How to Generate More User Submitted Content for your eCommerce Store

These days, online shoppers are a picky breed.

They rarely buy anything before researching the product they want to buy and the online eCommerce store they want to buy from.

And who can blame them?

Everyone wants to be sure they’re getting their money’s worth with every purchase.

So, what’s one of the best ways to convince shoppers to buy a product?

User-generated content.

More specifically, you need to share user-submitted photos that include your products.

But don’t just take my word for it – let’s talk specifics.

Why eCommerce Marketers Need to Collect and Share User-generated Content

UGC builds trust and increases conversions.

Apart from following ecommerce best practices, if you want customers to trust your brand enough to make a purchase, you need to show authenticity in your marketing efforts – and that’s exactly what user-submitted photos allow you to do.

According to a Bazaarvoice survey, over half (51%) of Americans trust UGC more than other information on a company website (16%).

On top of that, a study by Nielsen found that “92 percent of consumers trust online content from friends and family above all other forms of brand messaging.”

And it’s easy to understand why.

Any eCommerce business can talk about how great their products are – they’re going to be biased because they’re the ones selling that product.

But if a customer actually takes the time to share a product photo with a positive caption, that’s a good indicator that the product is actually worth using.

In fact, brands see 25% increase in conversions when user-generated photos are used instead of professionally made product shots by brands.

Don’t get me wrong – you’ll want to have some professional photos of your products too.

But make sure you collect and share user-submitted photos as well. If you don’t, you’ll miss out on a huge marketing opportunity for your eCommerce brand.

UGC helps lower your customer acquisition costs.

Let’s face it – the costs of marketing an eCommerce business can add up fast if you’re not careful.

That’s why UGC is so awesome – you don’t have to spend a lot of time or money getting people to post photos about your brand.

When you collect photos of your eCommerce products regularly, you can re-post those photos to your website and social media accounts.

That helps keep content production costs low and cuts down on the time you spend creating social media images.

UGC can lower your ad costs too – big time.

In fact, one study showed that eCommerce marketers who included UGC in ads saw a 50% drop in cost-per-click and a 50% drop in cost of acquisition.

UGC can build brand awareness.

When a customer posts a photo that includes one of your products, they’re introducing your product to their audience and giving it their seal of approval.

That expands the reach of your brand and puts your products in front of people who might’ve never seen it otherwise.

Bottom line:

UGC is crucial for any eCommerce brand looking to increase their reach and sales.

Now, you may be thinking:

Sounds good, but how can I actually get more customers to post photos about my brand?

If that’s the case, you’ve come to the right place.

Keep reading to find out exactly how you can encourage customers to share photos of your products.

How to Skyrocket User-submitted Photos of Your Products

Create and promote a branded, evergreen hashtag.

If you want to include user-submitted photos in your eCommerce marketing strategy, you need to create an evergreen, branded hashtag.

That way, customers will use your branded hashtag in their photo captions when they post about your products.

Why is this so important?

*Because your branded hashtag will make it easy for you (and customers) to find user-submitted photos of your products. *

Any time you search for your hashtag, you’ll see lots of user-submitted photos to collect and use in your marketing efforts.

Whatever you do, make sure your hashtag is evergreen. In other words, it shouldn’t be something trendy that’s going to go out of style or become irrelevant.

You can always use the name of your store itself as your hashtag, but if your store name is really long, you might need to make it shorter or catchier for the online audience.

After all, you don’t want to use a super lengthy hashtag that your customers are too lazy to type out!

Let’s look at how the popular hair dye brand Manic Panic uses “#manicpanic” as their evergreen hashtag:

Manic Panic foster use of evergreen hashtag in its Instagram Profile

See how they have the hashtag “#manicpanic” in their Instagram bio and tell customers to use that hashtag on a photo for a chance to be featured?

Clearly, it’s working – the Manic Panic Instagram feed is full of user-submitted photos.

And if you search for the “#manicpanic” hashtag on Instagram, tons of UGC pops up.

502,109 photos, to be exact.

Hundreds of thousands of user submitted photos to Manic Panic hashtag

So, once you’ve decided on an evergreen hashtag for your brand, start promoting it in your social media bios – just like in the example above.

You can also promote the hashtag in physical marketing collateral, in
your product order emails, on your website, or somewhere else.

Get creative, and think of the best way to get your branded hashtag in front of your target audience and encourage them to use it.

Show off customer UGC on your website and social channels.

Think about your favorite brand for a minute.

This company sells a product that you know and love – so much that you’d even post photos online to share it with everyone.

Now, imagine that company recognized you for doing this by sharing it to their social media platforms and website.

How would that make you feel?

Warm and fuzzy, maybe?

For one thing, you definitely wouldn’t be going anywhere as a customer. If anything, your relationship to that brand would become stronger than ever.

Your customers feel the same way – if they feel connected to your brand, they’ll be much more likely to keep buying from you. And you can give them that sense of connection by featuring them on your website and social media channels.

Here’s how the eCommerce store Think Geek shows off user-generated photos:

Think Geek shows off user-generated photos

And if you look closely, you’ll see two things:

  • Think Geek promotes their evergreen hashtag #geekfamous and encourages customers to post pictures to social media using it.

  • Think Geek includes a “Submit Your Own” button right on their website to allow visitors to upload photos directly to the website.

The great thing about this strategy?

The photographs customers post (which you then share) are basically free promotion for your brand!

When other people see these pictures, they’ll be more likely to want to purchase the featured products.

Check out these numbers that back this up:

By reposting and displaying customer photos on your social media pages and website, you’ll encourage customer engagement and increase your conversion rates.

And when other customers see that you frequently share user-generated photos, they’ll post more of their own in the hopes that you’ll recognize them too.

Run a photo contest.

While every eCommerce business will have a slightly different approach to contests depending on their product ad target customer, there are some broad guidelines that will almost always apply:

  • Your brand should reward customers for presenting your product in a positive light.

  • Your brand should promote the contest on your website as well as across your social media profiles to gain traction.

  • Your brand should offer an attractive incentive for the contest winner to encourage participation.

  • Your brand should create a contest-specific hashtag to monitor all customer submissions.

Here’s how the outdoor adventure clothing eCommerce store Travel Country encouraged users to submit to their contest:

Travel Country encouraging users to submit photos to their contest

The contest encouraged foot traffic by getting people to take photos of their products inside their brick and mortar location.

On top of that, it prompted the creation of loads of UGC they could use to market their brand.

While your eCommerce business may not have a brick and mortar location like Travel Country, you can require participants to follow a totally unique set of guidelines for their submissions. As long as you make your contest instructions clear and promote your content correctly, you should have no trouble collecting entries.

A word of warning:

Be sure your audience knows that every photo they submit must be their original content. You wouldn’t want to run into any trouble for featuring the work of another artist without their consent!

Run a giveaway.

Just about everybody loves getting stuff for free.

That means if your company has a giveaway, people will definitely pay attention.

Fortunately, giveaways can be quick, easy, and cost-effective when you control them through your brand’s social media platforms and website.

They’re also super accessible to customers because the barrier to entry is often low. Instead of requiring participants to follow a complicated set of rules, you can simply have them share a photo that meets your requirements.

Want to see how this tactic might work?

Here’s how DDD Boutique structured their giveaway:

Competition on Instagram of DDD Boutique to win pairs of sunglasses

All participants had to do was repost the picture to their followers with the designated hashtag and they were entered to win four free pairs of sunglasses, like this user did:

User reposting the picture with hastag

After your lucky winner receives their free products, they’ll be more inclined to pay attention to your brand/products and share their experiences on social media.

And hey – if they like your products, they might even purchase more and recommend them to their friends and social media followers!

Use Instagram influencer marketing.

One of the most powerful forms of UGC comes from social and digital influencers – people who are seen as leaders in their social circles and tend to have large, active followings.

And brands are catching on to the power of influencers. One recent survey even showed that 59 percent of marketers plan to increase their influencer budget in the coming year.

Why does this strategy work so well?

Because when consumers see Instagram influencers they admire post about your products, they’re more likely to try those products and submit their own photos about your brand.

The key to getting the most out of Instagram influencer marketing is choosing an influencer who has a following full of your target audience.

For example, if your ideal customers are millennial women, you want to choose an influencer who is followed and admired by millennial women.

Here’s how eCommerce store TruSelf Organics partnered with an Instagram influencer to help spread awareness about their skincare products:

Use of Instagram influencer to spread awareness

After you find the right influencer for your brand, ask them to share a photo on their Instagram feed that displays your product and encourages their following to try it for themselves.

Make sure you let the influencer know if there’s a specific type of photo or caption you’d like them to post. Being clear about any expectations you have upfront will help you cut out any confusion and
lay the foundation for a good business partnership.

And when you use this strategy, keep in mind that you’ll want to offer the influencer some sort of incentive to post about your brand. That incentive could be cash, commission, a free product, or something similar.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to skyrocket your user-generated photos, you can start putting the strategies here to work.

Who knows – soon, you may have more photos of happy customers sharing photos your products than you ever would have imagined!

UGC isn’t just about promoting your brand, though.

One of the most useful aspects of user-generated photos is that they provide you with insight into your biggest fans.

When you engage with your customers, you can share in their enthusiasm while pinpointing strategies that will give you a bigger audience, more engagement, and better conversion rates in the future.

And when you see the way your customers interact with your product, you can take pride knowing that you’ve had a positive impact on their lives.