These days, content marketing is a major part of consumer outreach. Regardless of the type of product or service being sold by a company, people want to know about it before making a buying decision.
While this fact is well-recognized by brands selling to brick-and-mortar stores, ecommerce brands are a different story. After all, ecommerce is a segment of the retail industry that was born and raised in the digital age, and it often plays by different rules.
All of this is to say that ecommerce brands typically struggle with collecting the sheer amount of content needed to keep up with today’s audience demands. Despite this, many brands are thriving through a strategy built largely on user-generated content (UGC).
The Increasing Need for Content
When it comes to product pages (PDPs) on ecommerce sites, everyone agrees on the basics. All products need names, pricing information, and a detailed description answering basic questions. However, in most cases, this can be optimized by also including social proof. Brands need more content that help shoppers envision what their experience would be like with that product, and UGC results in 29% higher web conversions than campaigns or websites without it. Visual content is important to consumers; 60% of online shoppers need to see around three to four images before purchasing a product.
Content is the Currency of Digital Marketing
Back in the days when print and broadcast advertising were king, marketing materials had to be short and sweet. To this day, print ads are sold by size, and broadcast by length; pricing units often don’t change.
Online, however, things are different. Digital “space” and “broadcast time” are much less limited, and pricing reflects this. Furthermore, the internet is where people go to find out about their world. If companies launch a new product, they’ll pay for traditional ads. But consumers get their questions answered mainly online or in-store. Answering consumer questions beyond the basics requires the right kind of content.
So what kind of content do brands need? We trust people more than brands, and thus we trust their authentic content more than branded advertisements. One of the main reasons that influencer marketing has become so popular is because of its similarity to word of mouth marketing. Even if influencers are getting sponsorships from a brand, many only pitch things they personally like. When consumers see people like them sharing their experiences with a product or brand on social media, they are far more inclined to trust that the purchase will be worth their time.
Why Content Shifted: UGC Strategy
Branded content is much harder to produce for an ecommerce brand; these brands do not have a physical footprint in communities unless they have a dedicated warehouse or pop-up storefront there. With UGC, an ecommerce brand can develop relationships with its customer community online, whether that be through on-site features or social media campaigns. Such content makes a connection between real people and the brand, in the context of real life.
To that end, the online world serves as a community for ecommerce. Sites should look at social media not as a way to promote your ecommerce brand, but instead as a way to develop and deepen relationships with the general public, potential and current clients, your advocates, and influential content creators. User-generated content allows people to visualize your products in an authentic way.
UGC also gives your audience the opportunity to imagine owning your product themselves. Global intimates brand Leonisa saw a 273% increase in repeat-visit rate after implementing Pixlee-powered UGC on product pages and a homepage gallery featuring real customers showing off their new looks.
So how do you turn UGC into dynamic marketing material for your ecommerce brand?
Fortunately, most brands find that there is a wealth of UGC already being produced in online communities. Once you have an established social media presence, reach out to those who tag and post about your brand and see how you can collaborate to utilize their content as part of your ecommerce content strategy. Pixlee’s platform automatically pulls in UGC from social media users mentioning your brand or unique hashtags, which you can then set live in on-site galleries and product pages, or curate for future marketing campaigns.
Not every brand is ready to start this immediately, however. If people aren’t talking about you on social media, you need to stimulate discussions around your brand. One way to do this is by proactively reaching out to micro and nano influencers and developing relationships with them that will result in product-related content. Smaller-scale influencers are more attainable for brands beginning their UGC journey, and often yield higher engagement rates due to their niche target audiences. Remember, the idea is for people to interact with that content over time, increasing your brand awareness and sales.
The Benefits of UGC for Ecommerce Brands
UGC can impact KPIs across every stage of the buyer journey, from acquisition to retention. One of its advantages is allowing a wider variety of product depictions than you would normally have if the website only contained branded content. In addition to sharing UGC on your brand’s home page and social channels, integrating it directly into product pages will provide the social proof that converts a casual shopper to a paying customer.
One use case that demonstrates the value of this feature is nail dip brand Revel Nail. The beauty industry in general is highly competitive, and pictures of product use are highly influential. By leveraging the power of UGC, Revel was able to boost site conversions by an impressive 3.7 times. In addition, they achieved a 157% repeat visit rate, meaning customers come back for more.
Revel Nail features interactive, shoppable customer photos all over the brand’s site, from the home and product pages to an inspiration gallery.
According to Revel Nail, one of the reasons that Pixlee-powered UGC was so successful is that users have created images of all their products being used in each color. This beats the swatches that most beauty companies use to show the whole color range.
When you consider the benefits of UGC for ecommerce brands, it is easy to see its value in marketing. Add to this the fact that consumers win through an increased understanding of a product, and you have a marketing strategy loaded with social proof.
Neal Schaffer is an authority on helping innovative businesses digitally transform their sales and marketing. Founder of the digital marketing consultancy PDCA Social, Neal is currently a Fractional CMO for several companies and also teaches executives digital marketing at Rutgers Business School and the Irish Management Institute. He is also the author of four sales and marketing books, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley) and the recently published The Age of Influence (HarperCollins Leadership), a ground-breaking book redefining digital influence. Download a free preview of the Age of Influencer here.