How to Utilize User Generated Content During Holidays

by Sean Ogino |

The holiday season is approaching slowly and steadily. Soon, marketers will be busy bees coming up with refreshing marketing campaigns to make most of this season. That’s perfectly understandable, as businesses can make 40% of their annual revenue during the holiday season. But having said that, it’s important to keep in mind, the holidays mark a time when customers face a ceaseless bombardment of way-too-similar promotions and campaigns. Nowadays, most advertising fails to move people mainly due to lack of believability. That’s precisely why marketers need to think about ways to better take advantage of their User Generated Content during holidays.

The rationale behind this claim is multi-natured. Purchasing is at its peak during the holiday season and during last year’s Cyber Monday, customers handed over $3.45B. Customers are looking to spend a lot of money but are being bombarded by competitive messages on every channel, which is why customers need more authentic and trustworthy information about the quality of the products they are thinking about buying. The trust factor is always strong when it comes to UGC, as 92% of consumers worldwide say they trust word-of-mouth more than advertising. And this applies during the holiday season as well, 70% of US shoppers want to be able to access product ratings and reviews in store during the holidays. UGC also helps marketers boost customer engagement through mobile. The majority of UGC gets uploaded and viewed through phones and 4 in 5 holiday shoppers are looking at their phones throughout the day. Brands need to take advantage of every opportunity to get in front of customers and deliver authentic, trustworthy content if they want to boost conversion. Clearly, all of these factors point to a strong argument in favor of including User Generated Content during holidays

However, every idea is only as good as its implementation. Use of User Generated Content during holidays isn’t a special exception. You need to come up with unique and engaging ways to incorporate UGC into your overall marketing schema during holidays. It’s also important to broaden the horizon of the definition of the word UGC. It shouldn’t be just about sharing pictures and reviews in a traditional way. Content needs to be framed in a bigger and better narrative. New forms of customer stories and feedback should be tried out and we’ve put together a list of ways you can make your UGC work for you to stand out during the holiday season.

A) Go Beyond Typical Image Sharing:

Office Depot’s Elf Yourself is a textbook example of how to use User Generated Content during holidays. It asks people to upload a photo of themselves which gets superimposed on dancing elves. It was an instant hit, between 2012 and 2015, the app was downloaded more than 92 million times. But what was impressive about this campaign is that even after such staggering success, the brand kept complacency at bay. In 2016, Office Depot released a new version, with three dances dubbed “Chrismukkah,” “Hip Hop Shop,” and “Secret Santa.” This element of constant novelty combined with whimsical fun is the reason why Elf Yourself has become a backbone of Office Depot’s holiday marketing and has helped get the brand in front of millions of people.

Go Beyond Typical Image Sharing

One idea for implementing a similar strategy for your own brand is to ask your customers to generate an image of themselves using an Instagram Stories holiday filter and post the image to Instagram using your hashtag in the caption. You can then display the entries. If you want to extract more than brand awareness from the campaign, you can turn it into a contest and give rewards to funny images and encourage customers to share it with their friends for more chances to win.

B) Add Reviews to Holiday Signage:

Even though e-commerce is growing at an unprecedented rate, consumers are not completely steering clear of brick-and-mortar stores. The fact is the holiday shopping experience is still largely shaped by physical stores and malls, as 47% of shoppers say they browse brick-and-mortar stores to find gift ideas. Thus, in-store experiences should not go untouched while thinking about using User Generated Content during holidays.

If you have physical store locations, catch your holiday shoppers’ attention by including ratings and reviews on your in-store signage. Since 71% of consumers say that reviews are important before buying a product, this inclusion is a great way to grab your customer’s attention. When they’re shopping in stores customers are frequently turning to their phones to find reviews online. By including them on in-store signage you help customers skip this step which improves their experience and keeps their attention focused on your retail location instead of potentially finding products with reviews on your competitor’s sites. Take a page out of Amazon’s book and include authentic and informative review content in your brick-and-mortar stores.

Add Reviews to Holiday Signage

C) Find More Ways To Engage People:

One of the greatest benefits of UGC is that it generates massive customer engagement which is beyond the capability of any other non-UGC method. The reason for this is the authentic and emotional bond customers develop with it. It then doesn’t surprise us that consumers on average spend 5.4 hours per day with UGC. Thus, User Generated Content during holidays needs to be implemented from this point of view as well.

Starbucks’ success with the White Cup Contest is one of the most celebrated sagas of UGC’s power. Starbucks decided to replicate it in last year’s holiday season with the launch of their red holiday cups. The company invited customers to share their customized cups on Instagram with the hashtag #RedCupArt and then created a website to curate submissions. The coffee giant amassed 1,200 submissions in just 8 days. Within the second week of the contest, the hashtag #RedCupContest already had over 40,000 posts on Instagram.

Find More Ways To Engage People

What was striking about this campaign was the way Starbucks was able to leverage the success of its previous campaign. It was sure about the nostalgic value of its hugely successful campaign. In that sense, it was a tried and tested path. Implementing this idea of User Generated Content during holidays was indeed a risk-free affair for Starbucks.

D) Milking the Unboxing Trend:

Since the early days of product marketing, brands have worked hard to make packaging pop, sizzle and entice. Now the focus is on capturing the joyous moments of excitement and anticipation of opening a new product. Across Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, shoppers have begun creating clips that capture them opening and reacting to their favorite purchases. This trend of capitalizing on the ‘surprise and delight’ moment of opening a package for the first time has been called as “unboxing”. The craze of unboxing videos can be measured from the fact that they generated 1.1 billion YouTube views in 2015.

It is indeed a tailor-made scenario for holiday season’s alliance with UGC, as the moments of excitement and joy reach its tip when it comes to opening the holiday gifts. You can collect multiple unboxing videos of the recipients of the gifts by running a hashtag for that. Or, you can directly ask your customers to share the recipient’s unboxing video on your brand’s website or social media profiles. It doesn’t just increase customer engagement, it also gives you a way to collect rich nuggets of customer information. And considering that UGC achieves this at a much lower budget as opposed to traditional forms of ads, UGC is indeed a silver bullet for holiday marketers!

Key Takeaways:

1) Always have a specific goal for every UGC campaign/usage during holidays. Office Depot’s campaign was purely concerned with getting more brand visibility, while the idea of adding reviews to holiday signage is more oriented towards conversion. The unboxing method has two goals, helping marketers getting more details around the customer experience and boosting engagement with the brand.

2) Don’t be afraid of using an idea or theme that has worked in the past, whether during the holidays or throughout the rest of the year. It’s perfectly fine to use it with few timely augmentations. Reinventing the wheel is not always necessary around the holidays.


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