Unleash the Power of User-Generated Content: 10 Ecommerce Brands Getting It Right

In today‘s crowded digital landscape, ecommerce brands need a secret weapon to cut through the noise and connect with customers. Increasingly, that weapon is user-generated content (UGC).

UGC is any content – text, images, video, reviews, etc. – created by users and customers rather than brands. And it‘s proving to be rocket fuel for ecommerce growth. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • 90% of consumers say UGC holds more influence over buying decisions than promotional emails and search engine results. (Adweek)
  • UGC-based ads get 4x higher click-throughs and a 50% drop in cost-per-click compared to average ads. (Shopify)
  • Sites with featured UGC see a 20% increase in return visitors and up to a 90% increase on the time spent on the site. (Yotpo)

Not only does UGC build much-needed trust and credibility, it‘s also incredibly cost-effective. Rather than shelling out for expensive photoshoots or ad creative, brands can source high-quality, authentic content straight from their own customers.

But to maximize the impact of UGC, it needs to be featured in ways that are eye-catching, engaging and true to your brand. Here are 10 ecommerce companies using UGC to brilliant effect:

1. Fashion Nova: Turning Customers into Models

Fashion Nova has skyrocketed from an unknown brand to doing over $400M in annual sales, largely off the back of their innovative use of UGC.

The fast fashion retailer encourages customers to post Instagram selfies showing off their latest Fashion Nova looks with the hashtag #NovaBabe. The best #NovaBabe posts are then featured in a shoppable gallery on the Fashion Nova site, as well as on dedicated product pages.

Clicking on an image takes you straight to a page to buy those exact items, driving direct sales. Fashion Nova is essentially turning their own customers into models, sourcing a constant stream of fresh lifestyle content to power their marketing.

By showcasing the fashions on a diverse range of real body types and styles, Fashion Nova also helps shoppers envision how the clothes might look on themselves – something standard site models can‘t always do.

2. Beardbrand: Selling a Lifestyle with UGC

Men‘s grooming brand Beardbrand doesn‘t just sell beard oil – they sell a rugged, adventure-seeking lifestyle. And nothing captures that lifestyle better than customer photos.

Beardbrand‘s #MyBeardBrand hashtag invites customers to share photos of themselves using Beardbrand products in the wild – the more epic the backdrop, the better. The company then features these images throughout their site and marketing.

Rather than just showing the products themselves, this UGC helps Beardbrand showcase the aspirational lifestyle their brand represents. It taps into their customers‘ identities as outdoorsmen, adventurers and nonconformists in an authentic, relatable way.

Beardbrand also uses UGC videos to provide educational content that supports their products, such as tutorials on how to trim a beard or apply mustache wax. According to the company, site visitors who engage with this UGC provide a 40% lift in revenue per visit.

3. Vanity Planet: Elevating Reviews with Visuals

Like many ecommerce brands, Vanity Planet features customer reviews on their product pages. But they take things a step further by transforming their best reviews into social media assets.

The beauty brand screenshots glowing customer reviews and star ratings, then overlays them onto lifestyle product images to create highly engaging social content. These visuals pack a one-two punch of social proof and aspiration.

Vanity Planet also ties these UGC review graphics to strong calls-to-action, like "Shop Now" buttons that drive traffic back to the featured product pages. It‘s a great example of making customer reviews more impactful and actionable.

4. Rope Lace Supply: Showcasing Customer Creativity

For craft and hobby brands, UGC is a goldmine of inspiration. Rope Lace Supply, which sells yards and spools of rope for macrame, knitting, crafting and more, invites customers to share their creative projects using the hashtag #ropelacesupply.

The company then curates the best submissions into galleries on their site as well as posting them on their social channels. These images showcase the incredible versatility of their product and all the different things it can be used to make.

Not only does this celebrate their customers‘ skills, it also helps buyers imagine what they could create themselves. This aspirational element can be a powerful purchase motivator for crafters.

Rope Lace Supply also uses UGC to provide project ideas and tutorials, positioning themselves as a helpful resource and authority in their niche.

5. Gymshark: Partnering with Influencers for Peer-to-Peer UGC

Athletic apparel brand Gymshark is another company that has exploded in growth thanks in large part to user-generated content and social media. But while they leverage UGC across all their channels, they‘re especially known for their influencer partnerships.

Gymshark partners with popular fitness influencers to create sponsored UGC promoting their products. These influencers have the know-how to create high-quality, authentic lifestyle content showcasing Gymshark apparel in action.

Because these influencers have already built trust with their audiences, their endorsement carries more weight than traditional ads. And their content feels more like a peer recommendation than a brand-sponsored post.

This strategy has helped Gymshark penetrate the hard-to-reach millennial and Gen Z demographics. In fact, around 66% of their customers are between ages 18-25. (Shopify)

6. Glossier: Featuring Fan Content Front and Center

Beauty brand Glossier has achieved cult status among millennials in large part due to their focus on UGC. Glossier uses hashtags like #BoyBrow and #HaloScope to collect customer selfies showing off their favorite Glossier products.

They then feature this content across their site, emails and social ads to create an engaged community of brand evangelists. The Glossier site proudly proclaims they have over 3,000 user-submitted photos with the #Glossier hashtag.

What‘s notable is that Glossier features UGC front and center in their marketing, not just tucked away on product pages. Their email campaigns and Instagram ads are almost entirely made up of user photos rather than brand photography.

This UGC-first approach helps Glossier come across as an authentic, relatable peer rather than a faceless corporation. It‘s a key part of their "skin first, makeup second" brand ethos that focuses on real, natural beauty.

7. Petco: Encouraging Social Sharing with Product Packaging

While most ecommerce UGC is collected after the sale, pet retailer Petco actually encourages UGC right on their product packaging. Their private label Reddy brand features adorable illustrations of different dog breeds with the question "What type of Reddy are you?"

The packaging also displays a QR code that takes customers to a landing page inviting them to share a photo of their pup enjoying their new Reddy gear with the #ReddyMyPet hashtag.

This is a clever way to collect UGC at the moment of unboxing, when excitement is high. It also builds a sense of community by helping pet owners identify with their dog‘s "type."

Petco can then feature this UGC across their marketing to showcase happy, active dogs using their products. Pet owners love sharing photos of their furry friends, so these tend to get high engagement and plenty of "aww" factor.

8. Grove Collaborative: Cleaning Up with Before & After Photos

Cleaning products can be a hard sell online, since customers can‘t smell them or see them in action. Grove Collaborative, a subscription-based seller of natural home essentials, overcomes this by encouraging customers to share before and after photos of their cleaning projects.

Seeing a sparkling clean sink or freshly polished wood floors courtesy of Grove products provides a visceral, visual impact that product descriptions can‘t match. It helps customers imagine achieving that satisfying clean in their own homes.

Grove also invites customers to get creative with their UGC, showing artistic arrangements of their Grove products or their messes mid-clean. Not only does this further personalize the content, it also produces eye-catching visuals that stand out in the feed.

9. THINX: Tackling Taboos with Educational UGC

Some products can be tricky to market because of their sensitive or taboo nature. But period-proof panty brand THINX shows how UGC can help break barriers.

THINX encourages customers to share candid reviews and experiences with their products to help normalize and destigmatize menstruation. Because this content comes from real users, it feels more authentic and relatable than brand-created educational content.

THINX also taps influencers to create informative UGC around related topics like menstrual health, sustainability and body positivity. This positions THINX as a trusted resource and ally for people with periods.

By featuring this UGC prominently on their site and social channels, THINX creates a safe, supportive community for an often unspoken-about topic. This empowers customers to speak openly and honestly about their experiences with the products and with menstruation in general.

10. Catbird: Sparkling UGC for Jewelry

Fine jewelry can be a considered purchase online since shoppers can‘t try items on or see them up close. NYC-based jewelry brand Catbird addresses this by showcasing customer photos that capture their delicate pieces in stunning detail.

Using their branded hashtag #catbirdnyc, the company collects and curates user photos of their jewelry being styled and layered in different ways. These images are featured on product pages as well as on the Catbird site and social channels.

Seeing the pieces on different skin tones and in varied lighting conditions helps shoppers get a better sense for the size, scale and quality of the jewelry. It also provides styling inspiration, showing how items can be mixed, matched and worn different ways.

This aspirational UGC has been key to Catbird‘s growth from a small boutique to a global brand worn by celebrities like Emma Watson and Michelle Williams.

Tips for Maximizing the Impact of Ecommerce UGC

As these examples illustrate, user-generated content can be an extremely powerful tool for ecommerce brands. But to get the most out of UGC, keep these best practices in mind:

Make Your UGC Easy to Find and Participate in
Use clear calls-to-action and consistent branded hashtags to collect UGC. Feature it prominently across your site and marketing channels. The easier you make it for customers to find and submit UGC, the more you‘ll receive.

Offer Incentives for Submissions
Hosting contests, giveaways or offering discounts in exchange for UGC can help increase contributions and engagement. Be sure to clearly communicate terms and conditions.

Get Permission and Give Credit
Always ask for explicit permission before reposting a customer‘s content. Make sure to properly attribute them and say thanks – this makes them feel valued and encourages further sharing.

Embrace Authenticity
Don‘t be afraid to feature UGC that isn‘t pixel perfect. Polished content is great, but customers also respond to raw, real content that looks like it could have come from their peers. A mix of both is ideal.

Leverage UGC Throughout the Buyer Journey
Don‘t limit UGC to just product reviews or social media. Use it across touchpoints like ads, emails, landing pages, etc. to build trust and drive action at every stage of the funnel.

Optimize for Search and Discovery
Adding keyword-rich captions and tagging your UGC assets can help make them more discoverable in search and across social platforms. This also helps your SEO and organic traffic.

Use UGC to Power Other Marketing Initiatives
UGC can be repurposed into case studies, testimonials, email content and more. Think of it as an ever-growing library of powerful social proof you can draw from.

The Future of UGC is Bright

User-generated content is the new word-of-mouth. It‘s inherently more trustworthy and authentic than branded content, and the impact for ecommerce brands is clear.

Consider that 90% of consumers report UGC as a top influencer in their purchasing decisions. (Marketing Insider Group) Meanwhile, sites that leverage UGC see a 161% increase in conversions compared to sites that don‘t. (Yotpo)

As social media continues to evolve, UGC will only become more prevalent and powerful. The smartest ecommerce brands will put UGC front and center in their marketing mix, finding creative ways to use it to inspire, influence and convert customers.

From hashtag contests to unboxing videos to customer photos as social proof, the use cases for UGC in ecommerce are virtually endless. The brands that find authentic, memorable ways to integrate UGC into their customer experience will have a significant advantage.

Use the examples and tips provided here as inspiration for your own UGC strategy. Then get creative and experiment with ways to encourage customer content that‘s unique to your brand and audience.

Keep in mind UGC doesn‘t have to be a huge production. Some of the most compelling examples are the simplest – a genuine product review, a customer proudly showing off their purchase, a community of fans bonding over their shared interests.

Ultimately, UGC is about forging real human connections with your customers. It‘s about fostering a sense of community and a genuine affinity for your brand.

In a digital landscape where consumers are increasingly seeking out brands they can know, like and trust, UGC has emerged as an unparalleled tool for building those relationships. So start leveraging the power of your customers‘ voices. Make UGC a key ingredient in your ecommerce strategy and watch your engagement, conversions and loyalty soar.