The Importance of User Generated Content for Online Retailers to appeal to an Experiential and Social Customer

User Generated Content is any content that has been created and uploaded by unpaid contributors, and can include pictures, videos, testimonials, tweets, blog posts as a part of users promoting a brand rather than marketeers (Goh et al, 2013).

“86% of Millenials say that UGC is a good indicator of the quality of the brand” (Tint, 2016)

“Brand engagements rise by 28% when consumers are exposed to a mixture of professional marketing content and user-generated content” (Tint, 2016)

An interesting discussion by Peter Esperson on the “Perfect Storm” of User Generated Content:

UGC Appeals to the Experiential Online Customer

UGC appeals to the experiential consumer, who is motivated by the “fun” and personal enjoyment of online shopping (Wolfinbarger and Gilly, 2001). Wolfinbarger and Gilly’s research recognises that there is greater playfulness associated with experiential behaviour and this results in a more positive mood, greater shopping satisfaction and a higher likelihood of impulse purchasing compared to goal-focused shopping (Wolfinbarger and Gilly, 2001). This is particularly important for beauty and fashion retailers, whose customers are likely to browse, want opinions and share with friends before committing to a purchase.

UGC Brings a Sense of Community

UGC brings an audience together, and creates a sense of unity between the customer and brand, rather than an “us” and “them” situation (Tint, 2016). In MacMillon and Chavis’ theory penned in 1986, they defined community as membership,  influence, integration and fulfilment of needs and shared emotional connection. User Generated Content particularly allows customers to influence each other by sharing content, and in turn shares an emotional connection (Tint, 2016).

The Rise of the Social Consumer 

The evolution from an online product-orientated environment to a customer-centered one, represents the transformation from e-commerce to social commerce (Wigand et al, 2008). Social commerce leverages social media and Web 2.0 technologies that support social interaction and User Generated Content (UGC) in order to assist consumers in making their purchasing decisions in online communities and marketplaces (Huang, 2017).

Research on the Generation Y consumer indicates that customer perceptions and decisions are not only based on information created by the marketer on e-commerce platforms but are also influenced by the content created by other consumers on social networks (Constantinides and Fountain, 2008) as reviews, validation and feedback from peers are crucially important to the social consumer. This new evolution in e-commerce in the social economy will enhance customer participation, promote customer relationships and ultimately achieve greater economic value for firms (Huang, 2017). Online retailers should be thinking beyond the statistics of their social media channels, and should be incorporating “social” into their strategy for their online experience, if they are too appeal to their experiential customer.

Existent literature shows that internal word of mouth has a significant and positive impact on retailer sales (Gu et al, 2012). There is a wealth of eWOM literature surrounding the effects of product reviews on conversion rates but the below examples are more innovative and exciting initiatives online retailers have taken, using UGC to interact with their customers.

1.Shoppable Instagram feed – Debenhams

The new CEO of Debenhams has presented his new strategy that promotes a “fun and sociable digital shopping experience” (Debenhams, 2017) that involves UGC across all brand pages, where customers can upload photos of their new looks to be featured and connect with the online community, see below. Customers browsing the content can buy the product from the Instagram post. This combination of combining commerce within a social network supports Huang’s research into the incorporation of web 2.0 technologies and social media (Huang, 2017).


2. Social Community – Sephora

Other retailers have implemented initiatives to appeal to the social consumer, such as Sephora’s Beauty Insider Community. This is a page on their website that allows customers to join groups, get inspired, watch live chats, get advice and join events. The community meets all four aspects of MacMillon and Chavis’ community theory; membership,  influence, integration and fulfilment of needs and shared emotional connection, which is perhaps a reason why it is is such a successful initiative.


2.1 Personalisation 

When becoming a member, customers are invited to create a “Beauty Profile”. This allows them to find “beauty matches” with other customers creating content in the community, which makes for a more helpful, relevant and meaningful exchange. This particularly appeals to the integration and fulfilment of needs and shared emotional connection elements of MacMillon and Chavis’ definition of community.


  1. #AsSeenOnMe– ASOS

ASOS’s “as seen on me” campaign is viewable on the landing page, where customers can upload their looks and tag the appropriate PDPs. The feature is also linked to the product display page, so customers can seek inspiration and see how other customers have styled the particular item of clothing, to aid them in their decision making process.



The ASOS #AsSeenOnMe campaign landing page, reads “Check out the gallery for the latest #AsSeenOnMe pics, shared by you on Instagram using the hashtag or the ‘add look’ button below, plus shop the looks you love

4. UGC Trench Coat Campaign – Burberry

Burberry adopted a UGC approach to its Art of the Trench campaign in 2009.  Burberry’s fans uploaded pictures of themselves wearing their iconic trench coat. Burberry curated the best submissions and showcased on their microsite and Facebook page.



Debenhams Plc. (2017). Interim Results and Strategy Review.Available: http://phx.corporate- Last accessed 28th October 2017.

Constantinides, S.J. Fountain Web 2.0: conceptual foundations and marketing issues Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice, 9 (3) (2008), pp. 231-244

Goh, K., Heng, C. & Lin, Z. 2013, “Social Media Brand Community and Consumer Behavior: Quantifying the Relative Impact of User- and Marketer-Generated Content”, Information Systems Research, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 88-1

Gu, B., Park, J. & Konana, P. 2012, “The Impact of External Word-of-Mouth Sources on Retailer Sales of High-Involvement Products”, Information Systems Research, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 182.

Huang, Z. & Benyoucef, M. 2013, “From e-commerce to social commerce: A close look at design features”, Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 246-259.

Tint. (2016). What is User Generated Content (and Why You Should Be Using it). Available: Last accessed 22 Feb 2018.

Wigand, R. T., Benjamin, R. I., and Birkland, J. Web 2.0 and beyond: implications for electronic commerce. In Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Electronic Commerce, Innsbruck, Austria, August 2008, ACM Press, New York, NY, 2008.

Wolfinbarger, M. & Gilly, M.C. 2001, “Shopping Online for Freedom, Control, and Fun”, California Management Review, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 34-55.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar