Today’s consumers have nearly endless choices when it comes to shopping. In order to compete — and win — in this increasingly competitive marketplace, it’s critical for brands and retailers to provide consumers with the information they’re looking for when researching and purchasing products, including reviews, photos and videos submitted by others like them.
There are many different types of user-generated content (UGC), and they all play a role in the shopping journey. Below you'll find five tips for optimizing UGC:
1. Improve Organic and Paid Search Results
PowerReviews research on the path to purchase found that more than a third (35 percent) of consumers start the purchase journey on a search engine. The good news is ratings and reviews can help boost your presence on search engines by providing fresh, keyword-rich content that search engines (and consumers) love. For example, let’s say you navigate to Google and search for “classic polo for my college son.” The first result is a polo shirt from Vineyard Vines, thanks to a review that includes the keywords you searched for. Furthermore, since Vineyard Vines’ website is structured according to Schema.org standards, it appears in the search results, enticing you to click through.
Ratings and reviews can also improve your paid search results. For starters, adding star ratings to Product Listing Ads will increase your clickthrough rate. In addition, Selling Ratings allow you to display stars in search results, capturing the attention of even more online shoppers.
2. Optimize for UGC Collection
The No. 1 best practice for collecting more UGC is to ask for it. Be sure to send a post-purchase email asking your customers to review recently purchased products. We’ve found that up to 90 percent of all review content is a result of a post-purchase email. Make it extremely clear what you’re asking the customer to do. For example, if you’re looking to generate more visual content, put the ask in the subject line and in the body of your email.
In addition, remember that many orders include more than one item. In fact, in the PowerReviews network, more than 60 percent of orders have more than one product. Therefore, make it easy for shoppers to submit reviews for all purchased products from one page.
3. Optimize for Mobile
Today’s consumers are doing just about everything from their phones — including writing and reading reviews. At PowerReviews, we saw an 87 percent increase in reviews written on mobile in 2016 compared to 2015.
Make sure the entire process of submitting reviews, photos and videos can easily be completed on a smartphone. And instead of requiring customers to navigate to a third-party site such as YouTube in order to submit a video, allow them to upload this content directly to your website from their phones.
4. Highlight Visual Content Beyond the Product Page
PowerReviews research found that 88 percent of consumers specifically look for visual content submitted by other consumers before making a purchase. Once you’ve collected great photos and videos from your customers, display them where future shoppers can easily find them. Start by featuring this visual content in an engaging gallery on your product pages. Then think about ways you can leverage this content on other areas of your website, including your homepage, category pages and campaign-specific landing pages.
In addition, think about ways you can feature this visual content in your other print and digital marketing initiatives. For example, Apple prominently features user-generated photos in its billboard campaigns to inspire future customers.
5. Identify and Engage Loyalists to Generate Content
Consumers who are passionate about a brand or product are priceless. Identify loyalists not just by spend, but also by the amount and quality of the content they’ve submitted. Look at the number of reviews they’ve written, the products they’ve reviewed, how often their reviews are voted as “most helpful,” and whether they’ve submitted high-quality images and videos as part of their reviews.
Once you’ve identified these loyalists, ask them to contribute reviews, photos and videos. Consider offering them incentives such as loyalty points, coupons, free samples or a sweepstakes entry in exchange for reviews. For the sake of transparency, make sure to appropriately badge reviews that were generated as a result of such an incentive. That way, shoppers understand who wrote each review.
Theresa O'Neil is senior vice president of marketing at PowerReviews, a platform to increase product ratings and reviews, site traffic and conversion.