If your eCommerce website isn’t using user-generated content, you may be missing out on sales.
User-generated content (UGC) refers to any sort of content that a site user or visitor generates. It could be a comment, a review, an uploaded photo, or even a video. UGC can turn a boring, dead website that people forget to visit into a daily go-to destination.
People love reading what other people have to say. Back before the internet, newspapers were the main source of daily news. Many people would open up their newspaper and skip right to the editorial page just to read the Letters to the Editor. The enduring popularity of advice columns even into the digital age speaks to the compelling nature of relatable stories from real people.
By adding user-generated content to your website, you can add tremendous value to your customers, improve the rate of return visits, and increase sales. In order to fully benefit from user-generated content, you should understand some of the different ways it can be utilized, as well as the pros and cons.
2 Main Types of User-Generated Content
While there are many different ways to categorize user-generated content, it might help to look at it in two very broad categories:
1. User Contributions (Curated and Non-Curated)
User contributions are any sort of content that users contribute directly to the website, without much direct interaction with other users. This type of user-generated content is generally one-way between the user and the business.
A good example of this would be a testimonial. The user sends the testimonial to the business, which selects it, possibly edits it, and then posts the testimonial. This would also be an example of curated content, where the business vets and edits everything that users post. A great way to gather, curate, and display dynamic user generated content is through an app, like Rivet.
Rivet features customizable post-purchase questions, enables multi-page, configurable display of UCG, and gather data on customer submissions , which enables store owners to learn how to improve their business through direct feedback.
User contributions don’t all have to be hand-selected and curated as testimonials tend to be. Product reviews are also examples of user contributions, and they may be fully curated or partially moderated depending on the business. Users might also post photos of products, write blog posts, or share success stories.
2. Online Community (User-to-User)
Online community refers to two-way content in which users interact with each other through the website. At first, online community came in two main forms: online bulletin boards (or forums) and email discussion lists. With the advent of social media, online community might extend beyond a company’s website to Facebook groups. Comment sections are also examples of an online community.
Online community can be very powerful, but be forewarned, it can also become a destructive force and a PR nightmare if a company is having issues. Moderation of online communities is important to maintain civility, keep discussions on track, and stop spam.
On a positive note, online communities can help with brand loyalty, and for technical products, can serve as a place where users can connect with one another on technical advice, reducing the need of hired technical support staff.
Considerations on Applying User-Generated Content
How and when you use user-generated content on your website will depend on a lot of factors: the products you sell, the demographics of your customers, and the type of brand you have.
For example, a clothing company that appeals primarily to millennials will probably have a lot more success with user-generated photos than a law firm trying to market to victims of insurance fraud. Here are a few things to take into consideration when planning your user-generated content:
Is your target audience more likely to use social media, take selfies, or chat online? Or are they business professionals who don’t want to waste time and prefer practical information?
Do you have a brand with the potential to have a “following”? For example, a craft beer might develop a loyal following, but a company that sells office supplies probably would not generate the same type of enthusiasm.
If you are considering implementing a user community such as a Facebook group or a support bulletin board, do you have the staff and/or expertise to moderate and/or manage volunteer moderators, to make sure the community doesn’t go off the rails? Fortunately, more and more technology solutions are available to help with moderation, and some services like Disqus can help screen comments for you.
4. Comfort Level
Having user-generated content sometimes means your users are going to say bad things about your product or business. Are you comfortable with allowing some criticism of your company, or do you prefer having complete control over your messaging?
Depending on the unique needs of your business, you might choose to have only a small amount of curated user content that you tightly control, or you could establish a free-for-all online community and let the chips fall where they may.
5 Ways to Use User-Generated Content
With the above considerations in mind, here are just a few ways to insert user-generated content into your eCommerce website. You can also be creative and come up with new ways to engage your users.
1. Product Reviews
It’s up to you whether you allow all product reviews (even the bad ones) or just hand-select positive reviews that you curate in advance. Product reviews can also have the additional community element of user comments.
2. Blog Posts
Your users can contribute blog posts. You can select and edit them, or you can have a section where users post in real time, with some moderation to remove spam and anything offensive.
3. Community Groups
Whether in the form of a bulletin board, a Facebook group, or a Slack channel, you can use community groups to connect users with one another and keep them engaged with your brand. An example might be an outdoor equipment company offering a community group for hikers to connect with one another.
Especially if you have a product that is highly visual, such as clothing or accessories, you can encourage your customers to post photos of themselves with your product.
5. Tips and Suggestions
Your users can be a great source of information on how to use your product. People also like to be helpful.
Whatever you decide to incorporate, remember: You can always make adjustments and try something different. Don’t forget to ask for user feedback. Often, your customers will have some great ideas that you might have never considered.
Boost Your eCommerce with User-Generated Content
Upgrade your “dead” eCommerce site from just a catalog to a thriving community of users by incorporating fresh and engaging user-generated content. Our expert team at oBundle can help you determine which user-content strategies might be best for your business, and then we can help you implement them.