For the most part, new customers will hear about your business for the first time through someone else.
The growing dominance of online channels, from Facebook to Amazon and everything in between, has transformed traditional customer purchasing journeys, opening up the very top of the marketing funnel.
From a consumer perspective, it’s very unlikely we’ll take a brand we don’t know for its word; instead, we seek out online reviews and testimonials that recount customer experiences. Recent statistics indicate that an impressive 92% of consumers now read online reviews. Many customers also rely on their own sphere of influence, be it their friends, family, or other online trend-setters for product and experience recommendations, instead of responding directly to marketing campaigns from brands.
As brands grow, whether they like it or not, a plethora of good (and bad) reviews will begin to appear at their fingertips. But how can you use this user-generated content to your advantage and drive sales?
Tip one: Listen to the conversation
Prior to using reviews and other user-generated content for your marketing efforts, make sure you provide a forum for customers to discuss your brand and signpost other popular channels available. Allowing transparency in consumer sentiments is key, as this will confirm the authenticity of comments, while censoring bad reviews erodes trust and credibility. Pooling reviews to build volume is also a worthwhile tactic, as it promotes the feeling of ‘safety in numbers.’
Tip two: use reviews to highlight your blindspots
There’s a common misconception that when it comes to online shopping, consumers solely look for reviews that assess product quality. This isn’t just the case — they’re also looking for cues to help them order the right size, colour, volume and so on, first time. Make it easy for them to read and find reviews, so they can make the right order the first time around. Including cumulative review scores is also a great way of supporting impulse purchases. It provides anyone browsing the website with a quick snapshot of what other customers thought that bought the very same product.
Reviews can also help brands in resolving issues as soon as they appear. By identifying reviews from dissatisfied customers when they happen, brands can quickly rectify the situation to protect their brand in the long run. According to one previous study, for example, 95% of unhappy customers will return to purchase from a brand when problems are resolved quickly and efficiently. After all, customer experience doesn’t end after a product is dispatched, but continues well beyond the purchase.
Tip three: spot your supporters
Influencer marketing has been on an upward trajectory over the past few years. The industry is expected to be worth between $5 and $10 billion by next year, so in most cases, any fans and potential ambassadors of your brand will be eager to make themselves known. On social media in particular it’s easy to find a customer who loves your brand, because they’ve likely tagged you in an image.
When you do find your online supporters, reach out to them with a request to re-use their images, perhaps in exchange for a discount code.
And if you don’t find the images you want from social media, why not create a campaign asking customers to post pictures of themselves using your products? You can run a prize contest for customers who submit their content, helping improve the overall user experience of your brand.
Tip four: launch ambassador-led campaigns
For marketing campaigns featuring user-generated content, email is a great place to start. It’s more than likely your highest revenue-driving channel, and your most common data point for your customers.
Most marketers are experienced in creating a segment of contacts who have bought similar products and crafting a purchasing journey that speaks to them. But user-generated content can help by providing additional authenticity. Putting images of customers using your product/service at the heart of your message portrays them as ambassadors for your brand, and demonstrates to potential customers that your product is trusted and valued by your audience. This approach can then be rolled out across other channels, including social media and display marketing.
Tip five: use user-generated content to enhance your product pages
User-generated content can also play more of a role in your marketing strategy by improving the UX of your website. Where possible on your product pages, add user-generated content that features the product. You can do this by monitoring social media sites to find customers mentioning your brand in their posts. Why not take advantage customers creating content and tagging your brand in it, and show it other consumers? It not only shows that people love your brand, but also that you love your customers.
Today, customers are inundated with marketing communications every day. Finding a way to stand out is becoming increasingly difficult. Making your brand’s content go further – whether by generating it internally, or drawing it from your users – gives your brand a unique advantage. Not only does it give customers a great experience, but it also puts you top of mind for purchases in the future.