Consumer-generated content is a promising marketing strategy for brands and retailers alike

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The modern consumer is more connected than ever before, which has a significant impact on their shopping journey that includes mobile devices, omni-channel, personalisation as well as social media. That’s why the new Bazaarvoice Consumer-Generated Content (CGC) Index for 2016 takes a closer look at how CGC marketing and eCommerce strategies drove business value last year.

The report finds that shoppers tend to rely on consumer-generated content to guide their decisions, including the ultimate “should I buy this” question. Bazaarvoice says that across its own network, shoppers who interacted with such CGC content ended up buying more. This had an effect on revenue increase across eCommerce sites. The Japan region saw some of the strongest lifts from interaction rates in 2016.

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Overall, consumers rely on CGC as part of every purchasing category from hardware to footwear.

However, review volumes tend to be larger across retail digital media compared to brands. That’s partially due to their large product catalouges. In addition, retailers have begun to collect content, and in 2016 review volumes were higher than the two years before.

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What drives satisfaction among consumers is generally a difficult question to answer, but depends on overall industry sector sentiment and performance. Overall, Bazaarvoice found that top performers remained stable and star ratings averaged 4.2 stars or higher (out of 5).

CGC is a worldwide trend and the report found reviews had been submitted in 186 countries and 37 languages. Despite North America having the highest volume of CGCs across the company’s platform with almost 43 million reviews in 2016, European consumers generated close to 9 million reviews.

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Mobile phones and tablet have made it easier than ever before to share content across curation platforms such as Bazaarvoice. And this trend was particularly noticeable in 2016 when photo content increased 2.6 times and videos 3.3 times. Visual content is more engaging and influential for shoppers with best-performing clients noting a 51% jump in shoppers from curated content compared to 43% for ratings and reviews.

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Advertisers have tapped into the trend of CGC and recognised its importance. More than a third of Bazaarvoice clients monitor their programme’s impact on overall marketing strategy once a month and 61% evaluate contributions every quarter. Travel marketers in particular are looking to increase their CGC usage (86%) and a majority of retailers (79%) have also stated interest in growing CGC content.

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Among the most frequently incentivised tactics to drive consumer content, are email measures to ask consumers to leave a review, followed by product sampling and sweepstakes. Social media is also a popular tool to get consumers’ opinions. Marketers are advised to make it clear that they are asking for honest and unbiased feedback.

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With 82% of shoppers now conducting a mobile search in-store for products they’re about to purchase, brands have adjusted their strategies accordingly. For retailers, it can pay off to focus on expanding their digital incentives in-store and online. Reaching consumers on their mobile devices, in-store and at home reinforces a marketer’s message and drives CGC content. The report found that shoppers interacted with CGC before 45% of offline purchases.

Additionally, retailers who surfaced their CGC content to category and other web pages, noted a 35% jump in keyword rankings on page 1 and 2 of Google results with an average lift of 6% in search rank position improvement.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that CGC can be helpful in improving a brand’s or retailer’s messaging. 78% of companies said they ended up improving their customer service due to reviews, whilst 71% improve their products and another 50% drove better marketing tactics.

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Knowing what consumers want is important because in the age of social, mobile and digital, news and reviews travel fast. Indeed, content interaction has shot up over the last year. More people are talking to each other than ever before and importantly, more people are listening.

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2017 is likely to be an exciting year for marketers as they adjust their methods and strategies to connect consumers and drive purchases. Bazaarvoice recommends five essential steps to enhance CGC strategies:

  1. Work hard to collect content.
  2. Be where the shopper is, every step of the way.
  3. Let your customers and advocates illustrate your story.
  4. Listen and learn from your content.
  5. Prioritize responsiveness and the two-way relationship with consumers.