How to Integrate User-Generated Content in Your Email Marketing Strategy

Today’s consumers are spoiled for choice, have poor attention spans, and enjoy considerable disposable income to spare. As marketers, it is your responsibility to continually look for fresh ways to connect with your target audience on a deeper level.

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Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

One way to do so is via user-generated content (UGC). The benefits of UGC for a marketer include:

  • You are letting them tell you a story for you in their voice.
  • You are letting the customer share their testimonials in the form of images originally taken by the customers. 
  • Your marketing messages come from individuals, not brands.
  • You are marketing with your customers, not at them.

As per Nielsen Consumer Trust Index, 92% of consumers trust user-generated content more than traditional advertising as it comes directly from the people they identify with and trust.

The hype of using UGC in a marketing campaign isn’t accidental. The Consumer and Marketing Perspectives report by Stackla highlights how users trust other users more than the brand itself or even influencers. The findings include:

  • Users find user-generated content to be 2.4 times more authentic than content created by the brand.
  • 79% of consumers say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decision.
  • Customers find UGC to be 9.8 times more impactful than influencer content.

Although UGC for social media strategy is commonly used by businesses, this content generation channel has the potential to improve email marketing conversions.

To start with, brands can dedicate one section of their newsletter for showcasing user-generated content and let subscribers know that they can submit their content.

The most critical part of adding UGC to your email marketing campaign is to ask users’ permission to use their content and credit it to the sender. This extends to any platform where you source the content, be it emails, website, or social media.

As a marketer if you are wondering how to incorporate user-generated content in your email marketing strategy, here are five ways to integrate user-generated content in your email today.

1. Leverage customer reviews

Asking your customers for their feedback on your products or services is the easiest and most effective way to generate user content. Moreover, it gives you clarity about the quality of your offerings and what can be done to improve them.

You can conduct email surveys or share feedback forms to receive customer reviews. Incorporate star-based or point-based rating in the survey, and ask them YES or NO questions about their purchase for quicker responses.

Improving the product with customer feedback is an evergreen customer retention strategy.

Sportswear brand Rapha understands that time is a valuable commodity for their target audience. Its first email is short and sweet — with a powerful pink CTA — and asks its subscribers to take the survey. Moreover, Rapha rewards survey-takers with a 20% discount on their next purchase.

The thing is, no one wants to write full sentences in their answers. Make it easy for your customers to participate in the survey and not leave it midway when they see lots of open-ended questions.

Lastly, do not forget to incentivize this activity in the form of digital gifting. The benefits of a digital gifting campaign include high discoverability, a positive buying experience and a hassle-free recipient experience.

Digital rewards and incentive platform Xoxoday Plum helps you build personalized coupons, discounts and gift cards that the user can avail on their next purchase, to fuel better marketing results.

Once you have collected enough reviews, you can showcase them in your promotional emails, website and social media.

2. Organize a hashtag campaign

Such a campaign allows your customers to share the love for your products through a branded hashtag on the social media channel of their choice.

For instance, oVertone, a haircare brand, ran an email-based hashtag campaign to encourage subscribers to post pictures of their purchase using “#OVERTONE” on Instagram.

Naturally, that generated a ton of user-generated content for oVertone and helped them connect with their followers. After that, re-gramming content was not a problem for them anymore. Just look at the types of photos they received from their customers. These visuals can also be used in email marketing newsletter.

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Similarly, you can promote the after-effects of the hashtag campaign on email. Using an online video editing tool, you can create a video with a collage of the best Instagram photos. Encourage the participants to use your branded hashtag on social media.

If needed, incentivize this activity for greater participation. Everyone loves freebies!

3. Gamify and run contests periodically

Gamification is a unique way to integrate UGC into your email marketing strategy, popularly considered an actionable B2B email marketing tip. Put simply, it is the process of including concepts on what would typically be non-gaming scenarios—for instance, sharing photos!

Therefore, you can use typical concepts such as contests and leaderboards and send an email to your subscribers explaining your proposal’s mechanics. However, do not make the idea too complicated to understand and engage with.

Experience has proven nothing triggers consumer interest like a well-planned contest. The offer of an attractive incentive can instantly nudge them to head over to your CTA with well-clicked photos and videos.

As you may have seen, UGC contests are routinely hosted on social media for their ability to reach a wider audience organically. But you can replicate the same success on email by:

  • Providing a simple online entry form using Jotform survey maker 
  • Spelling out the rules clearly
  • Providing branded hashtags for use on social media
  • Choosing logos and imagery that capture the brand spirit visually

Samsung, for instance, is a pioneer in gamifying user-generated content. In 2012, it leveraged gamification and rewarded customers for completing activities such as writing reviews, participating in forums, and watching videos.

The participants were awarded badges for progressing through the levels of achievement.

You could perhaps ask your subscribers to do similar activities, including sharing photos or reviews — which can then be further used in your marketing strategy — social media or site banners.

Or, you could do something like Foot Locker, which merely asked their customers to showcase their kicks on Instagram, in the form of Instagram story ideas. Incentive? A chance to get featured on Foot Locker’s Instagram page.

You could make it a time-bound activity. For instance, open the contest for only 24 hours for increasing urgency among your customers. Instill a sense of competition in them and see how quickly they respond to you.

4. Ask for personal stories

Sure, asking for photos is great. But sometimes, your customers may have more to tell, and submitting a picture or two would not be enough for them to express their feelings.

You can offer to share customer stories with the community, spreading the word about your fantastic product or service and provoking interest. Jonathan Mead from Paid to Exist, a self-help and career blogging site, knows how to ace email marketing.

In his email, he talks about a struggling entrepreneur who overcomes a massive business obstacle after reading his advice on the website. That way, Jonathan not only gives a sneak peek into what his content offers but also piques the audience’s interest and establishes credibility. Moreover, he tied the customer story back to a call-to-action in the rest of the email.

Similarly, Fetching Fields, a modern canine lifestyle brand, typically shares personal stories of customers with their pets, as shown below:

They also use a branded hashtag “#FetchingWith” and encourage other customers to share their personal stories with them.

5. Build a video testimonial bank

Marketers struggle to create engaging and attractive visual content because it is time-consuming to do so.While the written text is the cornerstone of UGC, they are not the only type of content marketers can source.

You can also use videos to garner more attention and club it with a strong testimonial. Video testimonials using HippoVideo improve brand credibility and trust. Given how the world has drastically changed in the past year, people feel more comfortable giving testimonials from home.

Those feelings can be conveyed more effectively with video testimonials. As soon as you put your customers in front of the camera to share their experience with your business, you can instantly connect with them. That is what is often missing in images and text-based reviews.

Made In, a cookware brand, got many chefs and customers to try their different cookware products. Instead of clicking pictures, they took videos of them cooking instead. That made sense since, at the end of the day, Made In wants consumers to purchase from them and cook in their products.

In the email shown above, the brand also shared a banner on three kitchen items for sale and gave a CTA for viewing more chef videos — thus boosting engagement.

Using the video production by Adaptify, you can showcase videos of customers using your product or service that can then be embedded in the email newsletter.

6. Personalization

Particularly within email marketing, personalization has gained increased importance. Consumers expect newsletters and email communication to be individualized.

For improving the personalization of email marketing campaigns, user-generated content comes in handy.

For example, your brand has created ideal customer profiles – in the form of a representation of the target audience most likely to buy from your brand.

Marketers can sift through the content sourced from the users to choose the most relevant ones for a particular target segment.

You can source the data from a CRM like EngageBay to power your content decision and make your campaigns more effective. The email marketing CRM allows you to look at the analytics to know whether the campaign is successful. 

This data can help marketers find creative ideas for a new campaign to send user-generated content to the audiences.

Using email automation to establish a relationship with your users is an email marketing best practice that is nowhere close to going off the trends.

Because the user-generated content is personalized for the subscribers, they are more likely to respond to the messaging and it will result in improved open rates.

7. Retargeting existing customers

While customer acquisition is a critical part of marketing, the majority of sales happen through repeat customers. This makes retargeting customers a priority for marketers. Not only on social media and through landing pages, but also with email marketing campaigns.

You know by now how email marketing delivers the highest ROI, making it the ideal tool for retargeting users. The data collected from the CRM, site visitors, landing pages and product pages will be useful in helping marketers understand the consumers who buy frequently from your brand.

The newsletter can be designed with UGC featuring products that the selected segment of customers will find appealing. This can be in the form of images or videos of the people applying your product in real life – along with a testimonial to encourage the email recipients to purchase from your brand.

Going a step ahead, to customers who are abandoning their cart before completing the purchase, you can send abandoned cart emails. Giving your products a human face and personality will help increase their trust and improve sales from the email marketing campaign.

Wrapping it up

Content that comes straight from the customer’s mouth is obviously going to garner more attention than branded campaigns. Brainstorm a few ideas on building a UGC bank and incorporate them into your email marketing strategy.

Remember: 87% of people trust an online review. Give your customers the platform to share their voice and promote that voice on email. The results will be phenomenal.


About the Author

Priyanka Desai

Priyanka Desai is the founder of iScribblers, a content marketing, writing and link-building agency for technology, B2B and SaaS companies. She is a regular contributor to technology and SaaS blogs.