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User Generated Content Deemed Largest Sales Driver for Brands and Retailers

User generated content has emerged as the key to consumers’ hearts when it comes to shopping online, surpassing even social media’s influence.

New research released by digital content strategy group BazaarVoice offers insight into the elements of a shopper’s online journey that are most compelling when it comes to driving sales.

For digitally native brands and retailers, the Shopper Experience Index findings show consumers want to be wooed before they buy. And while that courting process involves the cultivation of convenient technology (like a great mobile site, for example) as well as personalized feeds driven by consumer data, the most important element is validation from other consumers.

Before taking a chance on a purchase, consumers want their choices legitimized by others. The research shows that shopper participation in reviews and ratings grew substantially in 2018 across the BazaarVoice network, which includes 6,000 brands and retail sites. Shoppers submitted 66.8 million reviews across those sites, up 9 percent from 2017.

Of the 2,000 consumers surveyed, 64 percent said they factored user-submitted content like ratings, reviews, photos and questions into their purchasing decisions—a 14 percent increase from 2017.

“Access to word-of-mouth content is consistently rewarded with return visits, online and in-store sales, and, above all, loyalty,” BazaarVoice analysts said in the report.

For brands, the benefits of user generated content are a no-brainer. Across BazaarVoice’s network of brands and retailers leveraging reviews, ratings, and more, the conversion lift rose to 137 percent, while the revenue per visitor rose to 157 percent in 2018.

And, as it turns out, consumers who buy may not even be reading or engaging with other users’ content—they’re just gleaning affirmation from the fact that it exists.

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Product pages with at least one review in 2018 experience a 354 percent increase in conversion rate, along with a 446 percent increase in revenue per visitor, compared with pages that had zero reviews. That lift took place regardless of whether visitors engaged with the content at all.

And the shift is impacting brick-and-mortar retail, too. In BazaarVoice’s client survey, the vast majority (86 percent) of the group’s retailers said that consumer reviews had driven online sales, and more than half (53 percent) said they’d seen a positive impact on in-store sell-through as well. That’s a 62 percent increase from 2017.

Brands are also increasingly relying on reviews to boost SEO performance, analysts reported, with a majority (63 percent) saying consumer content has helped in that arena.

With a myriad of upsides to the use of reviews, ratings and user photos, nearly all of the brands and retailers surveyed (98 percent) said they planned to continue using these tactics or even increase their effort to amass user generated content in 2019.