It’s no secret that user-generated content (UGC) enriches site and store experiences. Retailers know that customer content makes a connection that goes beyond free shipping offers and percentage-off offers.
Leading retailers have found ways to include UGC in each step of the customer journey. First-time site visitors may be shown testimonials from existing customers touting the value proposition of shopping the site. Ratings, reviews, photos and other forms of UGC appear further down the purchase path to keep the shopper engaged and moving toward the order confirmation page.
Engaged shoppers, decreased abandonment, moving toward a purchase… That all sounds great, right? So, why are so many retailers struggling to collect and feature customer content?
While marketers may have the best intentions, the execution and implementation of UGC programs can often distract and disrupt the shopper. Retailers should take a step back and gain a new perspective on their UGC efforts. Here are three ways to get started:
The follies of UGC forms are similar to the struggles of order and shipping confirmation emails. They are all key components of the shopping experience and part of nearly every marketing strategy, yet they are often overlooked and under-utilized by retailers. Think about how order and shipping confirmation emails are commonly less branded and take a “just-the-facts” tone that is disconnected from the more engaging steps of the customer journey that led up to the purchase.
Your UGC forms and solicitations need to avoid this bland-brand approach. Whether it’s a post-purchase request for a product review or an on-site Q&A interaction, ensure that all of your UGC elements visually represent your brand.
Additionally, the steps involved to collect, confirm and feature UGC should have a consistent function and flow as the rest of your site interactions. You want to extend and enhance your brand experience, not distract or disconnect shoppers and customers during these key moments.
In addition to the function, flow and visuals that surround your UGC, you will need to develop copy that represents your brand voice, connects to the consumer and doesn’t disrupt their interactions on your site.
Many retailers will overlook the copy that surrounds UGC submission forms, review request emails or supporting copy on product pages. Take time to audit your existing UGC elements to ensure the copy fits the context in which it appears. Are you asking for content in a tone that matches your brand voice? Is the copy surrounding your product Q&A clearly understood by new shoppers?
Avoid being too technical or mechanical. Making a connection with the consumer through your copy can increase UGC engagement rates.
Be an Observer
Trying to dictate the conversation or forcing your customers to participate in your UGC efforts can lead to disaster. That said, customer content doesn’t wholly happen organically.
Retailers must facilitate the conversation between shoppers and customers. Provide the foundation and formats for UGC interactions, don’t dictate what needs to be written. Promote your UGC once you have it, and actively encourage shoppers and customers to participate.
Think of yourself as the host of a dinner party where your shoppers and customers are your guests. You aren’t able to control the topics that are discussed or which folks decide to chat each other up. You can, however, help to spark the conversation and change topics should things get heated.
Retailers know customer content will help augment many marketing strategies. Most are using UGC in some capacity. Don’t forget that consumer behavior is always changing. Since UGC depends on customer participation, it’s worth setting a quarterly reminder to review your customer content strategies and consider taking a new UGC attitude.
Jim Davidson is Director of Research for TurnTo Networks