6 Ways to Encourage User Generated Content

User submitted content like product reviews, guest blog posts, and rich media provide online retailers with excellent and marketable resources that might boost site traffic and encourage additional sales.

When online shoppers can choose from hundreds of retailers selling similar or even identical products, it is important for ecommerce marketers to look for opportunities to differentiate. One way of separating a retail business from its competition is to provide content that is either useful — in that it helps folks complete some task, achieve some goal, or make a better decision — or entertaining.

What follows are six suggestions for encouraging your shoppers and site visitors to submit content that in turn you can use to get more site traffic and, hopefully, additional sales.

Let Shoppers Know You Want Content

It sounds obvious, but there are plenty of times when just letting shoppers know that you want content, whether reviews or pictures, is enough to encourage them to submit something.

Consider putting a large link or button on product detail pages that asks visitors to publish a review. You may also wish to put a “Latest Reviews” section on category pages or even on your site’s home page, including a link or button for submitting a review.

You may also be able to get users to post content in social media. A retailer in the northwest, as an example, regularly asks customers for photos on Facebook. The Facebook post might ask for shoppers to post their a picture of their favorite boots or shoes or to show off what they have done with some item purchased from the store.

Reward Users for Blog Posts, Videos, and Photos

Shoppers may be willing to provide content in exchange for some reward.

A multi-channel farm and ranch chain, as an example, gives customers a $25 gift card for published blog posts. A teenaged girl’s posts about horse training have generated hundreds of site visits.

Horse-training blog post photo

A user-generated blog post and photo about horse training produced hundreds of visits to a retailers’ website.

Similarly, two bikini makers — Malibu Strings and Wicked Weasel — are famous in some marketing circles for encouraging attractive gals to submit photographs or even videos of themselves wearing the company’s bikinis in exchange for free swimsuits. This user-generated content has attracted so many site visitors that Wicked Weasel has even set up a social media network specifically for bikini fans, wearers and watchers. Both retailers employ the user-generated content as photography on product detail pages, category pages, and on their respective home pages. Many visitors come to check out the pictures and buy something too.

In these examples, shoppers get a known reward for submitting the content.

Use Contests to Encourage Contributions

Contests are another great way to get user generated content. Typically there is a single prize offered and users submit something in order to get a chance to win that prize.

A couple of years ago, retailer Crate and Barrel ran an ultimate wedding contest. The promotion garnered more than 7,500 entries and gave Crate and Barrel some good content, including photos of the winners and descriptions of the Crate and Barrel products those winners liked best.

As another example, many stores run photo contests around Halloween. A pet toy retailer might get dozens or even hundreds of photos, which would be great content for product pages, blog posts, or social media sites, with a pet costume contest.

Ask for Product Reviews

Many online shoppers trust product reviews to help them make buying decisions or even choose a retailer. For this reason, it can be a good idea to ask customers to submit product reviews.

Beyond adding links to reviews and asking for reviews on your website, you can invite customers to write a review in transactional emails. When a shopper receives a shipping notification from your store, consider including a short message asking for a review.

Your message might say something like, “Your order is on its way. We realized that you haven’t yet had a chance to open the box, let alone get an idea of how well you like the items you ordered, but we still want to ask that once you have formed an impression about the products or about service you let us know. Your feedback is really important to us. Here is a ‘write a review link’ if and when you want to let us know what you think.”

Remember that you should not offer shoppers rewards for submitting reviews or — worse yet — rewards for submitting positive reviews.

Find Field Testers

Another way that an online retailer might be able to encourage user-generated content is to ask select customers to test new products.

If you have a particularly good customer who has made several purchases, and you have new products that shopper might like, consider asking the customer to test the new product and write short blog post about the item.

The customer may feel special, remember you asked for her to test the product because she is a highly valued customer, and the content could encourage other shoppers to try the new product too.

Ask Shoppers Their Opinions

Another way to get some good user content, especially around new products, is to ask shoppers their opinion.

A retailer of western clothing was considering a new line of women’s jeans last year. The retailer published several photos of the new jeans on Facebook and asked followers on the social network to comment about the jeans. “Should we bring these into the stores?”

You could use a similar approach. If a product is in fact brought in, the customer comments can be used in ads promoting the product or even as copy on the product detail page.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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