4 Questions to Ask Before Paying for User-Generated Content Syndication

By now, most brands understand the important role user-generated content (UGC) — including reviews, Q&A, photos and videos — plays in the modern consumer’s path to purchase. Our research found that a staggering 97% of consumers consult product reviews before making a purchase. And 88% of shoppers look for photos and videos from others like them before committing to a purchase. 

In a relatively short amount of time, UGC has evolved from a nice-to-have to a must-have. In order to attract and convert customers, brands must make it a priority to collect and display more of this content across channels. By doing so, shoppers can make informed purchase decisions, and brands can boost their bottom lines. 

UGC syndication is one way brands strive to increase the reach of the content they collect. However, depending on where you want to syndicate this content to and in what volumes, this tends to be expensive. No brand or retailer – regardless of their size or the revenue power they possess – wants to waste expenditure.

This is a question we get a lot from our customers. So should you assign budget to UGC syndication? The answer is: it depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

UGC syndication, defined

How exactly does UGC syndication work? Essentially, syndication is when one business shares some form of user generated content — such as a review, question, photo or video — with another business. 

For example, let’s say a shopper submits a review via a brand’s site. The brand displays the review on its own website. The exact same review is then shared with the brand’s chosen retailers, and these companies display the review on their ecommerce sites, too.

Let’s take a look at a quick example to illustrate how it works. This shopper submitted a review on hormelfoods.com for bacon. This review is displayed on Hormel’s website — and is shared with Target.com for display on the appropriate product page, extending the value of this specific review. A badge is displayed as part of the review on Target.com, letting shoppers know the review was originally posted on hormelfoods.com.

The cost of UGC syndication 

There are different cost models out there, so how much you end up paying to circulate your UGC content to all the different platforms on which you sell your products will depend on 1) the vendors you work with and 2) where exactly you want to get your UGC content to.

Different UGC vendors have different “syndication networks”. This means each vendor has relationships with different groups of retailers, and therefore is able to syndicate your UGC to different locations. In certain situations, there is a cost attached to this.

Is content syndication worth the cost?

We have established partnerships with other UGC distribution networks to help our brands reach all their desired content destinations, but you’ll have to consider whether the cost from their providers is worth it. Let’s take a look.

1. How much UGC do your key retail partners already have for your products?

Oftentimes, a retailer has a lot of existing content for a given brand’s products. This is because they have the content the brand has historically syndicated to their site. On top of this, the retailer is also regularly generating their own native content for the products they sell.

If one of your retail partners already has a high volume of content for your products, syndication won’t make much of an impact…and it probably isn’t worth the cost. 

For example, Walmart.com currently displays more than 30,000 reviews for Huggies Little Snugglers baby diapers. Content freshness is critical so a constant stream of reviews – as is the case here – is important wherever your products are sold. 

Point being: if your retailer partners are receiving a steady volume of native reviews for your product, you may be able to live without a further investment in content syndication.

Incidentally, if you do need to improve “content freshness”, Product Sampling is a great way to do this. Campaigns can be run specifically to generate ratings and reviews on specific retailer sites.

But what about if you’re launching a new product and want there to be plenty of UGC available for shoppers, wherever they purchase the product? In this case, is syndication the answer? 

Consider a retailer-specific product sampling campaign instead. It’s generally a more cost effective way to get content on your retailer sites for your new product (or any other products in need of more content).

How does a retailer-specific product sampling campaign work? You send free samples of your product to a targeted audience. In exchange for receiving the product, shoppers share their honest feedback by submitting a review on a specific retailer’s site. 

Your retailer gets a high volume of reviews for the new product — at PowerReviews, we find that more than 85% of consumers who receive a free sample will go on to write a review. And you don’t have to foot the bill for syndication. But what if you have a wide catalog of newly launching products, and you need to get all of that content to multiple retailer destinations? In that case, it might make sense to consider paying for access to another syndication network. If you think this might apply to you, either reach out to your PowerReviews Customer Success Manager (if you’re a customer) or contact us today to talk it through.

2. Are you playing second fiddle to retailers on Google? 

A PowerReviews survey found that more than a third of shoppers start the purchase journey on Google or another search engine. A solid SEO strategy helps ensure these shoppers can easily find your product pages. 

Take a minute to navigate to Google and search for one of your products. Is your eCommerce site the first result? Or is it one of your retail partners?

If you’re not showing up first in search engine results, your money would be better spent increasing visibility to your own site. 

UGC is a key way to do that. 

A steady stream of UGC keeps your site’s content fresh and relevant with keyword-rich, permanent assets on your product pages. Search engines will crawl this content, and this helps shoppers find it.

So rather than paying to syndicate content to retailers, invest in content generation. Product sampling is a great way to quickly get more content on your site. And doing so will help ensure your website is a top result when shoppers are in the market for your products.

3. Should you be instead focusing on your own site?

The big retailers will always be an important channel for a lot of brands. They offer phenomenal reach and exposure.

However, many brands are now focusing on trying to drive traffic and sales to their own sites. Which makes sense: they no longer have to split the resulting revenue and have more control.

This is a trend that has been significantly accelerated by COVID (our Holiday Survey actually highlights how 56% of US consumers are planning to go “Direct to Consumer” this Holiday season).

Although a huge brand, Nike is a great example. Now, Nike has invested a lot of money in its own brand and its site and overall web presence reflects this. This makes complete sense. Why? Try googling “Nike” and you’ll see that you are diverted firstly to Nike.com (whether you are on Google Shopping or not) and not the retailers that sell Nike products. So why wouldn’t they want to capture this traffic rather than let it slip elsewhere?

Now you may not be anywhere near as big as Nike. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow the same model.

Let’s say a shopper navigates directly to your website. Or perhaps they click through to one of your product pages from Google. Will they find enough UGC to make a confident purchase from your site?

The same PowerReviews survey I mentioned earlier found that almost half of shoppers will turn to a search engine if there aren’t reviews (or aren’t enough reviews) for a product on an ecommerce site. And 25% will head to Amazon. I’m willing to bet that in most cases, those shoppers don’t return to the first site.

Also consider this: building a robust set of first-party data about your customer is becoming increasingly important. GDPR and CCPA restrict a marketer’s ability to use third-party cookie data from their retailer partners. Brands must be able to rely on their own data to retarget consumers and personalize the shopping funnel. To gather the necessary first-party data, you need to be driving customers to your brand site, not to a retailer’s site.

Rather than paying to syndicate your UGC, think about investing in content generation for your own ecommerce site. It’ll help give your site visitors the confidence they need to convert.

4. Are there other ways to get your content on key websites?

You’ve determined that sharing content with key retailers is a necessity. But is there a more cost effective way to get it there? And are those retailers so impactful to the sales you generate as a brand that focusing on those make sense for you as a brand?

In fact, there may be other low to no cost ways to share UGC from your website to key retailer sites. For example, we at PowerReviews makes it easy for shoppers to share the reviews they write on your own website to other key locations, including Amazon. Here’s an example. A shopper writes a thorough review for a winter hat on the brand’s website. After submitting the review, they’re asked to share the review to Amazon.

We do this to help brands get maximum impact from their UGC for minimum cost. Be sure to ask your UGC partner what your options are for sharing reviews and other types of UGC.

Is paid syndication right for you?

User-generated content has become a key component of the purchase journey. It’s important to ensure shoppers can find plenty of this content, regardless of where they shop for your products. 

It might seem unavoidable to pay hefty fees to syndicate your content. There are a lot of things to consider when making that decision. But in many cases, you’ll get a larger ROI from other initiatives. 

Still not sure if syndication is right for you? If you’re an existing PowerReviews client, contact your Client Success Director to discuss. If you’re not a PowerReviews customer, you can either learn more about our approach to UGC syndication or get in touch with us direct today.

Andrew Bolander

Andrew Bolander

As an Enterprise Senior Customer Success Manager and Senior Account Manager, Andrew's primary focus revolves around driving and strategically utilizing user-generated content to influence sales for his multi-national customer base. When he isn't brainstorming on new strategic initiatives, you can find him on his bicycle or hidden under an umbrella on the Puerto Vallarta beaches.

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