Enhance Email Performance With User-Generated Content
Email marketing has become so much more dynamic in recent years. This includes the trend of integrating user-generated content (UGC) into email campaigns. Can this benefit your brand? The short answer is: yes, it absolutely can.
Today, marketers take pride in designing captivating emails that deliver value by being relatable and authentic. Research has also shown that consumers find user-generated content 2.4x more authentic than branded ones. With the help of UGC, you can make your email campaigns more compelling and drive up your conversions.
Keep reading to find out how!
WHAT IS USER-GENERATED CONTENT (UGC)?
The advertising world as we know it is changing. Say goodbye to the traditional marketing days, filled with photoshop retouches and unattainable results (we’re not going to miss it).
Welcome to a New Era in marketing—a moment in advertising history where consumers value authenticity and achievable outcomes from the products they purchase. And what better way to settle those pre-purchase jitters than by learning how others felt about whatever it is you want to buy? This humanized, consumer-centric marketing strategy is called user-generated content.
UGC is any form of content posted by users online that highlights their experience with something they’ve purchased. It’s a valuable (and virtually cost-free) weapon for brands to connect with their audience.
User-generated content can traditionally be in the form of:
- Images (social media posts, product pictures),
- Videos (YouTube content, live streams, unboxing),
- Text (blog posts, case studies, testimonials),
- Audio (podcasts, Q&As).
Now marketers have endless new opportunities to get creative with their advertising efforts, including enhancing email marketing strategies. That’s because UGC permits marketers to build an emotional connection with their audience, gain their trust, show authenticity, and form meaningful relationships.
WHY IS USER-GENERATED CONTENT A MUST-HAVE?
Did you know that 72% of consumers won’t purchase until they read reviews about what they’re about to get? What’s more, 90% of consumers say reviews are detrimental to knowing whether something is worth buying or not.
UGC organically allows marketers to convey emotions that connect brands with their existing and potential consumers seamlessly.
This so-called ‘humanized approach’ strategically taps into consumer emotions, increasing their curiosity and FOMO – fear of missing out – regarding a product or service (in ways that conventional marketing could only dream of).
The strategy behind user-generated content is to create meaningful relationships and build psychological connections with buyers by showing authenticity and, in turn, gaining their trust. And because real consumers generate this content, it presents a perfect opportunity for brands to achieve maximum returns with minimal investments.
And to further confirm how cost-beneficial UGC can be as opposed to traditional marketing, studies show that buyers find user-generated content to be up to 9.8x more impactful than influencer content when making a purchase decision.
And with 3.2 billion images shared on social media every day, UGC is a powerful gold mine of genuine and engaging customer experiences for brands to dive into.
Next, let’s dive into why UGC is a must in any marketing campaign.
1. It grows trust
User-generated content serves as something pivotal in today’s digital age: it gives brands of all sizes social proof — the validation that customers provide to the brand about the trust, authenticity, and reliability of their products and activities.
Since forever, word-of-mouth has always been the most powerful marketing strategy. And with the rise of technology, user-generated content serves as a digital form of word of mouth.
If your brand has raving online customers or even a customer loyalty program with a base who can’t get enough of your products, you can use their created content to showcase brand advocacy that will help attract further customers.
2. It makes your brand memorable
Creative, catchy, and exciting content are the primary needs for any marketing campaign to be successful. And with user-generated content, you get the functionality to leverage diverse and innovative marketing ideas.
Leveraging this creative content from real people who are actually using your products helps make your email campaigns feel relatable and impactful for new potential buyers. What’s more: this is a fantastic way to personalize your emails.
That’s because exhibiting UGC targeted for email subscribers will increase your email open rates because recipients will feel connected to the content within.
3. It’s easy to scale
Ask any marketer what they want from any campaign they launch, and they’ll probably tell you: wide reach and engagement. And having users involved in campaigns helps a brand achieve these goals relatively fast and in an effective manner.
A good way to go about this is by creating custom hashtags for every marketing campaign you launch. When people use personalized hashtags, it amplifies the campaign’s reach to a broader audience.
You can encourage people to share their views and opinions using the hashtag, which also automatically curates the content online.
STRATEGIES TO INFUSE YOUR EMAIL WITH UGC
You’re familiar now with the seemingly endless benefits of implementing user-generated content to cleverly engage with your existing and potential clients.
From acting as social proof and promoting your brand’s message, to helping grow your social following, generating trust with clients, and ultimately boosting sales.
Next, let’s go over creative ways to apply UGC to leverage this content for your own purposes and ensure success in your marketing efforts.
1. Integrate visuals
As cliche as this might sound, an image is worth a thousand words. And simply by integrating images to your marketing campaigns, you are by default making your offer more appealing. But with 65% of marketers struggling to consistently create engaging visuals, this can easily get time-consuming and expensive.
Granted, the ocean of user-generated content posted online can quickly get overwhelming (unfortunately not everything can be readily used for marketing campaigns, so you might need to do some content filtering).
A few things to consider are:
- Does the UGC align with your brand tone and voice?
- Does it align with the color mood behind your current campaign theme?
- Did you get permission from the user to repost their content?
So while quality visuals remain key to any marketing campaign, UGC photos can be more effective at reaching and engaging customers. A healthy combination of professionally created images altogether with UGC makes the perfect marketing mix.
2. Use people power in your promotional emails
Shockingly enough, the average person receives 121 emails every day. So by tapping into the power of people, you can set your promotional emails apart and give your readers a more personal touch.
As previously mentioned, marketing strategies go hand-in-hand with the FOMO that most people suffer when browsing online. Be honest: have you ever found yourself desiring an item after seeing people on your Instagram using it?
That could be caused by your FOMO.
By showcasing users’ content in your email marketing campaigns, you’ll trigger people’s FOMO.
3. Retarget customers with abandoned shopping carts
You’ve probably been through the online shopping situation where, after adding a few items to your shopping cart, you’ve decided not to follow through with your purchase. A few days later, however, you start seeing ads for those products all over the web.
The reason for this is a well-known marketing technique called remarketing.
In short, remarketing is when online retailers target clients who have completed a portion of the buying process, but not all of it. In fact, an average of $4 trillion worth of merchandise gets abandoned in online shopping carts, and about 63% of that revenue is potentially recoverable, making remarketing a hugely valuable technique.
Done right, remarketing can have a mighty ROI, possibly delivering 4x as many sales for the same ad spend, making roughly 18x the next profit (wowza!).
This model works by placing a cookie on a visitor’s computer. If the customer decides to abandon their shopping cart, the retailer resends customized ads to retarget that potential customer. After being reminded of this retailer and/or product a few times, a client might feel more inclined to finally make the purchase.
But just in case these simple reminders are not enough, advertisers can further take the chance to add a bit more juice to hopefully persuade the potential buyer to complete the purchase. You can do this simply by sending an email to the buyer to remind them of their abandoned shopping cart.
Likewise, advertisers can highlight the benefits of the abandoned product, or, most effectively, offer an incentive — such as a coupon code or a gift — to complete the abandoned sale.
4. Make your transactional emails exciting
Transactional emails are those you receive after completing a purchase for an online order, confirming your purchase. These follow-up emails offer customers peace of mind that the payment process was successful, that their order is underway, and extra information on how to track the shipment.
For such reasons, it’s no surprise that transactional emails have higher open rates than regular ones. This is an unmissable opportunity to build customer relationships and generate repeat purchases.
Some most common transactional emails are:
- Newsletter signup verifications
- Order confirmations
- Order shipment notifications
- Password resets
- Reservation confirmations
- App signup verifications
5. Interact with your community
For all the reasons already mentioned in this article, it’s possible to grasp the many creative ways in which a brand can potentially foster deeper relationships with its audience through user-generated content. This personalized engagement with people who have already demonstrated interest in the brand is an effective way to build communities.
Building raving content communities of fans, followers, and customers has become integral in modern marketing initiatives. These will be the people indirectly responsible for establishing your brand via word-of-mouth, positive product reviews, and repeat purchases. A great way to do this, for example, is by starting a blog and updating it regularly with exciting, relevant content to your audience. Do it well. And if necessary, use additional tools such as Essay Writing Service or Grammarly.
If you understand how to leverage your community to convert prospects into customers, then you’ll have a potent weapon that can make your email marketing initiatives a huge success. That’s because your community will source you endless options of passionate UGC that can (and should) be used to create an attractive newsletter and promote sales.
6. Run an email-based hashtag campaign
A popular digital marketing campaign is to create and promote a branded hashtag. This is one of the fastest methods to organically generate awareness around a brand, product, launch, contest, event, and more.
Popular hashtags spread faster than wildfire (you probably remember the red cup campaign that Starbucks did for a Christmas-themed campaign not long ago utilizing #RedCupContest).
A few noteworthy benefits of hashtag campaigns are:
- Increases brand awareness
- Helps promote products, services, and events
- Increases user engagement
- Bundles information
- Collects UGC
Take a look at Chaco’s email marketing campaign, for example. Chaco’s subscribers were encouraged to participate in its Instagram photo contest by using the campaign’s branded hashtag, #spiritofsummer. They further expand into a sense of community by also promoting the hashtag #chaconation.
To help promote the photo contest, Chaco included the below graphic in their email campaigns in a smart way to call attention to the event:
Promoting your hashtag via email can be done in a matter of seconds. Don’t assume that your email list already knows about your hashtags.
7. Convert your social followers
Promoting your newsletter to your followers might seem like a no-brainer, but surprisingly this can easily be overlooked by most marketers. It’s crucial to take your followers from your social networks and into an email opt-in.
Here’s a good example of how to convert your social followers: ThinkGeek features weekly images of their customers in their email newsletters as part of a contest to win $100 in goodies.
The weekly branded ‘hall of fame’ provides further incentive for subscribers to check their emails if they’ve been featured. Alternatively, you can also include newsletter signups to your Instagram bio to make it as easy as possible for people to subscribe.
8. Learn more about your customers through quizzes
Those who willingly provide you with their email address are by far your best leads. These are people who are genuinely interested in what your brand has to say at all times (and getting information directly from your subscribers is infinitely valuable).
Why not make the most out of having these people at hand?
Quizzes, surveys, commentaries, and feedback might not be seen as traditional UGC as pictures and videos, but this type of content is invaluable. A way to go on about this is by curating feedback from your list.
Ask them questions such as:
- “What content resonated with you the most?”
- “What types of products would you like to see in the future?”
- “What can we do to improve your buying experience?”
Integrate these elements along various points of the customer journey to better cater content in the future.
9. Create thematic content
For a successful thematic campaign, you’ll need to determine your target audience and what your UGC goals are. As an example, the holiday season is considered marketers’ time to shine. It offers many opportunities for businesses to engage with their clients on an emotional level, being a perfect time for promoting thematic content.
Your subscribers can be asked to share themed images, videos, use hashtags, write testimonials, participate in contests, etc. This not only creates excitement around something, but the outcomes can be very creative.
OPTE uses its newsletter to grow its social media communities by creating excitement around its one-year anniversary. To help further grow, they announced a giveaway that, for people to join, they must follow their Instagram page (win-win):
10. Show off positive customer testimonials
Reviews and testimonials are a brilliant way for customers to showcase their appreciation for your product or service, serving as a potent motivator for others who might be on the fence. In case you aren’t already, it’s time to start asking for reviews.
A video testimonial from users will look authentic, fun and expand your social proof. This gives credibility to the idea of a positive customer experience and drives purchasing decisions from those who see your content.
OUTER promoted their outdoor furniture and included the below example to help persuade their email readers. Reviews show potential buyers your product’s value (from the below review, readers learn that the furniture is stylish, comfortable, and easy to clean).
BOOST YOUR EMAIL CAMPAIGNS WITH RELATABLE UGC
Email is still one of the most powerful instruments in marketers’ toolboxes, but marketing professionals still face challenges generating compelling, unique content regularly.
User-generated content not only is an effective way to gather relatable content, but it’s also one of the best ways to spice up otherwise mundane email campaigns. By adding materials created by existing clients, brands help showcase their products in real scenarios.
Whether your goal is to generate more sales or simply strengthen your brand and client relationships, UGC and email combined make a powerful duo. Next time you plan a marketing campaign, consider these effective ways of incorporating UGC in your email marketing and sit back, relax, and watch as your sales steadily rise.
Mark Quadros is a SaaS content marketer that helps brands create and distribute rad content. On a similar note, Mark loves content and contributes to several authoritative blogs like HubSpot, CoSchedule, Foundr, etc. Connect with him via LinkedIN or twitter.
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