How UGC Can Ease Your Biggest Visual Marketing Pains
For e-commerce marketers, the demand for fresh, high-quality visual content is relentless. In addition to your website, you need visuals for display ads on multiple channels as well as on organic and paid social. Not only has this content got to stand out from your competitors, but it needs to be continually refreshed to keep up with your product catalog — and to maintain interest as we all know "banner blindness" is real, right? At Nosto, our latest research suggests that authentic visual user-generated content (UGC) is playing an increasingly important role in tackling these issues.
What Are the Challenges?
Our survey of over 200 e-commerce marketers in North America and the UK highlights their main visual marketing challenges. For example, 87 percent point to the difficulty of maintaining a constant flow of fresh imagery, while 84 percent complain about the high cost of visual content, including both professional photoshoots and influencer-generated visuals.
A third major pain point is the drive to promote diversity. Research from Deloitte suggests that 38 percent of high-growth companies actively measure diversity within brand messaging and imagery. And, in our survey, 83 percent of marketers told us that it’s a challenge ensuring visual assets adequately support diversity across race, gender, age, size and physical ability.
How Can UGC Help?
Many merchants are realizing that part of the solution to visual marketing headaches is staring them in the face: use the positive images and videos customers already share about your company and its products on social media, as opposed to getting net new visuals through the likes of costly photoshoots and influencer marketing.
Eighty-seven percent of survey participants told us that it’s now easier to launch and scale marketing campaigns using visual UGC due to the vast pool of freely available, high-quality content.
Moreover, with customer photos and videos available at no cost, 85 percent of marketers agree that visual UGC minimizes spend compared to using the likes of professional photography and influencer content. And for showcasing diversity, 87 percent maintain that, in an ideal world, they would prefer to use real customer images over those of handpicked models or influencers.
The Hard Part
Despite the positives, 84 percent of merchants still find identifying and sourcing visual UGC challenging. Many will start by identifying and curating the UGC their customers already post on social platforms. For example, when asked which platform generates the most engaging visual UGC, Instagram took the top spot (28 percent), followed by Facebook (23 percent), TikTok (19 percent), YouTube (17 percent), and Twitter/X (10 percent).
However, curating what’s already being shared only takes you so far. To step up your UGC game, you need to be more proactive. Encourage customers to post more images and videos through competitions and incentives, and secure the rights to use the best assets across your marketing. To incorporate UGC on your website and in ads, you need appropriate permissions which can be time consuming. The right technology, however, can automate aspects of this.
Building UGC Communities
Many merchants are getting even more sophisticated with UGC by actively nurturing communities of their biggest customer advocates and sending them specific briefs for visual content to support upcoming campaigns. While you might hesitate to get customers too heavily involved in your marketing, leaning on a customer community can sometimes produce creative visual themes that your in-house team might never consider!
To conclude, there are plenty of reasons to incorporate UGC into your marketing, but trust and authenticity rank among the highest. When it comes to which type of visual content generates the most trust, e-commerce marketers say their customers trust UGC visuals more than professionally shot visuals, influencer content, and the new breed of artificial intelligence-generated visuals.
Damien Mahoney is the chief strategy officer at Nosto. He was the CEO and co-founder of Stackla, the world’s smartest visual content marketing platform, which was acquired by Nosto in 2021.