For marketers, email is a powerful and cost-effective marketing channel. With each dollar spent, brands receive approximately $44.25 in return, according to the Direct Marketing Association.

As companies continue to double-down on email marketing, consumers are receiving more and more emails each week. But for the most part, the content isn’t compelling or relevant to shoppers’ needs. The proof is in the numbers: Research from First Insight indicates that consumers only open 25% of the emails they receive. Shoppers also feel like 95% of the emails they receive are not relevant to them.

If you’re trying to create high-impact emails that connect with customers in a more personal way, incorporating user-generated images is a great place to start. Images and videos from fans are extremely powerful because they allow consumers to see how products — whether apparel, electronics, accessories or home decor — look in everyday life. In essence, user-generated content breaks down the marketing wall and gives consumers more power over how a brand and its products are presented on social media.

Here are three ways you can start adding user-generated images to your email marketing campaigns:

Focus On The Lifestyle

emailugc_image01Brands can tout user-generated images to show how their products promote or support a specific lifestyle. Here’s a great example from athletic brand and retailer Fabletics. With a core theme of “live your passion,” the email combines powerful branded imagery of athletic models running in a field and jumping at the beach in the latest Fabletics ensemble. These controlled images are augmented by a series of user-generated photos of everyday women wearing Fabletics during their own unique workouts. The call-to-action encourages followers to “get into it” and share their own images using the #LivingMyPassion hashtag.

Perhaps what makes this email so powerful is the fact that all of the images (branded and user generated) represent a different activity or athletic personality. It promotes the Fabletics brand at large but also strives to connect with individual customers based on their activity of choice — whether it’s running, weight training or yoga. Needless to say, Fabletics’ attempt to resonate with women of all fitness levels was extremely effective.

Promote New Releases

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The success of new product lines and collections hinges on how well brands promote them — and how the general public responds. Take cues from the eyewear geniuses at Warby Parker and design multi-touch campaigns around new releases. With the #seesummerbetter hashtag, Warby Parker encouraged fans and followers to share images featuring the new line of summer frames. Of course, the brand published the top photos on its Instagram account, but closed the loop on the campaign by promoting the hashtag and collection through email.

The animated design allows Warby Parker to feature a variety of images that showcase the “summer lifestyle” and its glasses to boot. All of the images are beautiful, aspirational and spotlight sunglasses and eyeglasses in an authentic way. At the end of the email, there are clear calls to action that redirect customers to #seesummberbetter and the dedicated page for the new collection.

Show What’s Trending

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Shopping is an equally rational and emotional process. Your customers may have a specific need or budget in mind, but at the end of the day, they want to get inspired by the latest trends and learn how to embrace them.

Fashion subscription service Rent the Runway capitalizes on these innate desires by spotlighting the most popular brands and styles from social media. Laid out like a fun inspiration board, the email features a plethora of different dress silhouettes, colors and patterns, and how women paired them with different shoes and accessories.

When you click the “view all” button, you’ll find that Rent The Runway has a curated collection featuring these and other looks, so visitors can easily sift through the hottest looks for the season. And when shoppers click on a dress, they can sift through a whole album of photos featuring other customers.

Maximize Your Email Marketing Results

Most brands invest a lot of time and money on marketing creative. Developing photoshoot concepts, merchandising your products or collections, and not to mention hiring photographers, models and any freelance editing services, all require careful attention and planning. One slight misstep and you risk having all campaigns that feature this imagery fall flat.

Incorporating user-generated images into your email campaigns is not only extremely cost-effective, but it’s also compelling, inspiring, and makes your brand, products and services more relatable in your customers’ eyes.

Looking for ways to find amazing user-generated content at scale? Check out Curalate Explore, which can help you discover high-quality content piece-by-piece, find influencers to work with or form relationships with micro-influencers.