Ecommerce and UGC: How to appear more human to your customer

People shop online for all sorts of reason.

Some are looking for the best deals and lowest prices. Some like the privacy. Others just feel too lazy to give up the comfort of their couch and drag themselves through the crowds of shopping malls.

There’s also those who are looking for unique products with a cult following that can’t be found anywhere else.

No matter the reason, they would all agree on one thing – once they find an online store that delivers a great shopping experience, they stick with it.

It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing that makes an ecommerce store great. It could be the products, the design, the UX, the copy, the delivery options…

What stands behind these elements is the strive to be customer-centric and to deliver the things that are important to visitors.

Being human is a big part of that.

So what makes some ecommerce stores appear more human than others?

For once, you probably noticed how stores are starting to add user-generated content on their pages.

That’s probably one of the easiest ways to humanize the experience. Showing the faces of people who have bought your products helps visitors instantly relate to your business.

User-generated content is a great way to cut through the “fourth wall” and add an extra depth to your website. Besides, there’s evidence that user-generated content can help increase conversion rate up to 74%, improve visitor engagement on the site and help with SEO, which in turn, leads to higher traffic to the site.

Here are a few tips how you can use user-generated content to humanize your online store.

Research what consumers say about you

So, how do you go about finding user-generated content that promises to work magic in engaging and converting visitors on your site? You have to start with an educated search.

Google your product or brand name to get a feeling what sort of user-generated content comes up and what people are naturally exposed to on the web when they search for your business.

Look for reviews about your products in the blog posts of influential opinion leaders or on popular marketplaces selling your products and brands as well. Don’t forget to extend your search to Instagram and YouTube to discover visual consumer content that tells stories about your products and brand. Search for your product or brand name in hashtags and tagged mentions. Keep an eye also on the popular hashtags in your category.

I noticed in this post that Felix is a fan of Tortuga backpacks, so we’ll use them as an example here.

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In this example, there’s plenty of popular Instagram hashtags associated with the product. This should give you enough ideas to lay out the groundwork for content discovery.

Once you discover a stream of user-generated content featuring your products, look for the most recent and most popular photos and videos. Your packaging, labels or product design might be changing, so you want to capture the most recent releases in the hands on your customers.

It’s also smart to look for the most popular content, as this is already a validation that it’s capable of drawing attention and evoking reaction from people. There’s a reason why certain videos and photos are liked better than the others, so follow the wisdom of the crowd on that. (That being said, if you come across photos and videos that make you yawn give them a pass, because this is what your prospective customers would do too.)

You also want to look for the most original, comprehensive and engaging examples of how your customers use your products. UGC should help people visualize what they can achieve if only they had your product in their hands.

Bring user-generated content to your product pages

Once you get a clear picture of the sort of user-generated content there is out there in relation to your products, it’s time to do something with it.

If you start researching the ways to put user-generated content in ecommerce, you’ll probably find a lot of articles advising you to channel this content in your advertising efforts to bring traffic to your site.

This is a sound advice, and if you have enough resources, then you should pursue it. However, a more direct way to leverage UGC is by adding it to your product pages.

Your product pages are critical in the conversion process. This is where visitors decide whether to add a product to the shopping basket or not. It makes sense to bring the content that can facilitate them to make a decision closer to conversion points.

Take this example from Try The World – they add a gallery of user-generated photos on the bottom of their box-of-the-month page, so as to show shoppers what they can do if they order the box. The serving ideas from real-life customers are a powerful testimony to product’s versatility and worth.

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There are several benefits of bringing user-generated content to your product pages. First of all, adding the “voice of the customer” breathes life into your site and makes the experience less flat.

  • It tickles visitors’ curiosity and invites them to engage with the content to learn more about the experiences with the product.
  • It tells the stories about the product that go beyond the rigid feature descriptions you get from the manufacturers or suppliers, and reveal what it’s like to own and use the product.
  • It makes ordering the product online less scary for shoppers and helps overcome objections to buy.

User-generated content can fill the void created by the lack of one-on-one human interaction in the online space. It delivers a human touch and an emotional link to the online experience that shoppers need as a gentle nudge to finally click the “add-to-cart” button.

Add photo and video review evidence to the mix

If you’re looking to humanize the shopping experience on your site, then you have to remember that customers are visual creatures.

Visual content in the form of consumer photos and videos is far more powerful and convincing medium than text-only product reviews and testimonials.

Visitors appreciate when they can “put a face to a text” and see real-life people talk about your product. It makes product testimonials more believable and strengthens the social proof.

Consider adding visual UGC to your product pages as well. Take a cue from consumer brands who are featuring galleries of photos from Instagram and videos from YouTube on their product pages in order to engage visitors, like this example from Cadbury.

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They don’t do it simply because it’s trendy. They do this because it helps convert visitors up to 2.4 times more, depending on the product category.

Going back to the example of Tortuga backpacks, a simple search on YouTube reveals over 3,400 results of user-generated review videos talking about the brand, the benefits of its products and offering valuable tips for future and current customers on how to make the most out of their backpacks.

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This is the kind of content that could do wonders for engaging and converting shoppers if it’s shared directly on the product pages of the brand’s ecommerce store.

Give your visitors the right content

If you’re looking at the Tortuga example above, you’re probably wondering: “3,400 videos! I can’t add all of this to my product pages! It will take the attention away from the store and distract shoppers from placing an order on my site.”

You’re right. User-generated content helps humanize the experience of online shopping, but having just any photo or video won’t work.

You need to filter out the content that doesn’t bring any value to your visitors (think blurry photos where you can’t see the product or videos with shaky shots and bad audio) and keep the ones that do.

Put yourself in the shoes of a curator and carefully pick the types of user-generated content that you believe will resonate with your customers, like Bento & Co does.

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You know the kind of people who buy from your store and the sort of audience you want to attract. Choose the kind of content that portrays similar people using your products.

The goal here is to appeal to your visitors and give them a reason to trust that the products you’re selling are a good fit with their lifestyle and their needs.

That’s why content curation for relevance and quality is the key. The right content maximizes your chances of establishing a connection with otherwise remote shoppers. It’s their most tangible evidence that your store deserves their business.

Establish a connection that goes beyond shopping

Your product pages don’t have to be the only place on your site where you can engage visitors with user-generated content.

If you’re looking to win customers by differentiating your store from hundreds of others through an intimate approach to content and communication, then you could explore featuring user-generated content on non-technical parts of your site, such as your blog.

For example, Bento & Co have a feed of user-generated photos with their products prominently featured on the sidebar of their blog. They also use these photos in some of their posts as a visual commentary about the best styled boxes by customers.

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You can add consumer made photos and videos to your blog posts and develop a discussion around the points or issues they cover. Comment on their reviews and impressions and answer their questions.

Take a note of how people describe your products and the experience on your store and use this feedback to identify the areas where you can improve.

This not only gives you more material to talk about on your blog, but also shows that you’re actively keeping an eye on your customer community and that you’re listening (and watching) what they have to say.

If you acknowledge the content that your customers are creating and sharing on social media about your products, it can be a powerful thing for starting a dialogue between your business and your customers.

It’s the human way to do business.

Let us know in the comments below whether you use UGC on your store and if it contributes in any way to a better experience.

About the author:

mm-bwMiljana Mitic is the Content Marketing Manager at Goodvidio(, a SaaS solution that helps online stores bring the best product videos from social media to their product pages. Miljana has a PhD in social media marketing and writes about conversion optimization, visual commerce, user-generated content, and how online stores can make the most out of product videos.



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  • Karl

    As part of a team working on the Actonlytics eCommerce tool, I do find that it is very important to be able to show your customers that they are communicating with an actual human being but not some automated machine.

    Very good article!

    Keep it up.