In the ‘Discover’ phase of the customer journey, potential customers are learning what they like about a brand, product or service. They’ll also make a decision about whether or not they are willing to make a purchase – a choice that can be made almost instantaneously, yet can make or break a brand in the competitive retail market.

The best way a brand can help their target audience at this point in the customer journey, is to offer them easy access to all the information they need to make a fully informed purchase decision. However, we know that customers don?t always want to hear from a brand; in fact, 70% of people trust recommendations from peers over professionally written content*. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why user-generated content, (or UGC), is growing in popularity with retail brands. The ever-increasing number of digital platforms available means that the opportunities to harvest UGC are greater than ever, and the options when it comes to redistributing this content are vast.

But how can retail brands successfully use UGC to help potential customers navigate their way through the ‘Discover’ phase of the customer journey, and move them closer towards making a purchase?

Feature UGC on website product pages

Once a consumer reaches a product page, all their queries about a product need to be satisfied in the best possible manner – whether this involves clearly listing product ingredients, specifying where something is made, or a thorough description of its features and benefits. Possibly the most important element on this page however, is a visual representation of a product. Two retail brands that excel at using UGC to enhance this are Oasis and ASOS.

Both these brands display images of fans wearing the selected items on their product pages, providing potential customers styling ideas and an insight into the lifestyles of existing customers. Not only does this provide a more well-rounded look at the product, but it also leverages UGC, rewarding fans for their engagement and promoting brand advocacy.

Offer an exciting form of UGC

Offering potential customers a chance to create something different can steer them towards making a purchase – especially when this is reliant on a particular product. The latest initiative from beauty brand Soap and Glory, offers fans the chance to buy a tub of body cream with their face on the front. Customers upload an image of themselves to a photo kiosk in a Boots store, purchase the product, then collect their personalised tub an hour later.

This kind of activity could sway customers at the point of sale, giving the brand a competitive edge. It will also breed UGC on digital channels, as individuals are likely to share their creations on their own social networks.

Showcase UGC on social

During the ‘Discover’ phase of the customer journey, consumers may begin following a brand on social media; in fact, this may even be where they first came across it. Positioning UGC here comes naturally to many brands, and customers will often actively seek it out.

One brand using social channels to showcase UGC, is Dr Martens. The majority of the brand’s posts on Instagram and Twitter consist of UGC. The brand always credits users in its posts, allowing potential customers the chance to view their profiles and get a glimpse of their lifestyle. This suggests that Dr Martens is likely to be receiving a vast amount of UGC on a regular basis, providing a great opportunity for them to select the most ‘on-brand’ images that fit with the desires of their target audience.

So why do customers respond positively to UGC? The psychology of social proof suggests that people are automatically drawn to a brand that they know others already like and trust**. Discovering that others favour a particular product can create a positive sentiment between a brand and its audience, encouraging them to progress towards making a purchase.

An individual’s customer journey is an holistic interaction with a brand – their whole experience with a company, rather than a linear course of separate touch points. This means that although UGC can help brands reach new customers, it can be implemented throughout the customer journey, and may even achieve more than one objective with different audiences at once.

In conclusion, UGC is a powerful tool for brands – especially when its creators, quality, and messaging are all synonymous with overall brand image. It can encourage engagement, build trust, and shape a customer’s perspective on a brand. The right kind of UGC can begin to build a rapport between a brand and a potential customer – and in some cases, portray its values better than the brand itself.

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