13 examples of user-generated content brands strategically use to acquire more customers
Online shopping is convenient. No doubt about it. You can browse products from brands anywhere—on your desktop while you’re at home sitting on the couch or on your mobile device while you’re out and about.
Basically, if you have access to the internet, you can shop. But there is a downside to such widespread accessibility—there’s a digital partition between you and the products you’re browsing.
You can’t see or touch a physical item when you’re looking at it online so it can be hard to gauge what something might look or function like in reality.
That’s where customer reviews and user-generated content (UGC) come into play.
What is UGC?
User-generated content is information provided by customers that brands can use in their marketing efforts. Different types of content include written online reviews, images, videos, or social media posts of people using a brand’s products in their daily lives.
UGC content is cost effective because your customers essentially become your content creators. Their testimonials can help you create an effective content marketing program that builds brand awareness and improves your conversion rates.
Among online shoppers in the US, 62% said that customer reviews were very helpful before making a purchase and 41% said they almost always read reviews before buying, according to Statista.
And 93% of consumers find user-generated content very helpful in their purchase decision-making process.
Collecting these valuable testimonials and using them in your marketing outreach can help bridge the gap between browsing and buying for new and returning customers alike.
- How UGC impacts your marketing strategy
- How to collect UGC
- Where you can use UGC to drive positive business impact
A lot of shoppers trust a customer who is reviewing a product over a marketer who’s trying to sell it.
That’s because the opinions from customers are genuine, unbiased, and aren’t necessarily trying to get you to buy. They’re just a reflection of someone else’s experience—which for other consumers, is relatable.
It brings a level of authenticity to a brand that marketing or promotional messages simply cannot provide, but that’s not all.
Customer reviews and UGC are essential because they:
Give context to potential buyers
Customer reviews help provide other members of your brand’s community with valuable insights about your products, straight from the people who actually use them.
Marketing images and positioning only get you so far. Reviews with UGC, on the other hand, can show customers what your product looks like in the wild—from the size of a product or the quality of its materials, to what it looks like on different body types, or in different environments.
“Without the physicality of a brick and mortar store, customers heavily rely on product descriptions, images, and reviews to validate buying decisions,” says Jen Zapp, director of marketing at Stamped.
Through UGC, your customers can better visualize how your product might fit within their own life. Take this example from dog apparel brand, Wild One, whose Instagram posts are a mixture of branded photography and user-generated content:
Their feed is a representation of a wide variety of dog breeds in various colors of their products. Potential customers can get a sense for say, how a Wild One collar might look on their dog, or whether their toys are the right size for their pet.
And diverse representation matters.
The more scenarios your product is showcased in, the more context you’re providing—which translates to a larger portion of your audience who can see themselves wearing or using your product.
Build trust in your brand
As a marketer, you can make all sorts of promises or claims about what you’re trying to sell. Even if they’re valid claims, it’s hard to corroborate them or play the “take it from me” card when you’re not actually the one using said item.
But when you display customer reviews and UGC in your emails, on your product pages, or on your social media platforms, you can cleverly play the “take it from them” card instead.
And “they” are the real people who simply love your brand’s products.
Not only that, it builds a trust-worthy online community of people who’ve graduated from customers to fans. Kristen LaFrance, an expert in the direct-to-consumer industry, pointed out that a customer-first community goes a long way towards building a successful brand:
Another thing that builds trust? Transparency. Raen, a fashionable optical brand, prefaces the reviews section on their website with the statement that they haven’t altered their customer feedback in any way:
The brand wants customers and site visitors to feel like they have a place to openly share their opinions and experiences, so consumers can decide for themselves if their product is right for them.
Help you figure out what is or isn’t working about your product
Positive reviews shouldn’t be your only focus. Negative reviews or people who unsubscribe from your brand present a fantastic opportunity for you to ask for feedback and better understand what may be a roadblock for your customers.
“Understanding the pain points of your customers not only gives you an opportunity to win back a customer’s trust, but it also gives you a chance to correct the course for future customers,” says Drew Himel, CEO and founder of PCR.
Zapp agrees. “Negative reviews are an opportunity to solve a challenge for your customers,” she says.
A customer of Charlotte Stone Shoes claimed that the brand produced a shoe that didn’t match their online sizing guide.
Charlotte Stone Shoes turned that piece of feedback into an opportunity for their design team to ensure new shoes aligned with size guides in the future. If no one made the Charlotte Stone team aware of this problem, it could’ve been an issue that affected a larger group of their customers—correlating to a higher than normal return volume.
A negative review can be helpful in rethinking aspects of your product or service you might not have considered, but it can also help you determine who your product is not a fit for.
“It can help you clarify your positioning—for both yourself and your customers,” writes The Stacked Marketer.
And that’s okay. Feedback both positive and negative is valuable to your business. It’ll help make your marketing messages more effective and your audience targeting more efficient.
Plus, just because your product isn’t the right fit for someone, doesn’t mean their feedback will be 100% negative.
Take if from Monica Grohne, founder of Marea, who asks for feedback from customers who unsubscribe from her brand:
How to collect user-generated content and reviews
Now that everyone’s on the same page and understands the benefits of collecting customer reviews and UGC, let’s get into how you can mine it from your customers.
1. In a post-purchase flow
It’s pretty common for someone to ask you what you think of something after you try it for the first time—a new kind of food, a different exercise class, or a new type of moisturizer for example.
So it doesn’t feel out of place for a brand to ask their customers the same kind of questions. The best place to do so is in a post-purchase email automation.
This is an email that’s sent out a few weeks or a month after a customer makes a purchase—remember you have to give someone time to actually try your product and form an opinion—depending on your product and its proven time to value.
As for what to include in the body copy of this email, it never hurts to add in a little treat for your customers as a way to entice them to take your desired action.
Credo Beauty incentivizes customers to leave a review by rewarding those who do so with 10 rewards points that they can use toward future purchases.
Alex McPeak, a content strategist at Klaviyo, highlighted how Sunday Citizen one-upped their own incentive program in an attempt to encourage customers to include a picture with their review (because the more UGC, the better):
2. Organically on your website
Explicitly asking for UGC is a direct route to take toward collecting customer reviews. You can also take a slightly more indirect route that’ll get you to the same end goal.
Have a place on your product pages where your customers can freely leave reviews at any time.
Companies like Stamped provide brands with technology that make it easy to implement a reviews program on your site and for customers to leave reviews that include images of the product they use and love.
“Collecting and displaying site reviews, product reviews, and user-generated content builds trust with your customers by giving them a platform to share their voice and opinion,” says Zapp.
“By reading reviews, new customers can feel more confident in their purchases, leading to increased sales.”
Not only is it a breeze for customers to leave a review on Athletic Greens’ site, the brand also makes it super easy for potential customers to find particular reviews by theme through the incorporation of a search bar functionality.
3. Through branded hashtags
You can also invite your customers to share their own pictures that include your brand’s products through a social or branded hashtag.
You can include that hashtag on a webpage, in the footer of an email, an SMS campaign, or your social channels so your customers know exactly what to tag when they post their images.
Rothys includes their brand’s hashtag in the bio of their Instagram account and then curates product pages with the images and social proof that flood in from customers using the hashtag.
Where to use customer reviews and UGC to drive positive business impact and boost conversion rates
Once you take stock of all the user-generated content and customer reviews you’ve accumulated, the question becomes what do you do with it?
You use it! To help educate your audience about your products and services and nurture them until they’re ready to make a purchase.
1. Include user-generated content on your organic social accounts
UGC posts on social media have a 35% higher engagement rate than branded content, which means your followers are more interested in seeing your products on real people, from diverse backgrounds, rather than models.
Parade constantly highlights customers from their community in their product posts. In a recent carousel series, the undergarment brand posted photos from customers wearing their new sleep-wear line.
Different ethnicities, body types, and genders were represented in Parade’s post expanding the possibility for anyone to imagine themselves in the brand’s products.
Outdoor Voices also shares posts that only consist of user-generated content, or images that were submitted from their community of customers.
As products that are made to be outside, Outdoor Voices consistently chooses images that show their products in active environments. Their posts hit home that you can get outdoors and adventure in clothing that’s both functional and stylish.
2. Add UGC and customers reviews to your product pages
And there’s data to back it up: onsite reviews increase conversions by 74%. So from a customer experience, educational, and conversion perspective, customer reviews are essential to include on a product page.
Your website is one of the places people will spend the most time learning about your products or services, and where they’re most likely to buy them.
Rare Beauty’s product pages contain an animated reel of customers from their brand’s community so potential buyers can see what a lipstick or blush looks like on a variety of complexions.
Promix doesn’t wait for the product pages to highlight customer reviews, this supplement brand includes them front-and-center on their home page.
Plus, they highlight reviews not only of their product, but of the quality of their customer service too so website visitors can feel confident in the entire buying experience.
Weave reviews and UGC into your email automations and SMS messages
Your owned channels, like emails and texts, are a natural vehicle for serving up reviews and user-generated content to your audience.
You can think of these channels as a low-cost nurture stream—one that further educates subscribers who aren’t quite ready to make a purchase about a product and brand they’re interested in.
You can drum up excitement with UGC for newly launched products, or use reviews to help recapture someone’s attention in an abandoned browse or an abandoned cart automation.
Ilia Beauty’s browse abandonment email features customer reviews about their True Skin Serum Foundation.
Whatever the hesitation a subscriber might’ve had that kept them from adding this product to their cart—whether it looks natural, it’s hydrating enough, or if it actually smooths out problem areas—these testimonials answer their questions.
Aura Bora’s product launch email entices their subscribers to try out their new drink flavor with help from reviews. They let their customers do all the selling, though it doesn’t feel that way.
From the realness of the taste, to the drink’s ability to evoke memories of paradise, these product descriptions, while subtly promotional, truly just seem like shout-outs from authentic people who genuinely love this flavor.
Who wouldn’t want what they’re having?
Great email & SMS flows for different types of UGC:
- Welcome flows: Get new subscribers excited about your brand by not only telling your story, but by showcasing UGC that tells it for you.
- Abandoned cart flows: Use product-specific UGC to help convince consumers that the item in their cart is worth their purchase.
- Browse abandonment flows: Same thing as above here. Use product-specific UGC to encourage subscribers to click-through to your site, or cross-sell them on similar items.
- Post-purchase flows: Get new customers excited about their purchase by offering customer content that validates how great the product will be when it arrives.
Let your current customers help you acquire new ones
The customers who know and love your brand can help you bring new people into the fold. Their opinions and their loyalty to your products speaks louder than any marketing message you can concoct in a team huddle.
That’s because reviews and user-generated content comes from the people who use your products regularly and are deeply familiar with them.
“Put your customers at the forefront of your brand,” says Zapp. “Investing time up front to build a scalable strategy that reliably gathers and showcases high-quality customer reviews and user-generated content will set you up for success in the long run.”
“Brand credibility is key to acquiring and retaining customers.”
Your customers are your brand’s secret sauce. Let their voices and their experiences help you reach your goals.
Incorporating customer reviews and UGC into your strategy is the first step toward Customer-First Marketing. Learn what comes next in this actionable guide.