Five ways to Illuminate the Path to Purchase with More Customer-Generated Content

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In a world where we are all information-rich, the days when customers make purchase decisions without thoroughly researching them first are long gone.

And they’re looking for very specific types of information as they move from browsing an item to knowing for sure that they must have it…now.

Think about it: you need to advance their thought process. They have intent but they need something extra to motivate them to actually hit the “buy” button. Providing information that’s insightful, accurate and authentic at this make-or-break point of their journey is therefore absolutely critical.

Customer-Generated Content (CGC) can be the key to converting shoppers into customers. But what is it and why can it have such a big impact?

What is Customer-Generated Content?

Customer- or User-Generated Content is any consumer-created material about a product or service. Typically, it’ll speak to the quality or other important aspects (e.g. look and feel, fit or size, warmth and so on) of the product as perceived by the poster of the information. Examples include social media posts, ratings and reviews. Customers trust it because it’s genuine, authentic and well-intentioned.

Successful businesses are now heavily focused on optimizing this type of content – both in terms of the volumes generated and type of formats created – before showcasing it throughout the journey or in their marketing activities. This provides essential validation during the buying process that can turn consumers from browsers into buyers.

Consumers want CGC and lots of it

People are concerned about fake information all over the web. Online shoppers are no different and this invariably has a big effect on their decision-making process.

When it comes to customer-generated content, in today’s marketplace, more is definitely therefore better. Thanks to the increasing skepticism over the authenticity of online content, the days when a handful of reviews or social media advocates was enough to move shoppers along the path to purchase are long gone. Today, research reports vary, but a recent survey of 1,000 US consumers found respondents expect an average of 112 reviews when looking at a product online. 

More reviews mean more credibility and more conversions.

5 strategies for soliciting more content  

So a high volume of CGC is key. As is ensuring it’s solicited through multiple avenues and in a range of formats. Different customers respond to different solicitation opportunities so it’s important to give them choice. Here are five key strategies to help you succeed:

  1. Increase modes of solicitation to maximize review content:
    Establishing an effective solicitation strategy requires an understanding of both the available technologies and the needs of your brand. For example, for a client with an average basket size of 2.7 items per order, we proposed a review form option that allows customers to leave reviews for multiple items without refreshing or leaving the page. This simple adjustment led to a 300% increase in reviews captured.

    In another case, an apparel brand had only about 1,000 reviews on their site. They adjusted their collection form to allow for reviewing multiple products, added a second email reminder asking for a review, and added a sweepstakes incentive. One month later, they had nearly 10,000 reviews supporting their brand’s path to purchase, and now they receive roughly 8,000 reviews every month. If sweepstakes aren’t a good fit for you, collecting reviews via text message or your store network is another great way to increase volumes.

  2. Improve contextual tags such as pros/cons and size fit:
    The second strategy focuses on providing additional information beyond the rating and comment. Asking about things like fit or best uses for a given product can lead to a 90% increase in review depth overall while sparking the kind of product storytelling that immediately enhances context and relevancy. It also gives critical contextual information about the item to prospective shoppers, which is proven to lead to higher conversion and fewer returns.

  3. Incorporate imagery:
    Our Snapshot for Ecommerce study found 88% of consumers specifically look for pictures submitted by other consumers prior to making a purchase. In fact, just one image added to a product’s reviews increases traffic 18% and conversion 69%. Big numbers. Says Krakowski: “One of the best ways to improve the authenticity of your content is to encourage reviewers to submit photos or videos. User-submitted photos show products ‘in the wild,’ giving real-life context to those user stories. This is particularly important among younger demographics. We’ve seen that among the under-30 crowd, more than half say user-submitted visuals are more important than the glossy photos produced by a retailer or brand.”

  4. Add the ability to ask questions:
    Another way to capture more user content is by adding a Q&A section, especially when you allow your community of customers to not only ask questions but also encourage them to respond to each other. Shoppers use this section of a page to learn additional information about a product. Coming directly from other customers, user-generated questions and answers can highlight use cases or benefits of the product that shoppers might not have thought of – and in a completely authentic way. And, brand responses to customer questions build rapport with the community, showing that the brand is listening and cares.

  5. Ask your ideal target to write a review through sampling:
    One final strategy for generating more reviews is to identify your brands’ ideal target audience. Then proactively reach out with an offer of a sample in exchange for a review. This strategy also helps to build a sense of community with a brand and often results in more imagery as consumers try the products and post their own images.
There are lots of ways to solicit more CGC. The key is providing opportunities in different formats and across different channels.

By activating strategies like these, brands encourage more customer-generated content and can use it to drive conversion. In addition, increased engagement with their target audience and more insights gleaned across more customer data points help drive trust and longer-term value.

Authenticity matters

While more customer-generated content is important, ensuring the authenticity and transparency of that content is absolutely critical. A two-pronged approach works best: gathering the content from authentic voices, and carefully scrubbing it to weed out any semblance of fake or fraud. 

“First, by strategically identifying the voices of the everyday consumers who have emerged as today’s most trusted influencers, brands can collect and amplify authentic customer-generated content to maximize awareness, trust and impact,” says Goldberg. “This is why we have built an engaged community of everyday influencers. We have  advanced targeting, screening and qualification, as well as innovative moderation processes to confirm the authenticity of the resulting reviews.”

But it all starts with generating more content.

“Before worrying about how authentic the content is, it’s important to ensure you have enough content on your site at all,” explains PowerReviews Director of Insights Carol Krakowski. “Customers tend to be more skeptical of high ratings especially when there are only a handful of reviews on the site. To get that increased coverage in content, you need to find the right collection strategy for your brand. And then, we make sure it’s all authentic.”

In conclusion

Customer-generated content is key to illuminating the path to purchase, providing the extra validation needed to convert.

This is because it provides the social proof (i.e. justification and verification) necessary to demonstrate the quality of any given product. The more authentic CGC you are able to generate, the more sales you are likely to make.

You can take a number of steps to solicit more CGC, including sampling and providing opportunities to deliver feedback in multiple formats. And the more personalized you can make it to the buyer, the better. A thoughtful and strategic focus is therefore critical.

Why? It all comes back to trust. Trust is everything when it comes to customer brand interaction. And the reality is that there’s a limit to the amount of trust you can foster on your own. So let your customers illuminate the path to purchase for you.

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