The Instagram Effect: How the Rise of Visual UGC is Transforming eCommerce

As anyone who’s ever gone on a first date will tell you, first impressions matter. A brand’s website is no exception to this universal truth. Visitors make snap judgments about the appearance of your website in a matter of seconds – 50 milliseconds to be exact. So, what can you do to make sure your brand gets a second date?

Authenticity Wins Every Time: The Case for Visual UGC

With everyone and their uncle posting photos of their day-to-day on Instagram, consumers are more and more interested in and accustomed to authentic, relatable content. 

If stunning, branded imagery was once a sufficient hook to entice shoppers, today’s consumers see right through glossy photo displays. In fact, Yotpo data shows that 77% of shoppers prefer user-generated photos to professional ones, resulting in a higher conversion rate.

When shoppers can see themselves reflected in a brand’s visual marketing strategy, it’s a lot easier for them to envision themselves wearing the outfit or using the product. Professional photos featuring glamorous models can fail to provide the full picture — and with 54% of consumers deciding against purchasing a product due to unhelpful photos, missing the mark on photos is a risky move.  

What’s more, authentic and relatable photos help browsers form an emotional connection with your brand and your customer community. These emotionally connected customers make more purchases, are highly engaged with brand communications, and are more likely to recommend you to their peers. That bond pays off: emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers

Not only do shoppers themselves say they prefer visual UGC, but the aspiration and inspiration encapsulated in a customer photo also conjure powerful emotions in potential buyers. The first step in reaping those benefits is optimizing your UGC collection efforts.  

Collect More, Higher Quality Visual UGC

Collecting visual UGC can be as simple as asking for what you want at just the right time. We’ve gathered a few best practices to ensure that you’re getting as much useful content as possible: 

  • Ask for photos when you send a post-purchase review request. 
  • Optimize your reviews widget on-site to allow for easy photo uploads.
  • Ask for a photo when you receive a five-star review.
  • Offer a coupon in exchange for a photo, to boost retention while collecting UGC.
  • Run a photo contest on social media to engage your audience with your brand and encourage them to get creative. 

As we approach the holidays, you’ll have even more opportunities to put these strategies into action.

Make the Most of the Holiday Season

In the US, 23% of annual sales happen over the holidays. Brands have a golden opportunity to harness that massive momentum and keep it going well into the new year and beyond.  

Re-engage your holiday shoppers by sending post-purchase photo and review requests, or get your social following into the holiday spirit by launching a creative photo contest. Take L.L.Bean, for example. Their annual holiday Instagram campaign invites followers to share photos of their dogs with the hashtag #12DaysofPuppies. The winners get their pups’ photos featured on the official L.L.Bean Instagram account as well as a gift card, resulting in an effective, not to mention adorable, campaign that generates tons of quality UGC. 

New Year, New Visual UGC Display Strategy

No matter how much UGC you collect, you can’t win without a strong strategy for showcasing it. Here are three ways you should be incorporating customer content in the buyer journey in 2020:

Cover every stage of the on-site journey

Whether a customer is seeing your brand for the first time on your homepage, or they’ve clicked through to a product page from an ad, make sure they’re getting to see visual UGC. A homepage UGC gallery can encourage a shopper to keep browsing, while customer photos on a product page can be the final piece of social proof needed for them to hit the “add to cart” button. 

For example, Campus Protein saw a 29% increase in the number of shoppers who went from the product page to checkout when they added customer photos to their Fuel supplement product page. Even the checkout page is an opportunity to erase any last-minute purchase doubts with visual UGC. 

Give shoppers the Instagram experience

Our social feeds have turned us into endless scroll addicts. Replicate that experience on your site with galleries that incorporate your customers’ thumb-stopping Instagram images. Showcasing your products in a way consumers crave pays off: Vanity Planet boosted conversions by 24% when they added an Instagram gallery to their product pages, translating into almost $9,000 in additional sales over just ten days. 

Update your ads

Including authentic customer photos in ads has a major impact on click-through rates, since shoppers respond best to reviews from real people who have bought, used, and loved your products. Using customer content means that you not only create super impactful ads — including retargeting ads for shoppers who’ve browsed your product pages and need a bit more social proof — but you also save resources on ad creative. With so many channels to cover, visual UGC is the most scalable and effective way to create ads. 

The Future of Visual UGC: Customer Videos

64% of shoppers are more likely to buy a product online after watching a video, proving that video has a serious impact on the consumer decision-making process. Similar to photos, consumers aren’t swayed by just any video — they crave authentic, user-generated clips from their fellow shoppers. Early adopters of customer videos stand to gain an edge on competitors.  

Bridging the expectation-reality gap

Videos are a persuasive tool for any merchant to have in their arsenal as information gets lost in translation with photos and text descriptions alone. Shoppers want to see the actual look, color, size, feel, and true use of a product. Customer videos are the best way to help shoppers visualize your product in action. 

Improving SEO

Videos also contain powerful SEO benefits. Including videos on-site can boost Google rankings by indicating to search engines that your site contains rich media that is relevant to search requests.

Merchants can easily collect on-brand, customer-created videos on Instagram and display them onsite at key touchpoints. They can also allow customers to upload videos directly, all without spending a single dollar on production. Video content is a critical addition to any UGC gallery, and keeps things visually interesting with a mix of different content types to engage and convert shoppers. 

About Yotpo

Yotpo, the leading eCommerce marketing platform, helps thousands of forward-thinking brands like Rebecca Minkoff, MVMT,  Bob’s Discount Furniture, and Steve Madden accelerate direct-to-consumer growth. Yotpo’s single-platform approach integrates data-driven solutions for reviews, visual UGC, loyalty, and referrals. Brands with Yotpo are empowered to create smarter, higher-converting experiences that spark and sustain customer relationships. Integrated with the tools you use every day, including Google, Instagram, top eCommerce platforms, and the rest of your tech stack, Yotpo is a Forbes Cloud 100 company with offices in New York, London, Boston, and Tel Aviv.

Yotpo and Classy Llama work together to accelerate growth for today’s leading eCommerce brands. Our strong partnership ensures success through innovative technology, one-of-a-kind design, and creative strategies that help brands convert, engage, and retain customers. 

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