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User-generated content brings private brands to life online

Suzin Wold of Bazaarvoice shares insights from recent studies on the impact of digital content to drive private brands in the accelerating world of e-commerce

As COVID-19 shuttered physical stores in early 2020, e-commerce became not only a necessity, but second nature. In lieu of visiting physical stores, shoppers are now scrolling through online brand and retail websites alongside their social media feeds. Shopping is also easier than ever before, as everything can now be purchased from the couch. In fact, a third of shoppers said they buy something online at least once a week, and 9% said they’re buying online daily.

At the same time, private brands are accelerating in consumer homes. Bazaarvoice recently published a study that found private brands aren’t being purchased just because they save a shopper money, they’re being purchased because they’re preferred.

But while online shopping may be more convenient, there is still something to be said about browsing the shelves at a brick-and-mortar store and being able to physically touch and see products in real life. To replicate that in-store experience and inspire online consumers’ confidence, user-generated content (UGC) is more important than ever. In fact, in the Bazaarvoice client network of 11,500+ brands, of which 1,750 are retailers, we saw a 44% year-over-year increase of customer reviews submitted in 2020. And while it’s widely agreed upon that written reviews are important, visual content is entering the spotlight. Two-thirds of shoppers we surveyed said that photos from previous shoppers is important to them when deciding to purchase online.

We wanted to learn more about the impact of visual and social UGC on shoppers’ buying journeys, so we conducted a survey of over 8,000 consumers across Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the UK, and the US. Here’s what we found: 

See it to believe it — and buy it
According to our survey, 66% of shoppers find the availability of photos from previous shoppers important when deciding to purchase online. In fact, 62% of shoppers now say they are more likely to buy a product if they can view customer videos and photos. This is likely due to the fact that the more authentic shoppers think visual content is, the more confident they become in their purchases. What is more authentic than a photo of a product being used or worn by someone just like you? Shoppers no longer want to see bland, stagnant, unrealistic pictures of models from professional photo shoots on the product page. Almost 75% of respondents say that they prefer seeing customers’ photos and videos on online stores over professional imagery.

Rich visual and social content can demonstrate how the product fits or is used, and can help potential customers to imagine how they would use and experience the product in their own lives. When asked what the biggest reason for wanting video UGC is, a quarter of shoppers said that it highlights things not obvious from the text and pictures in the product listing. Shoppers know that their fellow consumers are actually using the products, and therefore can give insights and tips that may not be obvious from just professional product shots.

What does this mean for private label?
According to our annual survey for our Shopper Experience Index, two-thirds of shoppers think that store brands are just as high quality as name brands, and another third ranked private label higher in quality than name brands. In fact, in the past year, 55% of shoppers have made a private label purchase. While 53% of shoppers intentionally purchased private label products in the past year, the availability of private label products has also played a role in addressing global product shortages due to COVID-19. About 60% of shoppers report product shortages during the pandemic, most commonly for grocery and cleaning supplies. And over a third (39%) of consumers purchased from different brands during pandemic shutdowns.

All of this points to the fact that private labels are in a prime position to increase market share right now. To do so, they must utilize the voice of the consumer by allowing customers to provide photos and videos of themselves using their brand’s product, which amplifies a brand’s most influential advocates. And by spreading that content far and wide, on product pages and throughout social media (over half of consumers say they shop on social media!), a private label can make the most out of those resounding recommendations.

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Suzin Wold is senior vice president of marketing at Bazaarvoice, Austin, Texas.

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