Why & How To Use User Generated Content For Your Shopify Store – 3 Actionable Tips

Why & How To Use User Generated Content For Your Shopify Store – 3 Actionable Tips

User generated content (UGC) is something that e-Commerce sites can no longer afford to ignore. The power of user generated content for your brand is potentially huge. The big question that e-Commerce sites need to answer is ‘how do we harness user generated content for our brand?’

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The good thing for you is, there are a few simple tactics you can put into place today and start reaping the benefits.

What is user generated content?

The first thing to tackle is identifying the most likely sources of user generated content for your business.  Users generate content in a variety of ways. Here are some of the main sources:

  • Social media
  • Reviews
  • Ratings
  • Surveys
  • Customer events
  • Competitions

All of these channels are a way of collecting and curating the things people are saying about your business. It’s best to have an idea of what you want to do with the content before you decide on the best method of collecting/curating the content.

Here are some of the potential questions to ask:

  • Do you want to add testimonials about your business?
  • Are you carrying out a drive to collect more reviews for specific products?
  • Would you like to collect some video reviews as well as written reviews?
  • Do you need product images for a new campaign?
  • Do you want to get more engagement on social media?
  • Do you want to showcase your brand’s values?

There are so many ways to use UGC and deciding on the best way will help to inform your strategy when it comes to collecting and curating the content.

Why you should be maximising user generate content?

One word: Authenticity.

In a study run by Cohn & Wolfe, 63% of consumers said they would rather buy from a company they consider to be authentic over a competitor. That’s a pretty big signal that points towards the importance of UGC.

By harnessing all the great things people are saying about your business and repurposing that through your own channels, you are creating a much more authentic version of yourself. People buy into what other people are saying. You are much more likely to trust a friend who recommends a product or brand than you are a highly polished TV advert. That’s not to say that these two things can’t work together; tapping into your loyal customers and using them in your advertising is a great tactic whether that’s online, in print or on TV.

Who’s using user generated content?

It’s rare to find big brands these days who are not using UGC in some way, shape or form. From simple hashtag campaigns to crazy competitions, there is a definite trend towards the use of UGC.

But who’s doing it well?

Within the e-Commerce sector, there are some great example of companies who are making the most of UGC.

One of the leading light is yoga clothing brand Lululemon. Their #thesweatlife social media campaign, where they encouraged customers to share images of them wearing Lululemon gear whilst working out went huge. In the first couple of months, they received over 7,000 images from their customers on Instagram and Twitter and the hashtag for the campaign received over 40,000 unique visitors.

Women’s clothing company Aerie also took to social media to curate content from real life fans using their #AerieReal campaign.

(Embed Instagram image here)

In an industry where photos are touched up and models are always looking their best, Aerie made a pledge to stop retouching photos of models in their bathing suits. A great pledge indeed, however they took the campaign one step further, encouraging fans to send in their untouched images using the #AerieReal hashtag. For every untouched image they received, they donated $1 to the National Eating Disorders Association.

Aerie completely smashed the use of UGC.

These are just a couple of standout examples but there are hundreds out there and some great examples in this post from HubSpot.

How can your e-commerce site use UGC?

Now we have taken a look at some of the types of UGC and how it can be used, we wanted to delve into three tactics you can start implementing today with some great examples of companies doing just that.

  1. Reviews with Markup

This one is a no-brainer for e-Commerce sites yet we still see plenty of sites that are not maximising the potential from the reviews they collect.

The first thing to do is to make sure you have a robust strategy for collecting reviews of every product that is sold, either online or in-store. We come across so many sites where you click on the ‘Reviews’ section to be greeted with the message ‘Be the first to leave a review on this product’. This is a cause of frustration and can also lead to customers asking why no one has left a review already.

There are a number of ways to help with collecting reviews, most of which are not rocket science.

  1. Ask – if you don’t ask for a review, it is more than likely you won’t get one. Most people are usually quite happy to leave a review when prompted so make sure you are there to prompt them. A scheduled email post-purchase is the easiest way for online purchases and if the purchase is in-store, add a CTA to the back of your receipts that encourages people to leave a review.
  2. Simplify – make sure the review process is simple. Only ask for the minimum amount of information (Name, Contact, Review Score and Review text). Ideally if the purchase is made online, some of the information can be prepopulated in the follow up email so the only thing you need is the review score and comment.
  3. Incentivise – this can be a grey areas so be careful with this and make sure you check out the guidelines from the FTC. Offering things like discounts on future purchases, reward points in your loyalty programme and entry into a competition or draw are all good incentives and as long as they are declared as part of the display review, should fall within the guidelines.

Marking up your reviews

Once you have collected your reviews, you need to maximise how they are displayed, both on your site and in the Google search results. Make them prominent on your own site so people can easily see your review score and click through to find out what people are saying about your products.

When it comes to visibility in the search results, the use of markup is the best way to highlight your reviews and encourage people to click through from the search results. There are two type of schema markup for reviews: single product and aggregate ratings.

You can find out more about marking up your products with schema on the official website.

One brand doing an awesome job with markup, as well as collecting reviews is New Zealand furniture outfit, Mocka. Built on a similar model to Ikea, these guys are dominating the search results with their strong product markup and great review scores. They have a super simple review process and don’t need to offer incentives to collect their reviews. They back their products and their customers love the brand.

Here is a snippet of a search result showing their strong visibility in the search results:

reviews in search result

Reviews are the simplest form of UGC and there is no reason why all e-Commerce site should not be maximising them.

  1. Competitions

After reviews, competitions are perhaps the second most simple way of generating UGC. All you need is a fun idea and some people to enter and away you go. Competitions can be run through your social media platforms or even off-line if that is a valuable platform to your business.

There are a number of different types of competition from daily to one-off and the prizes you offer will depend on what you are requesting from your audience. Lays Crisps (or Walkers in the UK) run an annual competition which offers fans the opportunity to win $1m by creating a new flavour of crisp for the company.

In this example, Lays generated hundreds of flavour ideas as well as seeing a huge amount of social media engagement through the competition posts and hashtags. This is a campaign that is run annually and the publicity and engagement they drive through this competition is worth the $1m prize money.

Customers also feel super-engaged with the brand. They are getting the opportunity to create a new flavour for a global brand and there is also a lot of peer to peer feedback on the suggested flavours which Lays are once again able to tap into.

Of course, you don’t have to go as crazy as giving away $1m. People love a giveaway and it’s also another good chance to get your brand out there by offering branded merchandise as prizes. Here in New Zealand, the powertools company Makita publish a lot of user generated content. Their audience is mainly made up of ‘tradies’ who love to share and comment on funny things they see out on site. Makita started to collect this content by offering a monthly ‘Fan of the Month’ prize which includes Makita goodies. The fans love the merchandise and wear it with pride and Makita gets some great content which is really engaging.

Customer Collaboration

One of the ‘risks’ with UGC is the potential issue around quality. Whilst there are some great examples of high quality UGC out there, from experience, the quality of the content submitted by users can vary wildly. There are of course times when you need to put a professional stamp on the work you are pushing out and this is when collaboration and integration is a good way to ease yourself into using UGC.

Wayfair are a home furniture company based in the US. They know that what customers really want is to see the furniture they sell in real homes. Using the hashtag #WayfairAtHome, the encouraged users to share images of their home furniture in their own homes. People shopping on the Wayfair site could then jump onto the hashtag and check out how a piece of furniture might look in a home setting rather than just the catalogue shots.

(Embed Instagram image here)

Another great example of integration comes from Disney.  As reported by Adweek, their #ShareYourEars campaign was a huge success and perfectly integrated UGC into their professional campaign content. Disney began by pledging a $5 donation to the Make-a-Wish Foundation for each participant in the campaign, with a $1 million cap. Due to the overwhelming response and amazing support, Disney doubled its original pledge to $2 million to grant even more wishes to transform lives.

Using customer-generated images and video content as part of a more polished campaign can really help to add that authenticity to something that would otherwise feel more ‘produced’. There are other benefits to integration and collaboration:

  • Builds a sense of community amongst your customers
  • Saves you time and money
  • Creates that authentic feel to your marketing campaigns that is hard to recreate

Incorporating UGC into your marketing materials will really help to you create better connections with your customers and in turn, lead to more engagement and a better chance of conversion.


e-Commerce brand who are embracing user generated content continue to thrive and grow their business both on and off line. Creating a community of loyal and engaged customers is the key to building a successful business and UGC is helping businesses to do just that. Start with the three simple things above and then look at other ways you can use UGC to enhance your business.

About the author: Gavin Hirst is a Brit working abroad. He is a copywriter, SEO and content marketing expert working for one of Auckland’s leading SEO agencies, Digital Hothouse in New Zealand. Outside of work, Gavin is a keen golfer and is passionate about the outdoors – hence the move to NZ! Connect with Gavin on LinkedIn or with Digital Hothouse on Twitter and keep up to date with all the latest digital marketing news and trends in NZ and across the world.

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