This is a guest post written by Steve Krull, CEO and Co-Founder of Be Found Online, an award-winning digital marketing agency.
The popularity of e-commerce businesses has surged in recent years and the sector shows no sign of slowing down. The ecommerce industry is expected to grow by almost $11 trillion between 2021 and 2025. However, this explosive growth is not met without challenge.
As more businesses come online, it becomes increasingly difficult to attract new customers, especially as the cost for paid ads continues to rise and it has become more difficult to track consumer behavior (among other pain points). These obstacles are making it mission critical for e-commerce businesses to prioritize brand development, transitioning from a one-and-done site transaction to a full-blown brand built upon loyal, repeat customers.
One key component for e-comm entrepreneurs to keep in mind as they work to grow their brand is User Generated Content (UGC). When used in combination with other digital marketing tactics, like social media, content marketing, SEO and paid ads, UGC is a powerful tool that can help brands cultivate a sense of community, credibility and authenticity.
Below are three tips to help boost your e-commerce brand’s UGC.
Turn Transactions into an Experience Worth Documenting
Instead of focusing on a single transaction, shift your mindset to building a loyal, engaged customer base. Don’t just sell a product, sell an experience – and make it easy for people to share that experience on social media.
User Generated Content is just that – content generated by the user. Why would you want UGC when you can simply purchase targeted ads instead? UGC humanizes a brand. A study conducted by Nosto found that 86% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands to support. The same study found 60% of consumers say content from friends or family influence their purchase decisions. In a way, UGC is similar to a word-of-mouth testimonial – and, boy, is that powerful.
It’s up to you to ensure that the customer experience is something they will look forward to experiencing over and over. Does the unboxing of your product feel exciting? What does it look like? Are push notifications sent with shipping updates? Do you have an easy-to-remember hashtag? Are your social media pages easy to find? All these boil down to two main questions – what is your brand experience? And, how shareable is your brand?
Asking these critical questions and putting yourself into the shoes of your consumer will help you to build this experience.
Host Regular Promotions or Giveaways to Incentivize UGC
Sometimes customers need a nudge or incentive to create content – after all, it does take time and energy. If your business is newly established and still working to gain credibility, making an offering is a great way to kick off a campaign. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.
Offering rewards for reviews, launching a brand ambassador program (product trades for content), including a postcard in product packaging outlining instructions on how to enter a giveaway – these are all great ways to engage a community around your brand. In fact, some organizations are finding that loyalty programs are so critical to customer relations that they’re actively working on even more ways to give customers a true sense of belonging.
A great example of this is Zeus Jones’ new membership consulting group, Hellen, which works with brands like Nike and Apple to nurture real connection with its customers, by offering member-based access to exclusivity and experiential benefits for instance. In short, customers don’t just want points, they want to feel special, which in turn creates a sense of pride (and loyal brand ambassadors – Enter UGC).
Down the road when your consumer base starts to generate content on their own, you can reassess. Maybe you’ll opt for more growth-focused campaigns, like offering referral codes (for discounts when people refer a new customer) or affiliate links (where influencers make a commission off products linked in their own content). Sometimes it’s as simple as regularly resharing their content, showcasing their profile to all your followers.
Get the Most Mileage out of UGC
Make the most of user generated content by repurposing, sharing and more (all with user permission, of course). Monitor for organic UGC and reach out, using the initial interaction to open the door to future opportunities. Collect emails, keep your customers in the know, create a strong community that looks forward to news from your brand. Shoutout top customers in your newsletter or social media feed.
When most people think of UGC, social media comes to mind. However, UGC can and should be used in other areas of the business, like your website, newsletter, or even when making future business decisions, like launching geo-targeted ads or opening a domestic warehouse (pay attention to where your UGC is coming from).
User generated content is a powerful tool that will help you not only build a brand, but a community that will support the longevity of your business for years to come.