The Current State of Consumer-Generated Content

When was the last time you sought out someone’s opinion, either in-person or online, before making a purchase? A week? A day? Maybe even this morning?

Seeking out the opinions of like-minded consumers has become so commonplace that we often hesitate to make purchases without knowing how others fared with a particular product or service. In fact, the average consumer checks more than 10 information sources before making a purchase decision. The popularity of social media has given consumers a giant megaphone to voice their opinions and they are interested in ways to have honest conversations about every aspect of their lives, including the offerings of their favorite (and in some cases least favorite) brands.

The importance of seeking the thoughts and opinions of others is even more evident when looking at the brand response to this surge in consumer engagement. In the last 10 years, brands have transitioned from shying away from online commentary to embracing it. Today, companies are increasingly making consumer-generated content (CGC), including online reviews and ratings, Q&A, and social posts, available and accessible to their consumers. They are turning to CGC to improve their marketing strategies by displaying this type of content on their websites, product pages, social media pages and even in-store or on display at live events.

As brands have clearly recognized, CGC is a great way to increase website traffic and conversion rates for products and services consumers purchase. For example, Bazaarvoice uncovered that having as little as one review (or one piece of CGC) on a brand website can lift conversion rates by nearly 10 percent, and, on average, product page visitors who interact with review content show a 58%  conversion rate.

CGC is also a great tool for informing companies about ways to improve upon their products, services, and business offerings in the ways that most appeal to their consumer base. Consider the widely successful Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor Contest.” In 2013, Lay’s gave their customers real business power by encouraging them to submit CGC revealing their ideal chip flavor, with the four favorite flavors being turned into real chips. What began as an innovative marketing campaign became so popular with consumers that it is now instituted annually, proving that consumer opinions are more important today than ever before.

With the holiday season in full swing, brands are in a prime position to take advantage of consumer content, as many are shopping for someone other than themselves and are even more reliant on the opinions of like-minded shoppers. More than that, it encourages existing consumers to remain engaged with a brand in a fun way and expands the brand visibility at a time when shopper spend is at an all-time high. In fact, during the period between Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2015, the Bazaarvoice network saw 2.6 billion review impressions – a 20% increase from the year previous.

That being said, the success of CGC has now moved beyond just brands and retailers. Recently, the federal government announced its intent to recognize star ratings of its federal agencies – everything from the TSA to national parks to the IRS. Even for government entities, where customer experiences can regularly be inconvenient, opening themselves up to a potential barrage of online negativity through reviews is par for the course in today’s marketplace. As more and more slow-moving industries open the door for a successful two-way customer relationship, we are inundated with the notion that CGC is no longer a nice to have – it’s a must-have in today’s open business environment.

If the government is open to making CGC an ongoing part of their community engagement strategy, it’s easy to assume that many others will be taking the same steps, if they haven’t already made the move to CGC. If you work in an industry that has been slow to adopt consumer-generated content, do not get left behind! Find ways, even small ones, to bring the voice of the consumer into your business. It is a sure way to engage your audience, improve the bottom line and set your company up for continued success in the future.

Sara Spivey is Chief Marketing Officer of Bazaarvoice

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