A loyal customer is someone who doesn’t let his favorable buying behavior towards a particular brand get affected under any circumstances. Come what may, he remains with that brand. Now, it’s obvious that he will provide high lifetime value to the brand through his purchase and repurchase. And via loyalty programs, they brand may reward him to thank his loyal attitude. But the real question is: Is that all that a loyal customer can offer to that brand? In my opinion, the answer is no.
The potential of a loyal customer is more than his accumulated receipts. As a marketer, you should be able to find out ways to use that potential with a maximum impact. And I believe that User Generated Content (UGC) is one such way. As the name suggests, UGC means content that is generated or created by users. It can be in any form such as text, images, or videos. UGC on brand websites is generally broken down into three categories: ratings and reviews, photos (which are often used in Visual Commerce), and questions and answers. We will look at these three categories and try to understand how they can bolster loyalty both with and without a dedicated loyalty program.
Table of Contents
UGC and Loyalty: Ratings and Reviews
Go to practically any e-commerce site, look for a best-selling or highest-rated product, and check out its reviews. You will realize that even those who don’t share a long-term relationship with a brand praise its product highly if the product is really good. They don’t even feel any special affection for the brand and yet they have no shortage of words if the product is deserving.
Now, the point that deserves contemplation here is, if someone who isn’t loyal to the brand can shout from the rooftop about the quality of the product, then loyal customers will happily do that on a regular basis. They are already in love with your brand! In light of this reasoning it makes sense to take the following steps:
- Invest in a quality product reviews platform.
- Make sure that the platform integrates effectively with your ESP.
- In addition to soliciting reviews after every purchase, as is the straightforward process, make sure to segment your frequent buyers and remind them to review past purchases. It’s easy to integrate their purchase history with a solid advocate marketing platform to make sure that you don’t miss out on gathering quality content from these devoted shoppers.
If you plan on taking UGC and loyalty to the next level, think about:
- Integrating your reviews platform with your customer loyalty program
- Offering loyalty points in exchange for approved reviews
- Giving your top reviewers additional “surprise and delight” points
- Running special promotions during which approved reviews (up to a certain limit) earn double the amount of usual points
By doing this, you are also making an advancement in making your most loyal customers as your brand advocates. Indeed, by writing favorable reviews, which has immense traction to pull more sales, your loyal customers are advocating your brand in a unique and subtle way.
UGC and Loyalty: Photos and Videos
With each passing day, the internet is becoming more and more visual place. Considering the power of visual content in spiking engagement and its ability to tell more in one picture or video than in 1000 words, it makes sense. That’s why you should ask your loyal customers to speak about their love for your brand and their beautiful experiences with your products and customer service people.
Pier 1 did this by crafting multiple videos of users discussing how they’ve have transformed their living spaces using Pier 1 products. As it was presented in a storytelling format in conjunction with the popular blog Apartment Therapy, it was highly engaging with a personal connection. And UGC naturally comes with a heap of authenticity. There is hardly a better combination than this.
You can do the same by curating stories from your loyal customers about how your product has made a change in their lives and why they have been loyal to you. You can add these visual testimonials in the online promotion of your loyalty program. While Pier 1’s example involves an influencer name and high production values, you can also incorporate visual UGC at scale and under-budget with Visual Commerce. In short, the Visual Commerce process involves:
- Starting a hashtag campaign on Instagram to encourage customers to share their photos and videos of your products. You should also consider allowing users to directly upload images and videos to your site.
- Using your Visual Commerce software to pull this visual content into a dashboard, where you curate it and ask for permission to use the content you like.
- Displaying this visual UGC in a variety of formats, from on-site galleries to PDP sliders to marketing emails and more.
If you have a loyalty program and integrate it with your Visual Commerce platform, you can also give users points for hashtagging on Instagram and/or for directly uploading content to your site.
For thoughts on how to boost sales, recognition, and engagement with visual social content, take a look at our guides:
- “Sell Experiences, Not Clothes: Visual Commerce and the Fashion Industry”
- “The New Wave of User Generated Content: 7 Concepts for 2017 and Beyond”
- “A Picture’s Worth 1,000 Words: A Visual Commerce Best Practices eBook”
- “Visual Commerce Permissions: Vital Best Practices for Using User Generated Content“
UGC and Loyalty: Questions and Answers
Questions and Answers are unique in the mixture of UGC and loyalty in that many times, shoppers with the most questions about a product will be first-time buyers, and it’s common that those most qualified to answer a question will be a product expert rather than another customer.
That said, loyal customers still have questions to ask, and they can still help answer others’ questions when they require subjective experience. You should incentivize the contribution of Q&A content by giving loyalty points to those who ask and answer approved questions.
Even if you don’t have a loyalty program, you can integrate your Q&A platform with your ESP and past sales data to solicit answers from shoppers who purchased an item that another user has a question about. Also consider running shopping cart abandonment emails including an “Ask a Question” CTA, in case some browsers didn’t buy due to unanswered questions that they had about the product.
UGC and Loyalty: A Better Use of Your Pre-Existing Loyalty Program Infrastructure
Even if you are running a loyalty program of a smaller proportions, you are ready with the infrastructure that you need to take engagement to the next level. Data like names and numbers of loyal customers, their whereabouts, and social media activities is all crucial to pinpointing and activating your would-be advocates and arming them through this combination of UGC and loyalty.
Once you’re ready with this information, you can target your most active and loyal membership program participants with your UGC plan. Through powerful communication, you can persuade them to write reviews as well as share visual testimonials. Besides, as you have all the information, keeping an eye on their participation in the UGC campaign becomes even simpler.
There is another rationale too behind this integration as far as information is concerned. The gathering of the customer information needs a systematic investment of time and money. So, why not use the same stones to build a new building if you can? That’s what experts exactly mean when they talk about maximum utilization of resources. In fact, it’s actually a waste of that information’s full potential not to have UGC with it!
UGC and Loyalty: Takeaways
1- Don’t look at your loyal customers as a way to get repeat purchases only. They can offer much more than that! Even beyond UGC contributions, they’re also your secret to referral success!
2- Get loyal customers into the groove of the most trusted and authentic forms of content, i.e., UGC. Ask them to write about your product on your ratings and reviews platform. If you don’t have it, it’s high time that you should get it. Also, collect visual testimonials too to spread it along with your loyalty program promotion.
3- Measure everything. How many loyal customers are sharing videos and how many are writing reviews? How is it helping conversion? Who are your best contributors? It will give you an idea about how your UGC and loyalty integration is going.
Note: We genuinely believe that loyalty program can become even more effective when combined with UGC. Just take a look at Murad’s success story. After combining UGC with a loyalty program, it saw an 18% increase in the conversion rate along with the acquisition of 150,000 loyal members in only 6 months. For even more UGC and loyalty insights, take a look at some of the following white papers and posts, too!