Make Content Sell
UGC & influencer content:
a powerful, emerging
Study – Sept 2022
Table of contents
- Survey overview & scope
- How are brands integrating UGC, influencer & brand owned content into their shoppers buying journeys
- What works best?
- Pairing social content with educational and information rich customer journeys
- Owned vs earned content, What works best?
- Importance of dynamic, personalized product recommendations in customer journeys
- Key challenges for brands
1. Study Overview & Scope
In the age of the brand, simply operating a transactional website is not enough, modern consumers’ expectations from brands are increasing and a brand’s reach in the digital sphere is now more important than ever to its success.
Modern brands are expected to deliver great products, generate organic engagement with their consumers, be desirable and forward thinking all whilst being relatable. Due to these requirements, brands are establishing digital brand ecosystems across social media platforms, blogs, email
campaigns and websites to keep consumers engaged and center the consumer in their brand experience.
As technology evolves brands are finding more and better ways to harness their brand ecosystem to take the digital experience to the next level. Harnessing the power of content is moving beyond just raising awareness of a brand or product, or to engage with consumers on social media. Instead,
infusing content from a brand ecosystem into customer journeys to drive conversions is becoming increasingly common.
In this study we investigate how brands are bridging the gap to incorporate content into their customer journeys, using data from leading brands which use Knexus platform to integrate UGC, influencer and brand owned content, as well as product recommendations, into their customer buying journeys. We’ve analyzed data from approx 7 million yearly site visitors to understand how this new approach to content & shopper behavior can lead to higher levels of engagement, evoke emotion, create brand coherence and drive higher conversions.
2. How are Brands Integrating UGC, Influencer & Brand Owned Content into their Customers Buying Journeys
Digital advertising and social media are established functions of many brands today. In 2021 the global influencer market was worth US$16.5 Billion, doubling since 2019. Meanwhile, global digital marketing spend was worth US$521 Billion for the same period.
The power to raise awareness through content produced for PPC, SEO or social media marketing is clearly already established but could brands be getting more out of this content?
Integrating marketing content from a brands ecosystem into the customer’s buying journey is the next step in the evolution of content creation and management. By linking upper funnel activity to drive lower funnel objectives, and then utilizing data generated from this activity to influence creation of content, brands are elevating their marketing & ecommerce functions to new heights.
To better understand the impact integrating this content has, we have a sample of data from a range of brands over a one year period (June 2021 – June 2022) and analyzed it to understand the impact of social content generated by brands on customer journeys and purchase behaviors.
The brands come from a variety of industry sectors such as consumer electronics, health & wellness, beauty and personal care. Graph 1 (page 02) shows total viewable impressions based on views of dynamic social content and/or product recommendations delivered into various stages of the customer journey. The above graph (page 02) is included to give an understanding of the sample size of data sets.
3. What Works Best?
3.1 Pairing Social Content with Educational and Information Rich Customer Journeys
Drilling down into the data, we’ve reviewed engagement across different content types to identify which types of content perform most effectively at different stages of the customer journey. Specifically, we compared YouTube videos against Instagram posts, mapped across four different stages of the customer journey (Homepage, Product Description Pages, Category Pages and Blog Articles).
The data in graph 2 (above) shows that Instagram content has a higher rate of engagement than YouTube content across all stages of the customer journey. The average CTR (click through rate) for Instagram posts across all journeys is 1.95%, compared with 1.37% for YouTube videos. This indicates that Instagram does engage customers at a higher rate, but both forms of content drive engagement above industry averages.
A global study reviewing CTRs in 2021 showed that CTRs from social ads average approximately 1%. This data indicates that utilizing similar content at various stages of the customer journey will achieve greater levels of engagement.
Taking a moment to focus on Instagram content, whilst it drives high CTR across both homepages and category pages, the highest engagement is on product description pages and articles pages. This is due to the informative nature of these important stages of the customer journeys. Why is this and what learnings can we take from this data?
Customers who have entered a site or navigated to a blog are looking for information regarding a brand or product. They are actively seeking out information so providing a range of information sources here will lead to a higher rate of engagement.
We see higher CTRs for both YouTube and Instagram than any other point of the customer journey, with Instagram being +38% higher than YouTube.
Instagram content is targeted towards brand and product awareness which pairs well with article content as both drive awareness, interest and support for a customer considering whether to invest in a brand or not.
50.72% OF PEOPLE WHO INTERACT WITH DYNAMIC, SHOPPABLE INSTAGRAM POSTS ON AN ARTICLE PAGE GOING ON TO CONVERT
How about conversion? In graph 3 (page 08), which displays conversion data, we see Instagram posts on article pages not only drive high levels of engagement on social posts but also the highest conversion rates, with 50.72% of people who interact with dynamic, shoppable Instagram posts on an article page going on to convert. A staggering number.
Product Description Pages
Referencing back to graph 2 (page 04) there are high rates of engagement with both Instagram and YouTube content on the PDPs (product description pages). This is another stage in the customer journey which is information rich and important for customers who are evaluating their options when deciding to buy, but is much closer to the checkout experience.
Whilst graph 2 (page 04) shows engagement with Instagram content is higher than YouTube videos on product description pages, graph 3 (page 08) shows that customers who interact with YouTube videos on the PDPs are more likely to convert (+84% more likely to checkout than those which interacted with Instagram at this stage in the customer journey).
YOUTUBE VIDEOS ON THE PDPS ARE +84% MORE LIKELY TO CHECKOUT THAN THOSE WHICH INTERACTED WITH INSTAGRAM AT THIS STAGE IN THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
YouTube videos are rich in information; reviews, unboxings and hauls provide excellent organic social proofing in the customer journey, enriching PDPs with additional context about a product or service and providing external encouragement to purchase.
Outside of the PDPs, Instagram usually converts higher when interacted with across other parts of the customer journey. On the homepage, article pages and category pages, those who interact with Instagram content are more likely to buy. This may be due to these stages being higher funnel activity where we’ve already established Instagram content is better suited as it is less specifically about why a product or service is good (social proofing) and more geared towards capturing a customers attention with bite size pieces of content. We can see that this content is being used to capture the customer’s attention through high CTRs (graph 2: page 04).
The delivery of dynamic, personalized product recommendations alongside the content makes the content shoppable, drives customer’s attention to PDPs and ultimately the checkout experience. Thus creating a direct link between social content and conversion.
We have highlighted how high specific conversion rates can be after interacting with different types of content at different stages of the customer journey but conversion shows a marked increase across all customer journeys when social content is injected.
In table 1 (above) we show conversion rates across each customer journey in which a customer has interacted with social content (YouTube or Instagram).
In Q2 of 2022 the average online shopping conversion rate worldwide across a range of sectors was 2.06%.
When comparing numbers from table 1 (above) we see customers who interact with social content at different stages of the customer journey, whether it’s YouTube or Instagram, are always more likely to convert than online averages.
3.2 Owned vs Earned Content, What Works Best?
We have demonstrated that injecting social content into the customer journey drives engagement and conversion, but what type of content works best?
To social media marketing teams the distinction in content is made between owned and earned content. Content which is owned is produced by the brand for use across brand accounts and sites. Earned content is either influencer content or UGC (user generated content).
In graph 4 (below) we have compared owned vs earned content, looking at Content CTR and conversion metrics.
+56% MORE LIKELY TO CLICK AFTER ENGAGING WITH EARNED CONTENT
Reviewing the data we see Content CTR for earned content is 1.38pp (percentage points) higher than owned content, that’s +56% more likely to click after engaging with earned content. Earned content comes across as more organic and usually is distinct in tone and style to owned content which usually feels much more like advertisement. Customers are more likely to engage with earned content due to the organic nature of the content.
USING A MIX OF OWNED VS EARNED CONTENT RESULTS IN CONSIDERABLY HIGHER CONVERSION THAN THE 2.06% INDUSTRY AVERAGE.
3.3 Importance of Dynamic, Personalized Product Recommendations in Customer Journeys
How do customers interact with social content versus dynamic personalized product recommendations? We compiled and compared the data on YouTube and Instagram against product recommendations, using the same metrics and period. Interactions with products across all customer journeys is higher than social content. Content CTR is higher than 2% across all journeys and nearly reaches 4% on articles with an average of 2.97%. For social content, the average across all customer journeys sits at 1.69%.
Across most customer journeys we see product recommendations performing at a higher rate than social content, with the smallest gap on PDPs. This aligns with analysis in section 3.1, highlighting that social content on PDPs is a great way to drive conversion, as a customer at this stage is more likely to engage with social proofing (as illustrated in graph 3 on page 08).
eCommerce sites can hold larger inventories than brick and mortar stores, allowing brands to offer more choice to customers. Whilst this enables customers to build bigger baskets, it can sometimes lead to customers being overwhelmed with the choices on offer and unable to find relevant products. The data shown in graph 5 (above) & graph 6 (page 13) demonstrates how identifying what customers are likely to want to buy using historic behavioral data can provide a solution to this problem. This is seen across all customer journeys, but two customer journeys in which customers are more likely to be looking for products to shop are the homepage & category pages.
Homepage & Category Pages
Section 3.1 established that enriching articles with Instagram content drives customer engagement, and pairing social proofing content on PDPs drives customers to purchase. It is also apparent from graphs 5 (page 12) & 6 (below) that providing dynamic and relevant product recommendations on the homepage and category pages increases engagement and conversion. These product recommendations in the sample data often appear alongside social content as to provide social proofing. Either way it is clear that providing products which are relevant to a customer in the customer journey and personalizing these recommendations using behavioral data drives engagement and conversions.
Graph 6: Avg Conversions across customer journeys for product & Social Content
In relation to conversion on category pages, we can see that customers who interact with product recommendations are +102% more likely to convert than social content. Customers navigating to category pages are looking for products and so it comes as little surprise that at this stage of the customer journey they are more likely to engage and convert on product recommendations. As previously mentioned it is worth remembering that most of these product recommendations sit alongside dynamic, personalized social content which would provide context and social proofing, providing an assist on driving engagement and conversion.
We have also analyzed CRM activity where dynamic personalized product, social and article content has been automatically generated in the email layout.
The idea is to offer a one-to-one experience in customer communications with each customer receiving emails personalized to them.
It is difficult to benchmark Content CTRs for content in email as the most comparable metric is CTO, which takes all clicks from an email compiled. Individual CTR per content on emails will always be lower than the whole.
We have reviewed average CTRs across three types of content recommendations in emails. Product and article recommendations have higher engagement levels than social content (Instagram & YouTube). Core to email marketing success is capturing a customers attention with relevant, timely and engaging content.
In summary we can identify the opportunities presented when a brand is successfully able to personalize their eCommerce and marketing experiences to a customer’s needs. Offering the best recommendation at the right stage in the customer journey is key to engaging customers and driving them to convert.
We have also identified the strengths of different recommendations at different stages of the customer journey and that using a mixture of content types and product recommendations gives brands the ability to cover a wide variety of customer expectations.
Our study demonstrates what content is best to recommend at different stages of the customer journey. At information rich parts of the customer journey such as PDPs and article pages, social content is powerful for social proofing to drive conversion, enriching the customer experience and providing additional brand awareness. Paring this informative and educational content with a product recommendation relevant to the content drives conversion.
eCommerce sites have lots of products which can overwhelm customers. Helping customers find the right product for them can help simplify the customer journey. This is why we see dynamic product recommendations perform so well for engagement and conversions. Pairing these recommendations with enriching social content offers a new dynamic and personalized experience to customers online. Article pages and blogs are under utilized by brands, seen as a marketing tool to drive customers onto websites through organic search and for brand awareness. In the analysis contained within this study we have demonstrated the impact offering social media content and product recommendations which are dynamic and personalized on article pages has on key metrics. Turning these upper funnel activities into conversion driving customer journeys.
The question isn’t what content works best, but what content works where. Utilizing a brand’s entire ecosystem is beneficial to driving on site behaviors with different content and product having impacts in different journeys. The challenge brands face today is having access to technology and intelligence to deliver this automatically.
5. Key challenges for brands
The following are three key challenges many brands have to overcome to successfully utilize earned & owned content as a conversion rate optimization tool:
01 MAKING CONTENT OMNICHANNEL (OR AT LEAST MULTICHANNEL) READY
As we’ve seen from the data in this study, content plays a critical role in providing social proof, educating and inspiring shoppers to make a purchase. And a brand’s content eco-system is often varied and fragmented. Social media teams, influencers, creative agencies, SEO, video producers, customer communities, campaign teams, all generating content aligned with their specific objectives.
Brands understand that customers move seamlessly across channels and so have invested in omnichannel capabilities. Yet too often content doesn’t move seamlessly to where the customer is, instead getting anchored in one channel only. The result is that at key moments in a shoppers journey, brands can’t deliver the most relevant and effective content to convince the shopper, who then abandons their journey.
Whilst an ever growing number of brands recognise both the commercial potentia and the importance to shoppers of displaying UGC and influencer content in their ecommerce journeys, scalability is often a major obstacle.
As an example, a brand might typically start by displaying Instagram posts on the homepage or within select category pages. In-house or agency resources are delegated the responsibility to find the right content, ensure its added to pages and manually refreshed periodically.
Careful tracking shows the inclusion of this influencer content is having a clear and positive impact on shopper behavior. However, to extend beyond the initial selected pages and roll out across the site (eg. adding to PDP’s), the additional resources required to manually manage the process adds complexity and potentially nullifies the desired economic benefit.
To overcome this cost and complexity challenge, brands should look for an automated solution.
Rarely will a brand have a unified number to identify total spend on content. Why, because content is embedded as a line item in lots of different campaign budgets across internal teams and agency resources. But the global spend on content marketing in 2021 was estimated at $335billion. The aggregate content spend for many brands is a substantial investment.
But what proportion of brands making the investment have data to support the direct impact of content on sales. There are lots of engagement metrics available, but where is the data that informs whether brand or influencer content delivers more ecommerce sales, videos or instagram posts are more effective in converting shoppers in the consideration phase of their buying journey, and if its videos, what type of videos specifically.
How much more effective would content investment be if there was data showing the correlation between types of content and sales impact, which could be used to inform the briefing process. Better performance data would lead to more of the right kind of content to encourage conversion, leading to stronger ecommerce sales growth.
Make content sell with Knexus
Knexus platform automatically makes UGC, influencer & brand owned content personalized & shoppable, integrating it into buying journeys which inspires confidence to buy.