About 90% of 1,000 shoppers recently surveyed say user-generated content (UGC) on the Internet influences their decisions to make a purchase, far more than are influenced by other forms of marketing, according to “Hearing the Voice of the Consumer: UGC and the Commerce Experience,” a survey commissioned by TurnTo Networks, a provider of content.
By contrast, 87% of those surveyed said they were influenced by search engines, which 79% reported that promotional e-mails drove them toward purchases. About 73% said UGC increases their purchasing confidence and 61% claimed such content encourages them to engage with brands.
Shoppers also stated they were willing to pay more and wait longer — 81% of those surveyed in on both questions — for products paired with UGC. Nearly two-thirds of shoppers (63 %) believe UGC creates a more authentic shopping experience.
At first glance, this sounds like a surprisingly high percentage of shoppers who claim to be swayed by the likes of Ryan’s Toy Review, but UGC is more than consumer-made unboxing videos. Once realize that it also includes customer product reviews on retailer and brand web sites and forums, that 90% figure starts to make a lot more sense.
The rapid rise and powerful influence of UGC — customer product reviews, unboxing videos and other content —could provide cause for retailers and brands that have steered clear of the UGC universe or relegated reviews to less visible areas of web pages to rethink their positions. That’s what TurnTo would like to see happen, anyway, as it’s in the business of helping retailers leverage user-generated content.
Another finding from the survey, and definitely not a surprising one: Shoppers under 30 report a greater influence of UGC in purchasing decisions versus older respondents. Among consumers in the 18-29 age group, 97% report UGC has an extreme influence. So even if retailers and brands aren’t buying the notion that their customers are buying based on persuasive UGC, they need to start buying it soon (if you follow) as the demographic they would most like to bond with counts UGC as a powerful force in their lives.
“Shoppers today are more sophisticated and marketers must understand discounts and free shipping offers are simply tablestakes,” noted Jim Davidson, director of research, TurnTo Networks in a press release announcing survey results. “Consumers demand a more engaging shopping experience; they’re looking to fellow shoppers to answer questions about products and share insights about purchases... Marketers who want to connect with the consumer must find ways to incorporate UGC into each step of the customer journey – not just the product page.”
Some companies are starting to get it. No surprise here, but Amazon is testing a social media influence referral fee program that would pay people who have large social followings and a lot of shoppable content in the postings. There's also start-up Packagd, bent on creating a whole new mobile video channel dedicated to consumers unboxing and reviewing new tech gadgets. If you're a retailer that hasn't been thinking about how this sort of content affects your marketing strategy, it's time to start.