Who better to tell you how your business is doing than the people purchasing from you?

Having a conversation with your customers has never been easier than it is today. Implementing a consumer-generated content (CGC) program can open a dialogue that connects you to customers—and customers to other customers—and gives you the power of conversation, at least a modern version of one.

At the core of every CGC program is the ability to collect and share ratings and reviews. Though marketers see tremendous benefits from doing so, there is much more they can do to increase the effectiveness of their CGC.

To maximize the value of your CGC, check out these five habits that make for highly effective and successful CGC marketers.

1. Content collection is at the core

We live in a world of "now": Consumers are more empowered than ever to get what they want, when they want it. Patience for outdated, untrustworthy, manicured information is nonexistent. Shoppers and search engines are on the prowl for fresh content, and they don't care where it comes from. Consumers who want to be heard will be heard, and consumers who want information will find it.

Continually asking, collecting, and displaying fresh content from purchasers could be the difference between shoppers landing on your website, or your competitor's. There is no such thing as collecting too much content.

2. Be there in the moments that matter

To meet customers where they're at, marketers have been forced to re-evaluate and relearn how to capitalize on everchanging shopping behavior. Sridhar Ramaswamy, senior vice-president of ads and commerce at Google, once said, "You've had to double down on addressing the needs of consumers in the moment, committing to being there and being useful each and every time you can help advance the journey. In short, marketers have had to start being a lot more assistive."

It's one thing to find your customers, but what you say to them and how you "assist" them determines whether they stay or go. Amplifying the voice of the customer builds trust and influences your customers' shopper journeys more than any other type of content.

3. Customers illustrate the story

Images and videos are becoming our universal language—one that gives us a rich, tangible, imaginative shopping experience unlike any other. Our brains simply process visuals more efficiently than text alone, making visual content more successful for CGC marketers than written review content.

Shoppers want to see, imagine, and visualize their purchases in addition to reading helpful descriptions to understand the perceptions of other consumers. Finding and collecting visual content, then displaying it where your shoppers are browsing, can lure them into the consideration and purchase phase of their buying process much faster.

Not only that, but these customers also spend more: Our research finds that consumers who interact with visual forms of CGC account for an average of 116% lift in revenue per visitor.

4. Active listeners win

Reviewing CGC gives marketers valuable customer insights and a 360-degree view into what those customers think about your products or services: Is your product meeting expectations? Are there recurring complaints about a certain product flaw? Are multiple consumers suggesting ideas for new features and product options?

There is no greater data source for customer feedback than the information collected from your CGC program.

You can use that data to correct or update existing products, innovate to create new products, and educate consumers; it's an effective, data-driven approach to meeting consumers' demands, perceptions, and needs. It is the most immediate, authentic, and unfiltered way to learn what customers really think about your offerings.

5. Consumer engagement is a conversation

Consumers decide whether, when, where, and how they choose to interact with a brand. When consumers ask questions about your products, you must be there to answer them to stay top-of-mind and competitive.

For every question asked or complaint posted, hundreds—even thousands—more people are listening. Taking a proactive approach to engaging consumers provides a delightful experience that can turn a simple shopper into an advocate, and it showcases your responsiveness to a huge audience. In fact, our research also finds that customers in North America who interact with Q&A content spend almost 20% more than customers who read only ratings and reviews.

* * *

The world today differs dramatically both for marketers and for shoppers. Brands and retailers alike have a competitive obligation to give consumers a voice by collecting their opinions, sharing these opinions across channels, providing stimulating visual content, analyzing the voice of the customer to identify areas of improvement, and to actively listen and respond to them.

Companies that embrace these opportunities for engagement will be rewarded with customer loyalty and a competitive advantage for their brands.

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Five Habits of Highly Effective CGC Marketers

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image of Kristen Strauss

Kristen Strauss is a marketing manager at Bazaarvoice, provider of user-generated content (UGC) marketing solutions.

LinkedIn: Kristen Strauss

Twitter: @TechMeditate