Last week, we partnered with Custora for a webinar on what brands can do to improve the customer journey, with a focus on customer acquisition and retention. Custora’s Tyson Ward provided in-depth analysis about customer lifetime value, while Brendan Lowry, marketing director at Curalate, and Amber Mulle, social media strategist at Sigma Beauty, presented valuable insights about user-generated content. As an ecommerce-driven brand, Sigma Beauty relies heavily on UGC to show consumers how their makeup products look in real life. “It’s useful because our customers can’t go to big-box retailers to try our products on,” Amber said during the webinar.

Sigma isn’t the only brand that has discovered the value of UGC. Increasingly, it’s becoming a must for brands that want to effectively engage with today’s highly visual consumer. The full presentation is available at the end of the post, but for a quick recap, here are a few key takeaways marketers should keep in mind.

user generated content makeup

1. Marketers need to think beyond “us and them.”

In the traditional marketing model, marketers push out content and cross their fingers that consumers will react. Sometimes people respond by engaging with the brand, or, even better, by making a purchase, but it’s always been more likely that people share their brand experiences and thoughts with peers. In today’s environment, they’re doing it publicly, Brendan said. When a customer has a great experience (e.g. a woman bought a great shirt and feels awesome when she wears it), she’ll celebrate (or brag) by taking a photo and sharing it with friends. Brands should be paying attention to these visual conversations and leveraging them to win customers over.

2. Text reviews are losing credibility.

Consumers view text reviews with a hint of skepticism these days. Because some companies solicit reviews from people, consumers are wary of what may or may not be accurate. Fan photos improve the whole distrust of text reviews. “With fan photos, you’re actually seeing someone enjoying the product in a real setting,” Brendan said.

3. Creating UGC buzz doesn’t have to be so complicated.

Instead of just hoping fans start posting visual content on their own, it’s far more effective to give some influencers a nudge first, says Amber. The Sigma Beauty team sends press kits to certain influencers before launching a new product line, and encourages them to share photos of themselves using the products. This sparks interest in other fans who also want to be featured. It’s a great way to kick off the UGC-sharing dynamic.

4. Achieve legal compliance with unique hashtags.

To ensure the Sigma team isn’t making any legal missteps when relying on UGC, Amber says they go about collecting user images two different ways. 1) Via an upload tool that’s been integrated onto their website. It lets fan know that they can use that system to upload images if they’d like to be featured on the site. 2) By using specific hashtags, such as #SigmaBeauty and #SigmaFX. Because those hashtags are so unique, users who tag their photos with them know their photos might end up being featured on Sigma’s site.

Fanreel upload

5. Social high-fives go a long way.

When fans find themselves featured on a brand’s Instagram feed or ecommerce site, they get really excited. Brendan shared an example of a shopper who realized that Urban Outfitters had shared her photo on site. After seeing her photo online, she went out of her way to celebrate by taking a screenshot of the UO site on her desktop, sending it to her phone, and then formatting it for Instagram. She didn’t mind spending the extra five or 10 minutes to do this – she just wanted to share this experience with her friends.

Amber is seeing much of the same from Sigma customers. “Fans want to be appreciated, and they want to be a part of your brand,” she said. “The more passionate your fans are, the more passionate they are about creating memorable photos.”

sigma beauty fan

6. Brands are seeing results!

At the end of the day, user-generated content benefits the brand, Amber reported. “More user content leads to higher page views, which leads to higher purchases.”

As a result of incorporating Curalate’s Fanreel onto the Sigma Beauty page, Amber says her team is seeing major results. Compared to the brand’s average engagement metrics, customers are spending more than 3x as long interacting with these images, viewing more pages, and making more purchases.