The New Word of Mouth: The State of UGC in Europe

How can your brand best leverage user-generated content to build consumer trust and drive engagement? We surveyed the biggest names in European retail to learn how they're standing out with the content that converts.
INTRO
Today, consumers are content creators.

Europe’s leading retailers are betting big on user-generated content. Driven by the meteoric rise of social media and the ease with which satisfied customers can create and share feedback, user-generated content (UGC) is a vital marketing channel — and it’s overhauling how brands view the customer journey.

Nowadays, consumers’ tweets, posts, photos, and videos are essential to a successful marketing strategy. But, are retailers and brands making the most of this important resource? And how can brands best leverage user-generated content to build consumer trust and drive engagement?

In partnership with eTail, we surveyed the leaders of some of the biggest names in European retail about their approach to user-generated content, the challenges they face, and what the future of marketing holds.

We’re sharing these leading industry insights, as well as top strategies and real examples to help your brand leverage the power of today’s word-of-mouth marketing.

Table of Contents
01
Survey Methodology & Key Findings
02
The Rise of Customer Content
03
Why UGC Boosts Conversion
04
Navigating Compliance
05
How to Build a High-Converting UGC Strategy
01
Survey Methodology & Key Findings
02
The Rise of Customer Content
03
Why UGC Boosts Conversion
04
Navigating Compliance
05
How to Build a High-Converting UGC Strategy
Survey Methodology & Key Findings
Chapter 01
Survey Methodology & Key Findings

In early 2020, WBR Insights and Yotpo anonymously surveyed 100 leaders of some of Europe’s largest eCommerce retailers to learn the challenges they face in working with user-generated content and the innovative solutions they’ve found.

Key Findings

  • The amount of user-generated content in marketing strategies has almost tripled in the last 10 years.
  • Influencer marketing is increasingly becoming the less-preferred channel. Respondents predict that social media advertising and user-generated content will replace it as the most effective forms of marketing. 
  • Almost nine in ten respondents agree that user-generated content increases conversion rates.
  • Compliance with GDPR rules is the biggest challenge facing brands when it comes to leveraging user-generated content.
The Rise of Customer Content
Chapter 02
The Rise of Customer Content

The last 10 years have seen the rise of social media influencers: high-profile individuals with large, engaged, and easily mobilised followings. In fact, 52% of retail leaders we surveyed say that influencer marketing currently yields the most bang for their buck. 

But this recent focus on influencers is just one small part of a longer-term shift towards more personalised advertising campaigns. A UGC-focused approach to marketing creates a platform where everyone, regardless of follower count, has the power to become an influencer and advocate for your brand.

Power to the people

Nobody can say for sure what the marketing landscape will look like in the future, but our respondents overwhelmingly predict that influencers will play a much smaller role in driving conversion. Just 6% of eCommerce leaders we surveyed expect influencer marketing to be the most cost-effective form of marketing in 10 years’ time. 

So what will fill the gap? The retailers we spoke to broadly believe that revenue will be driven by authenticity and social proof. Two thirds (67%) predict social media will become the most effective strategy, while more than a quarter (27%) of respondents say that user-generated content from customers is poised to take the lead.The power to fine-tune interactions with individual customers is the driving force behind this sentiment. According to one respondent, “UGC has more of a direct targeting ability, which will be important in the next 10 years.” 

Right now, 28% of those surveyed are able to tailor communications down to an individual customer. That leaves huge potential to make marketing more relevant to customers at every stage of their purchase journey, especially since 17% of respondents aren’t currently using any form of personalisation at all.

Follow the feed

Where does most user-generated content come from? Just follow the users. Almost all (95%) of the eCommerce leaders we surveyed are using social media posts as part of their content strategies, demonstrating that UGC and social media marketing remain tightly interlinked. 

Retail leaders are also capitalising on their customers’ video content and written reviews, though many believe there’s still a lot of growth potential in this area. One in four (25%) respondents want to integrate more customer videos into marketing campaigns, while almost one in three (32%) are interested in using more user-generated reviews.As for where all of this user-generated content ends up? The majority of respondents display their UGC across a broad range of channels, including traditional digital advertising (55%) and paid social media posts (58%).

Why UGC Boosts Conversion
Chapter 03
Why UGC Boosts Conversion

Personalised communication is one of the most effective ways of driving customer engagement, and with that engagement comes a boost in sales. The survey confirms this, with almost nine in 10 (88%) respondents saying that UGC, such as reviews and photos from customers, increases conversion rates.

We asked the leaders and directors of some of Europe’s biggest online retailers about their UGC campaign goals. Their responses showed that the top priorities are higher brand engagement and building brand trust. They “want to build loyalty through UGC” and recognise that “brand trust is something that only customers can generate.”

Your customers are your creators

Another widely held goal amongst respondents is saving time and resources on content creation. As one respondent put it, “when the marketing team runs out of ideas for organic marketing campaigns, that’s when UGC comes into the picture.” 

It’s essential for brands to feature customer photos and videos in the most visually-appealing ways, like in shoppable visual galleries across their sites, to boost product discovery, brand engagement, and social proof. Creativity is more organic and the message more authentic when it comes straight from other customers.

UGC is also one of the cheapest ways to reach your customers. “If there is a way to market something without spending much on it,” said one respondent, “that will be our top priority.”

Navigating Compliance
Chapter 04
Navigating Compliance

The recent changes in privacy law to ensure the protection of user data have presented a big challenge for eCommerce retailers. The result is that infrastructure in Europe is now more robust than ever when it comes to safeguarding customer privacy.

Despite this, some retailers are still concerned about handling customer data. One third (32%) of respondents said that GDPR compliance is their main challenge when it comes to user-generated content. And while the amount of UGC used by respondents has almost tripled in the last 10 years, those surveyed are still using twice as much first-party data as they do third party data for marketing campaigns.Building a healthy data relationship with your customers is more important than ever, so how do retail brands get hold of customer data post-GDPR? Half (51%) of respondents believe the most sustainable way is by prioritising customer loyalty, while one third (33%) say that transparency is the key, through giving customers full insight into how their data is being used.

How to Build a High-Converting UGC Strategy
Chapter 05
How to Build a High-Converting UGC Strategy

It’s clear that Europe’s leading retailers are looking to user-generated content to drive engagement. In fact, the use of UGC in marketing strategies has almost tripled in the last 10 years. So, how can your brand ensure that this influential content isn’t lost in the marketing noise? It starts with being at the right place at the right time. 

The customer journey is no longer a straight line; instead, it’s an unpredictable squiggle. Diligent shoppers bounce from channel to channel many times before finally deciding to make a purchase, which means that in order to reach them you have to leverage UGC on as many different marketing channels as possible.

With Yotpo’s advanced eCommerce marketing platform, brands are uniquely positioned to drive success with UGC across every consumer touchpoint. Yotpo’s data-driven Reviews & Ratings solution makes it easy for brands to collect more customer reviews and ratings via email, SMS, on site, and more — seamlessly enabling brands to turn authentic product feedback into purchases. 

Brands can also leverage Yotpo’s Visual Marketing Suite to bring the Instagram experience to life with on-site shoppable visual galleries showcasing customer photos and videos to increase product discovery, boost brand engagement, and create new pathways to purchase. Shoppers who read reviews or browse customer photos with Yotpo are 98% more likely to convert than those who don’t.

aim’n powers buyer confidence with authentic reviews

For Swedish athletic clothing brand aim’n, both reviews and visual user-generated content are essential to helping their brand build trust and drive conversion.

aim’n not only features reviews on every product page, but the brand enables shoppers to ask questions about the products as well. With answers from the community, shoppers can be confident in every purchase decision they make.

And, with authentic customer photos and videos on a visual gallery on the homepage, it’s easy for first-time and return shoppers alike to be inspired by aim’n products in action. The value of on-site user-generated content is clear — shoppers are 48% more likely to return to a site after seeing UGC.

Beautify boosts engagement with on-site Instagram experiences

UK-based home decor brand Beautify similarly engages their customers with influential and authentic customer-created content across the buyer journey. The brand sets a visual UGC standard on the initial customer touchpoint with reviews on the homepage. From there, Beautify not only showcases reviews and questions on product pages — the brand features real-time visual galleries as well. More visual customer content across the site boosts engagement and decreases bounce rates; shoppers who view visual UGC spend 90% more time on site than shoppers who don’t.

Shoppers are now able to read reviews from shoppers who have bought in the past, and they can see visual photo and video evidence that those reviews are authentic. Adding visual content to a product page is proven effective — 4x as many customers prefer to see a photo or watch a video about a product they’re interested in purchasing. 

The Future with UGC

It’s simple: consumers trust other consumers more than they trust brands. 

As brands continue to work to create the most engaging content experiences for their online shoppers, authentic reviews, ratings, and visual user-generated content only becomes increasingly more important. As this survey demonstrates, brands that choose not to prioritise customer content will find themselves behind the curve.

Yotpo empowers brands to feature authentic reviews and visual social proof at high-converting points along the buyer journey, so you can meet your customers where they are with impactful user-generated content that boosts conversion, sparks engagement, and builds consumer trust.

To learn more about Yotpo’s Ratings and Reviews, head here. To learn more about Yotpo’s Visual Marketing Suite, head here.

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