashtags versus spending on paid ads)
  • Serves as a strong form of social proof, letting potential buyers know that you already have satisfied customers
  • Comes off as more natural and organic versus in-your-face ads and promo posts

As a result, the integration of UGC has become the cornerstone of major ecommerce brands’ marketing strategies.

Understanding Best Practices for UGC and Ecommerce

BartsAccessories 2 - User Generated Content Marketing

If you’ve been on the fence about user generated content marketing or aren’t exactly sure where to start, don’t sweat it.

With so many brands hopping on board, it’s essential for ecommerce brands to understand the opportunities afforded to them by UGC. It’s certainly not too late to get started.

Of course, you’ll need to sort of best practices for your particular industry.

Thankfully, we’ve got you covered. We understand how user generated content has benefitted our clients and what it can do for you.

More likes. More clicks. More conversions.

No matter how big or small, consider how your brand can marry UGC and ecommerce to drive sales. Below we’ve outlined some awesome ideas and inspiration for brands both big and small.

Think of Your Social Feed as a Shop Window…

folliefollie - User Generated Content Marketing

For starters, it’s time to rethink what “content” means in the realm of ecommerce.

Sure, blog posts, infographics and other traditional content are crucial to any given brand.

But what about customer photos? Reviews? Positive customer interactions?

These are the types of content that are paramount to UGC campaigns.

For example, most ecommerce brands could benefit from a mentality shift when it comes to their social content. Rather than think of your social feed as a place where “anything goes,” why not start treating it as a sort of shop window?

That’s exactly what brands such as Birchbox are doing. Their Instagram feed is a literal collage of products, most of which are published from satisfied customers:

Birchbox ES - User Generated Content Marketing

Such brands get plenty of love in the form of “Likes,” comments and regrams, too. From bold imagery to photos “in the wild,” user generated content marketing goes hand in hand with the best practices of social media. At the same time, brands have the opportunity to sell rather than simply post content for the sake of it.

Now, promoting products via social can be a major mental hurdle for brands.

“I don’t want to sound like a pushy salesperson.”

“I’m just trying to grow my followers, not make sales.”

Totally understandable.

Here’s some food for thought, though. Social media, and Instagram especially, represents a prime place to convert followers into customers. Meanwhile, well over half of all social users follow brands to look at products.

The takeaway here? Your followers are more than likely hungry for product-centric content than you think. Are you giving them what they want?

This is exactly what user generated content marketing is so valuable. Ecommerce shops can tactfully sell to their followers without sacrificing their brand identity or coming off as pushy.

As sales through UGC become the norm, those who get on the ground floor with tools such as shoppable social feeds arguably have the most to gain.

… And Your Customers As Your Best Content

Want to generate more content without doing all the legwork yourself?

Want to give your products and ads a more personal touch?

User generated content marketing can make both happen with ease.

Today’s fashion brands understand the power of using their customers as real-life ads. Check out how Barts uses a lookbook of UGC to show off their followers and products on-site:

Barts Lookbook - User Generated Content Marketing

Your followers and customers are arguably your best billboards as UGC improves conversion rates for ecommerce brands. At the same time, asking those followers to create content is pretty straightforward.

Through branded hashtags and contests, social followers can share content on your behalf in an instant. Here’s another awesome lookbook example from CLUSE:

CLUSE Lookbook - User Generated Content Marketing

Sometimes social followers need that extra push, though. That’s why Instagram captions make all the difference when encouraging social UGC. Check out this well-crafted giveaway caption from Alex and Ani:

Alex and Ani Contest

Asking for and encouraging UGC doesn’t have to be complicated. Captions and social posts which ask questions, request the use of a branded hashtag or encourage some action on behalf of your followers is a plus.

User generated content marketing is a win-win for followers and brands alike. Ecommerce stores gain more opportunities to display their products in real-world setting while their followers are more engaged with their social feeds.

If nothing else, UGC can add some much-needed flavor to an otherwise stale or overly-promotional social presence.

How UGC Seals the Deal

If you’re worried less about social engagement and more worried about sales, you aren’t alone.

But bear in mind that the benefits of UGC go far beyond “Likes” and your follower count. There’s perhaps no better way to build trust with potential customers than through user generated content marketing.

How so? Well, ask yourself: do you always trust the loudest brand in the room? Or the brand that’s constantly being praised by its customers?

No-brainer, right?

From sealing the deal with skeptics to providing new buyers with peace of mind, UGC is the ultimate trust-builder. There’s a reason why ecommerce brands on Amazon stress so much about customer reviews and star ratings.

Fitbit 2

Allowing feedback on-site in addition to customer photos adds yet another layer of trust and social proof for brands. Not only do reviews serve a good UX, but they also show that you already have a base of satisfied buyers.

Besides, nearly 90% of buyers put more stock into user reviews than anything else you could possibly say.

That’s why brands such as Ulta go to such great lengths to provide comprehensive, in-depth reviews for their customers. For example, let’s start with the star rating of a product…

Ulta 1

…and then a detailed overview of feedback aggregated from buyers…

Ulta 2

…and finally, individual customer reviews:

Ulta 3

Customer photos and feedback combined with product pages tick all the boxes that drive fickle traffic to smash the “buy” button. These subtle integrations could be the difference between your next sale and bounced traffic.

 

BONUS: Flawless Examples of Ecommerce Customer Retention in Action

UGC Marketing Ideas and Inspiration by Industry

The beauty of user generated content marketing is that it can be leveraged across all industries. At the same time, the diverse wealth of UGC provides endless opportunities for new campaigns.

Fashion and clothing brands obviously have the most straightforward options to leverage UGC. Asking for and boosting customer photos is common practice these days. That being said, in the face of fierce competition it pays to inject personality into your UGC and captions. Here’s a good example from Chubbies, who regularly use humorous captions and memes to amuse their base:

Chubbies Insta

Meanwhile, many clothing brands also use “professional” UGC to their advantage. Here’s another example from Chubbies, this time from their Facebook page:

Chubbies FB

Fashion brands are tasked with finding a balance between product photos, hired models and UGC. The more options brands have, the better in terms of keeping their social feeds fresh.

But what about brands beyond the world of fashion?

Fear not. As a rule of thumb, just about any physical product or service is worthy of a UGC campaign. Here’s a rule of thumb: if your customers can take a picture while using your product or service,  you can sow the seeds of an effective campaign.

For example, check out how home brands like Nest encourage user-submitted videos from the fans and followers on Facebook:

Nest FB

… and photos on Instagram:

Nest Insta

Ecommerce brands that specialize in novelty gifts and subscription boxes likewise have content strategies rooted in UGC. Lootcrate is a prime example of a company that’s killing it right now with Instagram marketing. They absolutely love showing off follower photos displaying their nerdy gifts and freebies:

Lootcrate 1

Barkbox is another example of a niche brand doing UGC right. They clearly know their audience who are more than willing to share photos of their pets which tend to get shared around like crazy:

Barkbox

Finally, just because your company lacks a physical product doesn’t mean that user generated content marketing is beyond your reach. For those selling digital products or working in the SaaS space, screenshots are just another form of customer photo, after all.

Photo-editing service Canva does a great job by integrating UGC into their social feeds. Their content both shows off the creativity of their followers and the power of their product:

Canva Insta

Similarly, Adobe is often praised for their creative user generated campaigns, providing that you don’t necessarily need photos and flesh-and-blood people to stop followers in their tracks:

Adobe

Again, there are few “hard and fast” rules when it comes to user generated content marketing. Even if your product is your website itself, content such as retweets and positive feedback can be leveraged as well. Check out how Hipmunk shows off positive customer interactions with a simple retweet:

Hipmunk Chatbot RT

Remember: UGC spans across all industries. If you have customers and followers, you have the foundation for a campaign.

DOWNLOAD: Flawless Examples of Ecommerce Customer Retention in Action

You Don’t Have to Miss the Boat on UGC

When you realize just how prevalent and useful UGC is in modern marketing, it’s all admittedly a bit overwhelming.

That said, it’s all the more reason to embrace user generated content marketing campaigns sooner rather than later. Besides, data tells us that such campaigns aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

User generated content currently dominates the realm of social media. Brands are living and dying by their reviews and reputations. Ecommerce shops are scrambling to find ways to keep customers on the page and make sure they return after they’ve made their latest purchase.

All the while, user generated content marketing represents the ideal solution for brands looking to create more content and a more dedicated base of customers. Considering that user generated campaigns are on the rise, it’s certainly not too late to hop on board. As visual commerce is here to stay, ecommerce able to leverage their customers’ photos and feedback are best poised for more dedicated customers and followers.

If you’re still skeptical about UGC or simply haven’t gotten started yourself, what’s holding you up? Don’t know where to start? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Editor’s Note: This post has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in August 2017.

About the Author

Brent Barnhart is a freelance writer and content marketer. From tackling the latest buzzwords to teaching marketers how to craft more compelling content, he’s willing to take on just about anything involving the written word.