Did you know that five billion users of the top five social apps post 41.6 million messages a minute? Or that three billion JPEG images are created every day?
Not only does this tremendous volume of peer-to-peer activity profoundly affect our social lives, it has also revolutionized the way shoppers navigate the purchase journey. How? By reading unbranded feedback and the like from other users, shoppers can avoid marketing hype and make purchase decisions based on what they often consider to be objective, honest opinions on the merchandise.
In fact, Nielsen found that 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from peers or even perfect strangers. As a broad-tent term, user-generated content (UGC) is becoming central to effective consumer-engagement strategies—and rightly so.
It behooves e-commerce professionals—marketers, managers, developers, designers—to be alert to the value of UGC for its significant contributions toward winning customers through these important benefits:
- Exposure: Besides enabling e-businesses to access the organic networks of their patrons, UGC also promotes brand awareness and exposure, the king and queen of marketing and brand building.
- Brand affinity: As the Nielsen data above resoundingly proves, if you have happy customers telling the world that you’re great, their peers are inclined to believe them.
- Cost efficiency and cost effectiveness: UGC incurs zero production cost on the part of e-businesses.
- Authenticity and uniqueness: UGC carries a high level of authenticity that no branded content, often regarded as marketese, can convey. That’s a crucial factor in light of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) finding that “86 percent of consumers consider authenticity important when deciding what brands they like and support.”
- SEO: UGC can make rounds on social networks in particular and on the web in general, achieving stronger SEO and perpetuating a never-ending stream of fresh, keyword-rich content.
- Behavioral insights: UGC offers insights into the reactions, likes, and dislikes of target audiences, which can serve as a valuable reference for planning future strategies for your business.
The most common forms of UGC are product or service ratings and reviews, which are effectual forums through which shoppers share their experience and observations. Studies have revealed that shoppers who browse reviews convert at more than twice the rate than those who don’t—and at an even higher rate if they engage with other patrons through Q&As on product pages.
Similarly, brands see a 91 percent lift in conversions as a result of engagements with user-generated images and videos. A recent Cloudinary survey found that 58 percent of consumers have generated more visual content so far in 2020 than in 2019, offering a great opportunity for brands to cash in by collecting and promoting that content on homepages, product pages, and other channels like those on social networks.
Integrating and leveraging user-generated images and videos (collectively called rich media) entails approaches that differentiate from those for branded content and text-based UGC. A recent AdWeek webinar shares insight on that topic, including real-life examples from leading brands. Here’s a summary:
Besides being unpredictable, user-generated rich media greatly vary in nature, definition, quality, orientation, file type and size, subject, lighting, and so forth. That’s both a blessing and a curse.
A prudent thing to do is publish guidelines on the content you'd like to see, such as reviews and follow-up messages. Encourage and support contributions but be careful not to overmanage the creation process.
Obviously, you want UGC to promote your brand and, toward that end, you’d curate the content and post it in your site’s review section. To ensure that all the media conform with your parameters for consistency, a strong sense of brand identity, and connection with your customers, apply similar filters or color adjustments to the media, for example, by fine-tuning their saturation, brightness contrast, contrast levels, and even sound elements. Also, obtain advanced permission from your patrons to edit the images and videos they upload to your site and ascertain that the edited versions retain their subjects in focus.
Inevitably, some user-generated media is spam and some, offensive material. You must vigilantly moderate them and remove any inappropriate content. For security, always post a brand-managed copy of the uploaded files instead of the originals, which might contain malware.
Pinpointing and delivering the right media and user experience for optimum display, engagement, and conversion for all contexts, channels, and devices is a complex, laborious task. Be sure to automate workflows, from auto-tagging and storage to auto-formatting, file-size restrictions, and subject detection.
Countless potential shoppers are viewing content on social channels and peer-to-peer messaging apps at all times. Shoppable UGC, which enables consumers to directly click through to the product page related to the media asset—regardless of where they see that asset—promises massive potential. Being able to quickly move to a high-converting page from wherever in the “digital wild” is a superb convenience.
Thanks to its automation capabilities, AI plays an exceptional role in accelerating the workflow of sourcing, organizing, transforming, and publishing UGC at scale. Specifically, AI can automate the process of monitoring images and videos, that is, independently and reliably approve or reject them, uploading the approved ones to the appropriate places on your site. Furthermore, AI can efficiently tag, optimize, and deliver rich media. Consequently, your teams are freed up to focus on other key tasks, such as fostering relationships with customers.
- Learn how retailers can benefit from UGC and get the Cloudinary e-commerce guide
- UGC Infographic: See the survey infographic
- UGC Whitepaper: Take a deeper look and explore the power of UGC and the tech needed to support it.
- User-Generated Content, Part 1: The Basics- Learn about the importance and benefits of user-generated content (UGC) and ways to leverage and deliver it for audience engagement and revenue growth.
- User-Generated Content, Part 2: Images and Their Transformations- Cloudinary offers numerous automated options for optimized uploads, transformations, and delivery of UGC images for e-commerce.
- User-Generated Content, Part 3: Videos and Their Transformations- Learn how to automate in Cloudinary the crucial management tasks before posting UGC videos: moderation, transcription, transformations, thumbnail creation.
- User-Generated Content, Part 4: Security- Through automation, Cloudinary ensures that user-uploaded assets are secure and malware free, blurring irrelevant image background or text as you desire.
- UGC fireside chat with 1-800-FLOWERS and Cloudinary.