The Rise of Visual UGC and How Marketers are Handling it

Global business-to-consumer eCommerce sales are projected to hit $1.7 trillion (with a T!) this year. The rush to sell products online is certainly here, and brands are looking for every advantage possible to win over consumers and drive more sales online. And with this explosive growth, an emerging trend  has caught fire with savvy marketers: visual user-generated content. That is, leveraging photos and videos created by your customers throughout your online store.

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Why is Visual UGC (user-generated content) catching on?

Nielson reports 92% of customers trust other customers more than traditional forms of advertising. Word-of-mouth marketing has always been the most effective marketing method on or offline, but the ability to scale word-of-mouth online creates tremendous opportunity. Now brands have the ability to lean on their communities to drive more awareness, trust, and ultimately drive real business results. And with the massive amount of visual user-generated content already available to digital marketers thanks to Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and a slew of other social networks, there is so much low-hanging fruit out there.

And marketers are speaking with their purses. In the last 12 months, the creation and distribution of visual content has grown to account for 30.5% of total marketing spend (DigiDay), with 72% of marketers believing visual content is more effective than text, rating it at 4.4X the effectiveness. (DigiDay)

Build vs. buy

So what is the best way for brands to bring this visual user-generated content onsite? Many companies ponder the build versus buy question, with the consideration of building a solution that captures and displays social media content onsite with internal engineering resources versus licensing a software solution that is entirely focused on delivering UGC integrations.

Why brands want to build this in-house

Perceived control. Many marketers we speak with day in and day out believe they haveless control when licensing a vendor solution. They assume vendor solutions are completely boilerplate, non-customizable, and would not appear native on their site.

They believe they can do it for cheaper.  Many of the companies we speak to have incredibly talented product & engineering teams that love a good challenge. They want to build a UGC integration in-house because they think they can get it up running at a fraction of the cost of licensing a vendor solution.

Align with branding and design. This goes back to the question of perceived control. It is extremely important that all integrations onsite are truly native and do not look like a solution that has been cut and pasted. Marketers know this can be delivered through in-house solutions and are concerned about a vendor being able to deliver a natively designed solution.

Own the entire user-experience.  By building a solution in-house, marketing and product leaders are confident they can craft a user experience that directly matches their needs. With vendor solutions, they wonder if this is possible.

Tracking. Brands expect robust reporting and analytics to ensure all of their goals are being tracked and reported on. By building a solution in-house many product teams believe they can leverage their analytics system of choice (e.g. Omniture, Google Analytics etc.) and expand that to their UGC solution.

Why you should license a proven vendor solution

Companies like StoryBox have made UGC integrations their raison d’etre. These vendors are entirely focused on delivering best-in-market solutions that exceed every requirement mapped out by marketing and product teams and can be deployed at a fraction of the cost in days, not months. There are many strategic advantages to relying on a company like StoryBox to handle your UGC needs. Here are just a few:

Platform stability. At StoryBox, we guarantee 99.9% uptime for all of our clients. We offer global coverage and are battle tested by many of the leading brands in the world. This is the very first priority for all of the leading vendor solutions on the market, and we take this very seriously.

Rights management. Vendors like StoryBox have close partnerships with all of the leading social networks and thus have white-list access that grants the ability to request the rights for user-generated content. Without white-list access, this simply is not possible.

Large-scale integrations of UGC are not as simple as just publishing Instagram photos on your website. At first glance, many marketers view the space of visual user-generated content as simply dropping a few Instagram photos into a carousel on their homepage. What you may not realize early in the awareness phase is the level of sophistication that goes into this. Data-driven displays based on real-time engagement and sales metrics, a robust content management solution to find, curate and moderate user-generated content, API integration with all of the leading social networks, user-generated photos and videos linked to the exact product being worn in the image, as well as real-time analytics tracking and measuring every move are all essential in building a first-class UGC solution. 

Avoid ongoing, unplanned development costs. We all know engineering time is precious. I have yet to have a conversation with a marketing / product team that is seeking out projects for their engineers. Product roadmaps across the land are deeply coveted, and any additional resources companies have to allocate to mission-critical projects that fall into your company’s core competency should be seized. UGC solutions require complex, sophisticated backend work if done right, and this is not something that can be built overnight. It requires a talented team of engineers constantly iterating and optimizing the solution, and rarely is done effectively as a side project.

Keep pace with new technologies and updates. In today’s digital landscape, brands have to consistently innovate to remain competitive. In order to stay on the cutting edge, it is essential to have many folks thinking full time abut how to move ahead, where to find the advantage, and what’s required to keep innovating faster than your competitors. Vendors like StoryBox are entirely dedicated to this, ensuring their clients have a best-in-market solution day in and day out.

Access to focused expertise. By working with a company like StoryBox, you are not only getting access to market-leading technology, you are getting immediate exposure to highly specialized and focused expertise. At StoryBox, we eat, sleep and breathe visual commerce, and as such have implemented, studied, and experienced first-hand all that is required to succeed with visual user-generated content. With StoryBox, you immediately have access to focused expertise that you can learn from and harness on day one. This simply isn’t possible from an in-house solution.

Targeted, expansive, and accurate analytics. Although some marketers are hesitant to leverage a user-generated solution due to concerns that reporting isn’t up to snuff, the converse actually is true. StoryBox and other leading visual commerce solutions live and die on their reporting capabilities. In order to track and measure what is working, it is imperative to have a closed-loop solution that can track engagement, individual content performance, and sales metrics (sales conversion, average order value increase, intent to purchase increase, referral boosts etc.) to determine how each and every piece of content is contributing to the top line. By leveraging a top tier vendor solution, you can ensure all of your reporting needs are satisfied.

Credibility and authenticity are so important online, and real customers sharing their own experiences with your brand resonates far more than a brand-created marketing message ever could. In today’s environment, leveraging user-generated content onsite is foundational to remaining competitive in eCommerce. The question is not if you should use visual UGC onsite, it is how. We would love to help you navigate these waters, so please do reach out by Requesting a Demo.


Topics: UGC, Industry News, Best Practices, User Generated Content, Blogs, eCommerce,Digital Rights Management, Visual Commerce