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How User-Generated Content Can Boost Your Ecommerce Brand

This article originally appeared in MarketingProfs.

In a crowded market, it’s tougher than ever to grab your customers’ fleeting attention.

Why would they pay attention to your B2C brand when there are thousands of Instagram stories, Facebook photos, and Youtube videos to see?

Luckily, everyone enjoys talking about themselves. That’s partly why user-generated content (UGC) is so powerful.

If you allow your target audience to share their own style, opinions, and experiences of your products, they’re far more likely to engage with your brand. Even better, it means you spend less time creating content marketing materials yourself.

Brands can see an amazing 25% increase in the ecommerce conversion rate with user-generated photos instead of professional product shots, for example. And 82% of shoppers say user-generated content like customer reviews or blog posts is extremely valuable to them when making purchasing decisions.

This is just one of the many ways that a user-generated content strategy can help boost your ecommerce brand.

Promote your brand values

It’s vital to define what your brand stands for. Are you creating products that are environmentally friendly, or do you donate to charity with every purchase? If those are your brand values, user-generated content is one way to connect with people who have the very same values.

Take the fashion industry. Many brands are famous for airbrushing size zero models to unattainable beauty standards. That’s exactly why swimwear brand Aerie decided to stop retouching photos and use unairbrushed models in its ads. But the brand didn’t stop there. For every Instagram user that posted an unedited photo of themselves in Aerie’s swimwear with the hashtag #AerieReal, the company also donated $1 to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

AerieUserGeneratedContent

The year after launching the UGC campaign — which generated a ton of media attention — the brand’s sales grew 20%, proving that connecting with younger consumers on values is seriously good for business.

Sports is another industry that has issues with body image — especially when it comes to female athletes. To fight stereotypes, sportswear retailer Under Armour launched the #unlikeany campaign, which challenges the idea that the brand is only for elite athletes. They focused on products that are for every woman, no matter their skill level.

UnderArmourUserGeneratedContent

The company also runs a campaign on social around the hashtag #WeWill, where users can share photos of how sports have inspired them and how they can be a force for good in the world. Each of these campaigns not only encourages participation from customers and generates fantastic content, it also aligns the brand with the core values of their target audience.

Showcase the benefits of your product

When the product you’re selling is hard to show off on a visual platform like Instagram, you have to get creative with your user-generated content campaigns. This is something software companies have been pioneering. Instead of showing boring product screenshots or snooze-worthy stock photos, they’ve encouraged users to share their own pictures using hashtags.

Buffer’s platform is designed to allow users to quickly and easily share social media content from anywhere in the world. Through the #BufferSpaces hashtag, customers can share pictures of the cool and interesting workspaces where they use Buffer across social platforms.

BufferUserGeneratedContent

Software company Adobe also got in the act, as it uses the hashtag #Adobe_Perspective to let people share picturesque content they have created using the software. Users get the added bonus of having their artistic work shared through Adobe’s Instagram channel.

AdobeUserGeneratedContent

The company also runs seasonal and monthly campaigns to highlight interesting and unusual visual works created by their customers using the hashtag #AdobeUnexpected.

AdobeUGC

This type of organic and customer-driven content creation helps your brand build word-of-mouth buzz, as well as engaging your buyers actively in your product.

Create customer testimonials

One of the most basic forms of user-generated content is the testimonial. Simply taking the words from your customer reviews and highlighting them on your site can be incredibly powerful. Your buyers will love seeing their words in lights, and other users will be encouraged to write more reviews as well. You can also use customer photos to help engage buyers, by showing what your products look like in the real world. 

Ecommerce home furniture brand Wayfair did exactly that when it asked its customers to post photos of their Wayfair furniture using the hashtag #WayfairAtHome.

WayfairUserGeneratedContent

Instead of putting professional product photos on their website, consumers see pictures of Wayfair’s furniture in real homes and get design inspiration at the same time. It also highlights happy customers who love the products they’ve purchased and drive awareness on social networks about Wayfair products. Your customers are happy because they’re recognized and called out, and you’re happy with all the great content!

Use major events and holidays to gain exposure

To get more exposure and engagement, ecommerce brands can also run campaigns that tie in with important national events and holidays. MAC took advantage of the trend for ever more ambitious and creative Halloween costumes and make-up to create the #SeniorArtistsSlayHalloween hashtag. This marketing campaign focused on getting make-up artists around the world to share their creations for Halloween.

MACUserGeneratedContent

By working off a popular holiday, Mac got fantastic photos of customers using their products to create elaborate costumes. Think about what events or holidays your brand could use similarly, and create a UGC campaign around it. 

Offers an exclusive to create a community

If you want users to create content for you, you can try to motivate them by offering a creative or valuable prize. Your customers will love it even more if it’s something exclusive they can’t easily get from other channels.

Luxury fashion retailer Marc Jacobs decided to cast real people (i.e. non-professional models) in an upcoming modeling campaign. The designer came up with the #CastMeMarc hashtag to allow people to post selfies to “win” the opportunity to be a model for his next campaign. This generated a ton of buzz for the brand and highlighted customers and potential customers at the same time.

MarcJacobsUserGeneratedContent

This prize was incredibly creative, but you could offer something as simple as a free product, exclusive access to a new product first, or even just a discount or other prize. Get creative, and come up with fun and unique ways to engage your buyers.

If you’re going to create a successful user-generated marketing campaign, you absolutely must make it actionable and be sure of your goals. Just because it seems fun and more creative doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to generate high ROI. But with the right effort, you can drive serious engagement from your audience and get valuable content for your marketing campaigns at the same time. There’s a reason UGC campaigns are on the rise, and you can be part of it. 

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