It’s Official: 2019 is the Year of UGC

By Lindsay Macdonald - January 15, 2019
6 mins read time
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We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it every month for the rest of this year: 2019 is #TheYearofUGC.

If you’re not planning to leverage authentic customer content as part of your marketing strategy this year, then you’re operating with a significant blind spot.

Now more than ever, customers want to feel connected to the brands they use, but 57 percent of people believe that less than half of brands create content that resonates as authentic. Lack of authenticity is a threat to brand loyalty, but user-generated content (UGC) will be the game changer that sets the relatable brands apart from those that are missing the mark.

Several marketing trends emphasize the need to leverage UGC across digital marketing strategies in 2019.

ICYMI, visuals are vital

You already know it’s true, but the research proves it. Scrolling through a website or social feed, the text just won’t capture your attention the way visual content will. Sixty-seven percent of people understand information better when it is communicated visually.

But, visuals aren’t just a better strategy; they’re imperative. According to TechSmith, “Businesses that fail to adapt with visuals may find themselves lagging in productivity and even losing top talent.”

Visuals and short-form content are the future of marketing. With 71 percent of media time coming from smartphones, people crave snappy content quickly. On top of being digestible, content should also be shareable. Content that incurs an emotional response can perform twice as well as content that doesn’t, and feeling strongly about a piece of content often leads people to want to share that feeling with others.

User-generated content makes it easy to be sure your content is engaging. On purchase pages especially, authentic content makes a difference. By providing peer comparisons and social proof in the form of brand-loyal customer content, even people who stumbled onto your page are more likely to stay — and buy.

Customers are 6x more likely to purchase a product if the page includes pictures from social media. And by making UGC shoppable, brands can shorten the path to purchase, considering consumers are 71 percent more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals. Above, Hunter Valley features customer content across their website, inviting visitors to plan a trip by showing them others’ unvarnished experiences there.

Popular hop-on-hop-off travel company Busabout has transformed their online and offline marketing with UGC, making 99 percent of the images on their website user-generated visuals. As a result, they’ve experienced a 39 percent increase in time spent on site, 72 percent growth in pageviews and a 33 percent boost in sales.

Human-centered marketing: With UGC, it’s personal

In order to use human-centered design for your creative process, you must know your consumer deeply, empathize with a real problem they face and come up with solutions they’d embrace. In a human-centered marketing strategy, user-generated content is the centerpiece.

According to Stackla’s recent data report, 86 percent of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support, and consumers are 3x more likely to say that content created by a consumer is authentic compared to content created by a brand.

With more competition on paid social than ever before — 1 of every 4 Facebook pages now uses paid media — marketers have to up their game by providing the most engaging content to social audiences. By gaining the rights and leveraging user-generated content across social ads, brands can rely on a personalized, human-centered strategy with proven results.

Air France put UGC to the test, launching a series of A/B tests to see if UGC-powered Facebook ads would perform better than their usual stock image ads, and the results are telling. The UGC ads produced 11 percent higher average click through rates (CTRs), 21 percent lower average cost per click (CPC) and 2 percent lower cost per acquisition (CPA), leading Air France to leverage UGC instead of stock photography in digital campaigns worldwide.

What better way to understand the content your customers want to see than by asking them to participate in your brand’s voice and then using their content to show your appreciation. UGC stages your customers as the focal point of your marketing strategy, taking “human-centered marketing” to the ultimate literal level.

UGC makes email marketing cool again!

As with all things, marketing strategies are cyclical. Audiences are hot and cold, and as marketers we do our best to gauge engagement across our efforts and make strategic decisions appropriately.

I’m happy to report that email marketing is back in full swing. Although you probably never stopped using email marketing as a tool, it now has the potential to be a more engaging communication channel than ever.

Email marketing is cost-effective, customizable, easy to share and highly compatible with mobile devices. You no longer have to worry about making uncomfortable eye contact on a subway train because every person’s eyes are glued to their phone, and what are they doing? Opening your bi-weekly email newsletters, probably. According to Zeta, 34 percent of conversions come from mobile devices.

Deliver the right message with the right visuals and your open and click-through rates will boost. Make sure those visuals are user-generated content, and the results grow even higher. Stackla customers have seen an 8 percent increase in email click-through rates by featuring UGC in their email marketing campaigns.

Check out these five brands, including McDonalds, Jetstar and Halo Neuroscience, who have boosted their email performance with UGC.

UGC + AI = The secret marketing solution that works

Have you heard it enough yet? Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere, but it’s not just a buzzword anymore. AI, especially when it comes to user-generated content, provides an unprecedented ability to consistently push content that actually matters to your consumers.

Brands are adopting AI engines to automate marketing processes in an effort to quickly generate insights into how marketing efforts are being received by your audience. With actionable insights, brands are able to create incredibly detailed marketing strategies that have been tailored to specific audiences.

For example, Stackla uses visual recognition technology to automatically identify and tag over 11,000 different objects, locations, language, sentiments and more to gain a deep understanding of each piece of UGC brands curate in our platform. Then, Co-Pilot, our machine learning engine, continually observes brands’ moderation habits as well as the how well each piece of published content performs with audiences to make predictive content recommendations in real time — saving you time while improving your content performance.

Using AI to constantly collect and evaluate the user-generated content being published offers brands invaluable insights. By leveraging a partnership between AI and UGC, brands are always giving customers what they want — real, relatable images — without taking time out of your busy schedule to source images or breaking the budget to create branded content.

Imagine how much your team could get done while your AI content engine helps to efficiently source, curate, recommend and publish engaging UGC across your channels.

Find the influencers that really matter (the authentic ones)

Don’t leverage the wrong influencers. Professional influencers don’t have as significant of an impact on a customers’ path to purchase as organic user-generated content does. In fact, only 23 percent of people believe content from celebrities and influencers is influential when making purchasing decisions.

So, why are brands focusing on this content that isn’t actually resonating as real? Instead, brands need to focus on the influencers that actually make a difference: their customers. According to a Stackla report, 60 percent of people say content from family, friends and peers influences their purchasing decisions. Authentic experiences matter to potential customers far more than sponsored content on an influencer’s social feed that’s chalk full of other brands’ products and services.

A key part of authenticity is understanding that authentic content is not one-size-fits-all. In fact, that’s the best part about it. Consumers immediately understand that authentic content can be trusted because it’s someone’s real experience; it’s the lived aspect that makes it relatable, rather than the subjective experience that’s being shared. There’s an inherent understanding and camaraderie that comes with finding other real people with similar interests.

Above, Pan Pacific Hotels Group invites customers to share their #PanPacific moments, giving potential customers an inside look into what a vacation there is really like.

Confirmed: It is definitely the #TheYearofUGC

Don’t miss out on the most important marketing trend in 2019. By implementing UGC into these trends that are already in full swing, your brand can stand out among the rest — and customers will notice.

Let us know what you think about UGC by using #TheYearofUGC across your social posts!

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