Woman on computer looking at clothes

Your customers sell your product better than you do!

User-generated content helps people make a decision about whether a product is right for them. Showcasing your customers’ content is a great way to increase engagement and conversion.

Marty Drill

By Marty Drill, 27 March 20239 minute read

Your friends are visiting your city and instead of Googling, ‘best steak restaurants Melbourne CBD near Flinders St’ you ask your colleagues in Slack. What do your colleagues have that Google doesn’t? Trust. While search results are not necessarily inherently biased, we trust our friends and colleagues because they can share their experiences and their recommendation holds more weight than Google. 

Picture of a Slack message asking for reccomendations

We have the most advanced search engines in history and we continue to seek recommendations from friends on a range of purchases.  We seek social cues to help us identify if a product is right for us. Every company claims that its product is the best, and we often fear buyer’s remorse and seek to minimise it. So how do we identify whether something is worth buying, if our peers do not have a recommendation for us? We turn to reviews. 

Reviews on Airbnb, Uber, hotels, vacations, zoos, adventures, restaurants, movies, theatre, any type of experience. People also read reviews on any product that you can think of. People connect with people’s experience. They hope that they too either have that experience if it’s a good one, or are able to avoid that person’s experience if it’s a bad one. Every brand and product is always going to have outliers; people tend to go with the overall view of the crowd. 

If an Airbnb rating was 2.1, are you likely to book the property? Well, if it was just somewhere to stay for the night and the price was right, you might. But if you were going away for a long weekend with a group of friends, you would very likely give it a miss. The rating influences us significantly because even though we don’t know these people, their willingness to share their experience is something that we value. 

We value authenticity. Brands will tell you they are authentic, however it is in their interest to do so. When it comes to a stranger’s experience, they can be more authentic as it was actually their experience and they have nothing to gain (usually) from sharing that experience. 

User Generated Content (UGC) 

Steps for a UGC strategy

  • Make it easy and fun
  • Engage with user-generated content
  • Make it rewarding
  • Showcase their content
  • Manage and engage your community 

Put simply, consumers are more likely to trust and engage with content created by other consumers than with branded content. UGC provides an authentic perspective of a brand, which builds trust with customers.

When customers create and share content related to a brand, it not only shows their loyalty and affinity but also encourages others to engage with the brand. This can lead to increased social media shares, likes, comments, and overall engagement.

At SXSW in Austin, Dave Sahdpour, CEO of Social Native, asked why all product pages were basic images on a white background. Have you noticed that all the sites are starting to look the same? Dave concluded that there would be higher engagement and conversion if the page included information about other people’s experience. 

What if the picture of the product, such as a sweater, changed to a different person wearing it when you select the size from the drop-down list. Would seeing someone wearing the product in your size make you more likely to purchase the product? If it looks good, yes! If not, then you probably don’t want to buy it and are grateful to the brand for showing you what it might look like. 

Getting images for every size and colour in the product range from customers might be difficult. Asking a customer for each size of a product for an image of them wearing it would mean 5-6 images per product. Colour variations may increase this to 30-60 images. So a simple strategy would be to alter the 5-6 images to show the different colours available. However, if you are going to alter an image, let the creators know when they submit their photo. 

You are still going to need high quality photos and video to support your brand’s story. However, UGC can be a cost-effective way for retail brands to create additional content that is more tailored to the individual. In most cases, brands can leverage the content their customers are creating for free. This not only saves money but also increases the volume of content available for the brand to use. It may also have an added benefit with customers sharing your product with their content. 

Increasing your reach

User-generated content can help a brand reach new audiences. If content that one of your customers created is used on your site, they are very likely to share it among their networks. It exposes the brand to their followers and can lead to new followers and potential customers. Water brand LifeWTR is highly effective at using content created by both customers and non-customers. Ever since the brand launched, it has been inviting artists to submit content that can be used on its water bottles. While the product is another water bottle, the brand is about empowering artists and showcasing their work. 

Imagine if the art of someone you knew was on this product, how many would you buy? 

Steps for your UGC strategy

  1. Make it easy and fun
  2. Engage with user-generated content
  3. Make it rewarding
  4. Showcase the content
  5. Manage and engage your community 

Getting started can seem difficult at first. We recommend experimenting with content that is generated by customers vs generated by your brand. Use A/B testing to determine which has a higher engagement or conversion rate. Trying it out on one page will not be time intensive or expensive. 

Put up a form on your site calling for content on a specific product and see what you get. It might be important to list some guidelines for people to follow. You can be specific with your brief, though don’t kill the creativity. It’s also a good idea to make it clear how the content might be used. Just because someone uploads content to a brand’s site does not automatically give the brand permission to use it for any purpose.

If what you get isn’t up to scratch, reach out to specific customers who have purchased the product that you want to showcase. Ask them if they are willing to take a photo wearing/using it. Offer them a reward for their time, such as a free gift or discount off the next purchase. 

The best content is from people who have purchased from you and love your brand or product. The level of authenticity that comes from passionate customers is likely to be more engaging than a campaign with stock photography or paid actors. 

If this strategy feels too risky for your company, put up a form seeking content and see what you get. If the content is good, it will convince people internally very quickly. 

At the very least, interview some customers or use their Google reviews to provide certainty and social cues to prospective customers looking to buy.  

Managing the creators 

There is effort in managing your community of creators. If you end up using a lot of UGC, you will end up needing a way to manage all the content. An initial form, a spreadsheet and a content drive will be fine initially, though eventually you may need something to manage it all. Products like Social Native can allow you to receive, review, rate and approve content. A lot of tools will do this in some way, the rights management component of this product is very handy. 

If you pay influencers, which may not be necessary if you get your UGC strategy right, you will need some kind of platform to manage them and your agreements. 

Customer reviews

Would you book an Airbnb or a hotel without reading the reviews or at the very least looking at the score? Most people wouldn’t. Reviews are a form of user-generated content and need to be considered as part of your strategy. Platforms like BizzareVoice will tell you they can ‘help you leverage the authentic voice of the customer’. This platform has grown so big now that its claim is actually legitimate. 

The investment can lead to higher conversion. The challenge you now face as a brand is that reviews are so ubiquitous that not having them may lead to reduced conversion. Start with the free version of a top-selling product and identify whether it leads to higher conversion before committing to it. 

B2B reviews

It is people who make buying decisions in companies and often these decisions have a far greater impact on them than whether the runners they purchased were the right choice. People need to understand other people’s experience to lessen the risk in making their decision. While the transactions are typically larger and more complex than retail, testimonials continue to play a large role in the decision making process. A simple quote on the site from the CFO of a customer might not be enough to sway the decision of another customer. However a video is likely to have a greater influence as there is more time to go in depth about how your solution helped their business. They may still follow up with a reference and ask their detailed questions of your customer, though a video testimonial on a product/solution page is likely to get you on the shortlist. 

The basic view of marketing is that humans are tribal and are looking to reinforce their identity by making decisions that are consistent with someone of that ‘tribe’. Our buying decisions tend to reinforce our identity or our view of ourselves. If this is the case, then seeing someone like us provide a testimonial about how the product makes them feel, then having UGC on a call to action or buy page, simply makes sense. Customers want to avoid buyers' remorse and seeing someone wear the sweater in their size or getting a recommendation for a restaurant, helps the buying decision, reinforces the purchase and ultimately has us feel known. Imagine visiting a store and seeing a picture of people who look like you and wearing the product or sharing information about their experience with it. Are you more likely to buy it? Now imagine a perfectly skinny model with impossible abs wearing the product. Which one makes you feel more comfortable? One might be more appealing to your aspiration, but authenticity also sells. 

Happy customers are your best advocates. Engage them and they will engage your audience. People listen to people, not brands, when it's time to buy.


SXSW is coming to Sydney in October. This will be the first time the conference has ever been held out of Austin, let alone America. Get yourself a ticket now, so you can access cheaper hotel rooms. https://sxswsydney.com/ 

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