User-Generated Content and Customer Reviews: 10 Commandments from 5.5 Million Data Points

User-Generated Content and Customer Reviews: 10 Commandments from 5.5 Million Data Points
This is a special guest post from Tomer Tagrin, co-founder and CEO of Yotpo

Everyone has a million things to do. So, why would your customer carve out the time to help you market?

The key lies in human nature …

Even the Instagram generation hasn’t outgrown the instinct to share experiences — they’ve just taken it to new media. The trick is getting them to share experiences about your brand.

We studied data from over 3.5 million emails and 2 million reviews to bring you proven tactics for getting more user-generated content and customer reviews …
  1. Make User-Generated Content Easy
  2. Incentivize Your Customer Reviews
  3. Personalize for Each Request
  4. Timing Also Matters
  5. Strategize for Product Coverage
  6. Remember the Photos
  7. Measure, Optimize, and Improve
  8. Choose a Tech Stack that Gives You Control
  9. Let UGC Shine On-Site and Off-Site
  10. Listen to Your Customer Voice
Shopify Flow

Want help putting UGC to work?

To learn how user-generated content and customer reviews fit into your overall funnel …

Check out the full recordings and slide decks from our two-part webinar event, Growing Your Entire Online Funnel.

Six Shopify Plus Partners — including Yotpo — go behind the scenes to share how the average Shopify Plus merchant is growing between 126% and 274% YoY.

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1. Make User-Generated Content Easy

Customer reviews, whether positive or negative, are usually sparked by a moment of passion or inspiration; that light bulb feeling of having something to say that might interest other people. Make sure that your reviewing process isn’t bogged down with details and multiple steps, so you don’t lose customers in the face of complex technology.

When you look at a brand like MVMT or Pura Vida Bracelets — each of them with about a million Instagram followers who share and create content about their products — it’s clear that they’ve cracked the code. We can learn from brands like these that your customers want to give you feedback.

You may just be asking the wrong questions or the right questions in the wrong ways.

How do you make it easy for customers to write and submit reviews, no matter where they are or what they’re doing?

  • Let them leave reviews however they want to. Email isn’t your only option. You can, and should, ask for reviews onsite as well as through messenger bots.
  • Remove friction with mobile-first requests. Your user-generated content requests should work well and look great on any device. Don’t make customers click through several pages, and don’t ask them to log in.

2. Incentivize Your Customer Reviews

If a shopper knows that writing a review will get them 10% off their next purchase, they won’t put it off. Not only that, but they’re more likely to make a repeat purchase. Return customers spend 3x more on average than one-time shoppers.

User-generated content (UGC) and the value of returning customers

What are some of the most effective ways to incentivize customers?

  • Coupons and discount codes
  • Reward points through a loyalty program
  • Photo contests with branded hashtags
  • Regular drawing for gifts or gift cards

Make the most of your incentive by offering rewards both for submitting reviews and photos and for sharing them on social. This way you can collect content and use it to build an online brand community.

3. Personalize for Each Request

Your customers are using dozens of different devices and email providers — make sure that your email review requests are optimized to suit each of them. A customer who doesn’t send in a review because the form was distorted or simply didn’t work on their phone is a missed opportunity.

Personalization doesn’t end on the technical front.

After analyzing millions of post-purchase emails asking for reviews, we were able to isolate what makes high-converting subject lines.

Including words that signify a financial incentive — like, coupon, win, free, save, sale, discount, etc. — increases the conversion rate from shoppers to reviewers by 18.5% on average across all industries.

Incentive keywords have the biggest impact on collecting user-generated content and customer reviews

4. Timing Also Matters

When you ask for user-generated content or reviews is almost as important as how you ask.

For example, we found that 33% more people write reviews on Mondays than on Saturdays across industries.

The best times to ask for user-generated content and customer reviews

But within each industry, the best days and times to send emails vary widely.

In the fashion industry, review request emails sent on Wednesday at 3pm have a 153% higher response rate than those sent at the worst time, Thursday at 12pm.

Here’s a look at the best times to send content request emails:

  • Health & Beauty: Monday at 6pm
  • Sporting Goods: Monday at 6pm
  • Home & Garden: Saturday at 5pm
  • Electronics: Thursday at 7am
  • Food, Beverage & Tobacco: Sunday at 1pm

5. Strategize for Product Coverage

Not all products are reviewed equally.

Your most popular products get the most feedback, and data indicates that people are also more likely to review expensive products. Plus, consumers tend to write more reviews for products that are highly rated, leading to a snowball effect where a few products begin to accumulate the majority reviews.

This isn’t good for onsite conversion. You need an even distribution of reviews across your products and a consistent supply of fresh reviews.

That’s why it’s critical to build a product coverage strategy into your content request process.

Make sure to increase the exposure of the products that aren’t getting many reviews. You can do this by promoting them in marketing emails and in recommended products sections on your site.

If a customer purchases several products, ask for reviews only for the ones that don’t have enough. And, if all else fails, you can concentrate incentives on products that are not often reviewed.

Get some more inspiration for product coverage strategies here:

6. Remember the Photos

If you’re already asking for reviews, you might as well take advantage of the opportunity to ask for photos as well.

As product discovery and online shopping experiences become increasingly visual, thanks to social platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, customers now anticipate similar experiences on your site.

While you could enhance your site with your own robust product photo galleries, we know that 77% of shoppers prefer customer photos of products over professional ones.

User-generated content in the form of pictures on product pages

This means that building those visual assets on your site with authentic customer photos will be much more effective at prompting customers to purchase.

Make sure you:

  • Make it easy for customers to submit photos; it should be a quick and simple step that is part of your review request email
  • Offer extra incentives to customers who submit photos along with their reviews
  • Collect customer photos on social with contests and ask customers to use a branded hashtag
  • Display the photos in attractive on-site galleries
The goal should be to recreate the scrolling experience of Instagram to increase shopper engagement and encourage product discovery.

    7. Measure, Optimize, and Improve

    You need to have your finger on the pulse of all metrics related to your user-generated content collection and display strategy. Create dashboards that give you full visibility into what’s working and what’s not.

    Some of the most important stats to track are:

    • Content request open and response rates
    • Product coverage percentage for both reviews and photos
    • Overall sentiments of reviews per product
    • Shopper interaction with UGC assets onsite
    • Conversion rates among shoppers who interact with UGC

    Testing is the natural next step to keeping an eye on your results.

    For your post-purchase content request emails, start with the best practices for your industry when it comes to subject line elements and send times. But don’t assume that it will work well for you just because it works well for businesses like yours.

    Track your results and A/B test subject lines continually to surpass industry benchmarks.

    Similarly, on your site, test interaction with UGC assets — like your reviews widget, customer photo galleries, or star ratings — before and after customizing them or changing their location.

    8. Choose a Tech Stack that Gives You Control

    The value of customer feedback goes far beyond five stars. Reviews have the ability to increase your SEO, drive more traffic to your site, and build customer trust in your brand.

    Did customer reviews impact your decision to purchase

    It would be a shame to spend so much time and effort collecting user-generated content only to have Yelp show up first when a shopper searches for reviews of your products.

    Using another site to host reviews means that traffic goes to them first, not you. Plus, when your reviews are on another site, your potential customers see you lined up next to competitors.

    Star ratings and number of reviews should also appear in your Google Seller Ratings and Rich Snippets so that shoppers get the social proof they need to click through to your site.

    Collect more than just product reviews to ensure that your brand is positioned to accomplish this. Make sure to use a portion of your review request emails to collect site requests — feedback on your site and service is not only great social proof for new shoppers, it also helps you meet the criteria for Google Seller Ratings.

    In order for Google star ratings to show up next to your ads, your business must have at least 150 unique site reviews from the past 12 months and a composite rating of at least 3.5 stars.

    In an ideal situation, everything from your email provider to personalization software and social tools need to work well both on their own and together to get maximum results

    Since the majority of your content collection will happen via email, it’s crucial that you have a provider you trust to deal with complicated requests. For example, you need to be able to send review request reminders to customers who didn’t send in a review the first time around, without bombarding them.

    The same is true for your social marketing technology. It should be simple and quick to share UGC, ask customers to do the same, curate photos from branded hashtag campaigns, and even create social ads from customer reviews and photos.

    9. Let UGC Shine Onsite and Offsite

    Now that you have all the tools to collect more content from your customers, the next step is making sure you know how to use it effectively. 

    Onsite, think about the types of content that will have the greatest impact at each point in the customer journey:

    • Homepage: Establish immediate social proof with reviews of a few of your top-rated products, or engage visitors with a customer photo gallery
    • Category pages: Don’t bombard your shoppers on an information-rich page. Keep it simple with star ratings under each product
    • Product pages: Details are key at this stage, display product reviews and customer photos prominently
    • Checkout page: This is a good opportunity to add personalized product recommendations with customer reviews and ratings to increase AOV

    These are just guidelines, though — be sure to monitor customer interaction and conversion rates to determine the unique configuration of UGC that’s right for your brand.

    Offsite, you can use your results as a starting point for the type of UGC to include in your marketing campaigns.

    User-generated content should be used in marketing offsite as well

    If your customers read pages of reviews before making a purchase, make sure to use reviews in social ads. Blenders Eyewear did this as part of their Facebook advertising strategy and saw amazing results from their Dynamic Product Ads:

    • 38% decrease in cost per acquisition
    • 2X higher click-through rate
    • 62% increase in return on ad spend

    Taking this a step further and using customer photos in ads further increases engagement and cuts down on costs for creative. There’s no reason to spend resources on branded assets that appear authentic when you can use genuine customer content.

    10. Listen to Your Customer Voice

    We’ve covered how important it is to iterate on your UGC collection and display strategies based on response, but that’s just one area where you should be listening to your customer voice.

    One of the greatest benefits of user-generated content is that you can better understand your customers’ psychology.

    Reviews can be a goldmine of information on your products and service if you have the technology to extract that information at scale. Make sure your UGC solution helps you identify trends in what your customers are saying about your products and the topics that matter to them most.

    For example, if many of your customers mention shipping alongside negative comments or quality alongside positive ones, you can easily gain the insights that enable you to make better business decisions by solving issues and continuing to maximize the elements that your customers love.

    Taylor Stark, Product Development Director at Vanity Planet, uses this type of customer-feedback analysis to inform the company’s product cycle:

    Reviews are our best source for hearing what people like and don’t like. It’s a really big part of our decision-making process and lets us launch products that we know will be successful.

    By taking the guesswork out of customer experience, you can better anticipate your customers’ needs and understand what will have the biggest impact on their satisfaction.

    As ecommerce enters an era where experience is everything, you have no greater asset than your customer feedback.

    Final Thoughts on User-Generated Content

    Despite their shortening attention spans, people are still excited to share moments. When you keep their interests and behavior in mind, you can use that to better promote your products.

    We sent millions of emails and learned the hard way so you don’t have to.

    Still, I urge you to experiment and test aggressively to find strategies and tactics that best suit your customers.

    About the Author

    Tomer Tagrin is the co-founder and CEO of Yotpo, the leading customer content marketing platform for commerce brands. Thousands of businesses — including Shopify Plus clients Leesa Mattresses, Vanity Planet, Pura Vida Bracelets, and MVMT Watches — use Yotpo to collect and leverage every type of user-generated content to increase trust, social proof and sales.

    Tagrin was a chip designer for Intel before co-founding Yotpo, and a software engineering major at Tel Aviv University before that. An ecommerce junkie, he passionately believes that great brands are built on happy customers.