User-Generated Content in Email Marketing: Types, Advantages, Examples and How to Use
If you keep track of what’s going on in ecommerce, you might have noticed that user-generated content (UGC) has become a real buzz word for email marketing. And such hype isn’t accidental.
According to Marketing Charts, 57% of users trust the brand that gets good ratings and reviews.
According to 2019 Edelman Trust Report, 63% of users say that they “trust what influencers say about brands much more than what brands say about themselves in their advertising”.
According to Consumer & Marketing Perspectives Report by Stackla,
- Customers find UGC 2.4x more authentic than brand-created content.
- Customers are 9.8x more likely to find UGC more impactful than influencer content.
- 79% of users say that their purchasing decisions are highly impacted by UGC.
Users trust the same users more than brands and even influencers, so no wonder UGC has turned into one of the main design trends in email marketing.
What is user-generated content?
The definition of the term itself is rather general.
User-generated content (UGC) is any type of content created by brand’s customers and posted anywhere online: social media, website, YouTube, other platforms.
User-generated content examples:
- social media posts;
UGC has been around for a while, it mostly applied to social media (mainly Instagram) and YouTube (product unpacking). However, now it has proved to be useful for email campaigns as well.
Benefits of user-generated content
I believe there are four main reasons why companies love using UGC in their emails.
1. They get access to awesome custom materials and use it as their own marketing content.
- Today, gadgets with good cameras are available to the majority. Their technical characteristics together with modern filters let everyone take professional-looking photos.
- The choice of content is huge as more and more people get to use social media and, what’s more, do it on a professional level.
- Before being released online, images undergo strict editing and optimization. Sometimes, people take up to 100 shots to end up publishing only one meaning only the best results get public.
- Each photo is custom and genuine, is taken in original settings and features original models.
2. UGC serves as testimonials by happy customers, encourages potential clients to buy, helps make a decision, and builds a connection with the brand.
- A photo of a happy client is more likely to cause emotional response than just a made or stock image.
- Users’ photos tell a story of the relationship with the brand or product.
- It’s easier to see how some products (clothes, makeup, jewelry) look in real life when they are presented by real people.
- Review and social media response (likes, shares, comments) are great social proof and help choose the best options;
- Images originally taken from social media help customers get engaged beyond social accounts.
3. UGC generates content on its own.
Some brands create entire campaigns based on UGC only, killing two birds with one stone: get material to include in the email and get a reason to reach out. This strategy is especially relevant for brands that
- don’t have a blog and don’t send blog newsletters;
- sell services that aren’t updated often;
- rarely run sales;
- regularly send 3 to 5 campaigns per week and need ideas and reasons to reach out.
4. UGC doesn’t require complex technical solutions and financial investments.
Unlike other email marketing tools like segmentation, personalized product recommendations, AMP, etc., UGC doesn’t need AI algorithms or personal data collection to be implemented. A simple thank you or small incentive is usually enough to thank subscribers for sharing their personal moments.
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How to get user-generated content
You see that UGC usage has numerous pros, but to take advantage of them, you first need to collect this content. So where and how to ask your costumes and subscribers to contribute?
- Create a hashtag campaign. This is the most popular and probably productive way of partnering with your subscribers. Come up with a creative and fun hashtag idea and ask people to participate on your social media, in emails or even straight on the website like Wayback Burgers do.
A hashtag challenge or contest is even a better idea due to its competitive vibes. Explain to people what the challenge is about, what photos can participate, how to commit, and what prize the winners will have.
To avoid possible misunderstanding, don’t forget to mention that you plan to post the submitted content on your website or wherever, and include it in your campaigns.
- Ask to submit a story. Sometimes, your customers have more to tell, and images only are not enough to express their feelings. Offer to share their story with the community, spreading the word about your service and provoking interest.
Look at the example of user-generated content by Petco. Their great request email includes user photos (generating emotional feedback), requirements to the story (adoption story, 500 words, submission date), prizes (for you and your adoption organization), purpose (help adopt more pets), and step-by-step instruction on how to participate.
The design is clear and consistent so that people who receive it don’t have questions left. All they have to do is to get down to writing and choosing the best photo.
- Ask for a review. A purchase isn’t the only reason to send a feedback request email. Whether people attended any of your events, tested new products, participated in challenges, or visited your new location – ask them to review and rate their experience.
There are many types of review emails. You can offer customers to write a couple of words, rate your service with stars or satisfaction scales, or simply tick one of the boxes with already prepared answers.
For a more convenient user experience, you can opt for AMP forms that have become a big email design trend. The AMP technology enables to create dynamic emails: a recipient can perform certain actions straight in the email body, including leaving a review.
With a regular review, you need to create the form on the third-party service (Google Forms, etc.) and give a link to it. That’s more time-consuming for a marketer and not very convenient for the recipients who may not want to go elsewhere and simply close the new window.
The AMP-supported review, however, enables to write feedback straight in the email body and send it with a click. Look at how easy it is:
At eSputnik, we offer a ready AMP form block which you can use in any template and edit straight in the editor. Given answers will be sent and stored at a special data service from where you can download them and use in any campaigns.
Learn more on how to create an AMP form.
- Monitor online mentions of your brand. If you produce quality products, chances are high that ecommerce platforms, news sites, online magazines, or price comparison websites would like to spread the word about it.
Don’t miss out on it and use web monitoring to find your brand mentions, your hashtags, or keywords with your services. Apart from actually reposting, you can use such content in email campaigns, like Artifact Uprising does in the below example.
How to use user-generated content in marketing emails
Now when you have some content in hand (following the above tips), it’s time to find the best use for it. The first thing that comes to mind is adding a hashtagged user photo, and it’s definitely the most widespread practice.
But not all products and (especially) services can have a good visual representation or any at all. Moreover, photos don’t fit all email types. Let’s see what you can do in these cases.
- Use UGC to show your product in real life.
Yes, I’ll start with photos anyway, but simply because of their universal application.
User-generated photos are a perfect way to demonstrate how your products look on real people and in real settings. They are also perfect to show the result of using your services.
Industries this practice fits:
- Clothes, shoes;
- Accessories, jewelry;
- Makeup, nails, tattoo;
- Home decor;
- Cooking and recipes.
Look at this promo email by Reformation which I personally find rather awesome. First, they introduce a new wedding collection and after add a block with user photos wearing some of the pieces. Each photo is provided with a link to the demonstrated dress, which is very convenient. The recipient sees how the dress looks in real life, and if they like it, they can go straight to the product page.
Another purpose of UG photos is to cause an emotional link with what’s shown. Typically, such photos feature a happy person who obviously became happy after consuming your service.
Smiling couple with a cup of hot coffee, laughing kids at the beach, a relaxed woman enjoying massage – such images create the mood and build the link between it and the product, attributing it with emotional characteristics rather than technical.
Industries this practice fits:
- Cafes and restaurants;
- Pet shops;
- Kids products;
- Use reviews instead of description.
Instead of simply enlisting technical characteristics, include a couple of words by users. Violet Grey lets makeup artists promote their cosmetics, and testimonials by Chanel professionals definitely give more weight to the cream and powder.
- Turn customers into authors.
Offer your audience to contribute with a small text. It can be a review of a mountain trekking trip, cooking classes, or keratin hair straightening. As a result, you’ll have a fresh perspective on what you're offering, and your readers could get a first-hand experience.
Note, however, that such reviews might be not just praising and compliments. But even if you don’t want to include them to your campaigns, you’ll find out about service issues you might need fixing asap.
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- Use past reviews as an example.
Biscuiteers adds several previous answers to their review request email to give ideas on how it may look like.
- Credit content makers.
I believe that mentioning authorship is one of the most important conditions of using UGC. First, people would be more likely to share if you recognize their contribution. Second, content with real authors behind is more trustworthy, and trust building is one of the actual purposes of UGC in emails.
It’s a common practice to place the corresponding Insta profile on a photo taken by a user. However, I would provide links to reviews as well as it would give them more weight.
Writing “I like your socks. Tom” doesn’t sound too reliable, because, well, you could have made the whole thing up. It’s a different thing, though, when you add the link to Tom’s post where he shares this opinion or to your website review section.
- Tell about the results of the challenge.
When you run the challenge or contest, show your audience the winners or the best works. If the event is long-lasting, intermediate in-progress results will keep it alive and encourage new participations. Also, in addition to editorial picks, it’s also a good idea to ask subscribers to vote for their favorite author.
- Share your audience’s stories.
Remember my advice on asking for stories? You ask not to just keep them to yourself, don’t you. A UG story is an awesome way to build involvement, but you need to be smart about it. Such stories should resonate with your audience, and require a loyal community around the brand.
For example, the email below is sent by Goruck, an apparel brand with Special Forces roots. Its target audience is soldiers, army officers, veterans, and special forces staff. The brand has a strong community that’s actively involved in its life. That’s why such stories as the one by Carl Antonio appeal to the Goruck’s subscribers as many of them can relate to it and feel a connection with the narrator.
Today, user-generated content isn’t for social media only; marketers make extensive use of it in email campaigns as well. Authentic content produced daily, easy implementation, and cost-effective results are only some of UGC’s advantages.
Use the below tips and examples as inspiration to create more genuine campaigns and promote brand recognition. Word of mouth has always been the best advertising, and technology has just made it easier to spread it around your subscribers.