User-generated content, UGC for short, is a powerful content marketing tool for brands looking to resonate with new customers.

That content, created by online users and made available via social media, can consist of photos, tweets, blog posts, reviews, audio, video, and more. UGC a powerful source of creative, trustworthy content for brands to display via their marketing channels.

When a brand scales its content creation with user-generated content, and uses real customer photos alongside branded content in its marketing, it adds a layer of credibility and authenticity both to the brand and its products.

Today's consumers are digital natives. They are exposed to over 5,000 brand messages and advertisements every day and, as a result, are distrustful of brand messages. UGC, however, is effective at influencing purchasing decisions because consumers trust content that is generated by their peers over content generated by the brand itself.

Three Benefits of User Generated Content: The Case of Real-Life Customer Photos

1. Gain social proof

User-generated content builds credibility and social proof for your brand. Since consumers trust other consumers, displaying UGC on your website is an effective way to influence potential customers to buy. In fact, 51% of US consumers trust real customer photos of a brand's product more than any other information available on a brand website.

Marketing with UGC becomes even more important as the popularity of online shopping continues to increase. It gives shoppers a real-life view of how customers are using a brand's products. That authentic lens helps convince online shoppers—who can't touch or feel your products as they would in a store—to make purchases.

Testimonials and reviews are a large part of building trust for your brand and your products. When paired with real-users' photos, they make a noticeable impact on sales. Even though online shoppers might not personally know each reviewer, they draw parallels between themselves and the people whose pictures they see on your site.

Featuring real customers on your website reinforces the idea that consumers can trust your brand and products, and that makes people more likely to buy from you.

2. Drive engagement

User-generated content provides an opportunity for one-to-one marketing. Social media users and emerging influencers love when their favorite brands recognize them and spotlight their content. Accordingly, displaying UGC can be mutually beneficial to brands and consumers alike. Brands receive free, influential content, while emerging influencers receive heightened exposure and feel included by the brand. Real-customer photos help to not only build brand awareness but also develop brand loyalty.

Consumers are eager to share content related to brands that they use and trust. But they want direction from the brand itself. Over 50% of consumers want brands to tell them what type of content to share, but only 16% of brands actually do so. Giving your users specific parameters for sharing helps your brand to prompt the creation of on-brand content that can be used across a variety of channels and platforms.

Consider asking customers to highlight a new product, demonstrate key product features, or show your brand in action with a social media campaign. Social campaigns that ask customers to share receive more submissions, drive more brand awareness, and result in new customers. Brands that ask customers to collaborate on content reap, on average, an increase of 20% more site visits and a 50% lift in social engagement.

3. Increase Online Conversion

Using customer content can help to effectively drive purchase and increase online conversion rate. Real consumer photos and videos of your products can help combat online shopping anxiety. User photos represent, and depict, happy customers, which helps shoppers to trust your brand and push them over the fence on purchases.

In short, integrating UGC into your website and online platforms results in an increase of sales and humanizes your brand.

Marketing with the customer in mind is important for conversion rates: 41% of shoppers will not purchase from a site that doesn't have the customers' point of view, and 27% of shoppers will not complete a purchase as a result of lack of trust.

By displaying user photos and testimonials on your marketing channels, you can help potential customers learn more about your brand or its product and set expectations before purchase.

Examples of Effective UGC Campaigns

Visual content is up to 40 times more likely to be shared on social media than other kinds of content. And, for the first time ever, Millennial and Gen Z consumers are willing and eager to share a brands' messages—if they feel the messages are worthy.

Here are a couple of iconic brands that have been successful at partnering with customers to scale content creation and weave real customer photos into their marketing.

Old Navy: #OldNavy

Old Navy, a clothing chain that provides the latest fashions at great prices for the entire family, displays real customer photos on its e-commerce site to increase average order value and drive more sales. The brand was looking to improve its online shopping experience by displaying customer photos as social proof of its products. To do so, Old Navy featured an interactive gallery of real-customer photos, allowing browsers to shop the look in each photo. These types of social galleries are proven to increase conversion rates by up to 200% and average order value by an average of 6%.

Molson Coors: #OneHorseTown

Molson Coors has built a business by creating beloved brands across the world and serving best-in-class beers. From Coors Light to Blue Moon to dozens of other staple beverages, Molson Coors products are in fridges and bars across the world.

Last year, Coors' brand Banquet ran a marketing campaign under the hashtag #OneHorseTown to celebrate customers who live in small towns across North America. Molson asked customers to submit photos of their town and offered an exclusive, free country concert for the town that had the best submissions. Submissions for the campaign came in rapidly from hundreds of towns across the nation. The Molson team allowed for voting on its photo submissions and tracked each photo's engagement levels over the course of the campaign. The brand used its highest-ranked content across its social feeds and other marketing channels to keep content fresh and authentic.


The success of both of these campaigns is dependent on making a clear ask of the customer and the opportunity for customers to interact with the brands throughout the buyer's journey on a more personal level. Both campaigns boosted sales and engagement and prompted customers for user-generated content that would last beyond the original intended length of the campaign.

* * *

Real customer photos have a measurable impact on successful transactions. They provide valuable social proof for your brand, and they are also an easy and inexpensive way to scale content creation for your company.

Launching a social campaign with specific parameters under an evergreen hashtag is a great way to collect real customer photos that can be used to build brand awareness, boost engagement, and develop customer loyalty.

User-generated content humanizes your brand and displays authenticity—qualities that make customers more likely to purchase your products.

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Three Ways UGC Influences Sales: The Case of Real-Customer Photos

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image of Juliet Carnoy

Juliet Carnoy is marketing manager at Pixlee, a visual marketing platform that allows businesses to market and sell using real customer photos and videos.

LinkedIn: Juliet Carnoy