This traditional ‘ideal world’ mode of advertising, on the TV, in product catalogs and across other channels, is still with us, albeit not as popular as it once was. Increasingly, the ways to reach and connect with the viewing public have diversified to show multiple realities that appeal to a sophisticated audience who are wary of being overtly sold to.
This leaves the question, what does commerce have to do is appeal to a viewer who’s a touch more aware of the deal with advertising? This is where affiliate marketing steps in. It’s a very popular and effective mode of advertising that has its feet in the real world. And a key component of this is shoppable user generated content (UGC).
Where Shoppable UGC and Affiliate Marketing Align
So, shoppable UGC – what is it? It’s all about the authentic. Sometimes, when a marketing corporation generates content for you, it can be instantly recognized for what it is – artificial. But UGC created by the customer, providing your campaigns with authenticity and relatability.
Even a popular affiliate can suffer a little from association with a brand. Too close an association and their objectivity might be questioned by some. But, UGC doesn’t have this drawback. A user has gone to the trouble of producing a video showing how good a product is, simply to celebrate the product’s positive impact on their life. This carries weight.
Now, include within the UGC the ability to buy the product through product tags and you turn it into what’s called a shoppable gallery. Now you have persuasion married to convenience for a very effective means of commerce, which an affiliate can incorporate into their output.
An interesting area is where shoppable user-generated content and affiliate marketing work hand-in-hand. Encourage your affiliates to record their interactions with your product and show what a joy it is to use. Or, even better - encourage them to use content generated by customers. You’ll then reap the benefits of social proof. We’ll come back to that below.
Benefits of Integrating UGC with Affiliate Marketing
There are several advantages when you integrate UGC with affiliate marketing. Here are the main ones.
Showcases products in real context, influencing sales
It’s great if your product is shown in a practical scenario, doing what it does. And not with those catalog pictures of perfect families in perfect homes. In a real-life scenario, where life’s far from perfect. This is where your product can make a difference. And the average customer will understand and assimilate this. This is an effective route to product discovery.
A terrific example of using products deployed in the field and doing what they’re designed for, rather than in the studio, just looking buffed, is Fjallraven’s Connect to Adventure project. This campaign encouraged users to send in pictures of the adventure clothing and equipment products being used in a realistic way.
Screenshot taken from Fjallraven.com
So, plenty of mud and rain to be witnessed, and the products looked like they were bearing up beautifully.
Brings authenticity and fosters audience trust
Customers find it easier to trust other customers. For example, social media influencers may benefit from the promotion of your product, but they also provide social proof as followers feel they have a connection with this kind of affiliate.
This kind of reassurance of trustworthiness is especially potent when it comes to less tangible industries, such as SaaS businesses or financial sector, both of which suffer from high levels of scrutiny and the need to instill confidence.
This makes UGC testimonials a great tool to demonstrate reliability, usability and security. Take the example below, Sage use UGC testimonials to foster a sense of trust for their business finance software.
By adding quotes from business users on their product pages they demonstrate the useability of their products as well as their reliability as other businesses trust Sage with their financial and tax data.
Screenshot taken from sage.com
This can be particularly important when it comes to affiliate marketing as it provides real proof and accountability when it comes to their endorsement of your product.
Promotes dynamic customer engagement
People enjoy consuming interactive content. It’s far more engaging to be able to watch a video and click on various links than it is to sit and read a list of features. Some products are tailor-made for video, especially UGC video. Take PopSockets, which uses videos to respond to user questions and interact with users comments.
Screenshot taken from instagram.com
Here users can see how the products are used first-hand and easily access the link to purchase these products themselves. On top of that, platforms like Facebook provide easy engagement as users can discuss the reasons they like the product, share the video and even post their own product tips, creating further buzz around your brand (more on this next!)
Broadens brand exposure via user sharing
The great thing about UGC is that it’s made for sharing. People put it out there in the hope that it will spread. So, it’s ideal for product promotion and brand exposure. Something visual like a shoppable gallery will be more readily shared than some dry product copy.
Minimizes content production expenses
Advertising can be super-expensive. Especially when execs get carried away with high-production value epics. They end up costing a huge amount but have questionable reach.
Shoppable content is low-cost but high-impact and can be particularly great when you start your own business. Equipment and location costs are as minimal as they get, but the potential for audience engagement is huge, helping you to amplify your business without breaking the bank.
Implementing Shoppable UGC in Affiliate Campaigns
These are the steps that you’ll need to take to get your shoppable UGC-armed affiliate campaign going.
Define UGC role and content types
Start by deciding on what you want the UGC to do. Which particular product is it that you’re promoting? Then you need to think about what the content type is going to be. Remember that not every affiliate will necessarily feel entirely comfortable using UGC. You can help here by giving them the tools and resources they need to share existing UGC or create their own.
Give them the guidelines so that they stay within the tone and feel that aligns with your brand. Show them instances of video, animation or whatever it is that exemplifies what you’d like to see. And be on hand should they have any doubts. Then wait for some (hopefully) remarkable results.
Choose compatible partners and affiliates
You need to pair up in a partnership that makes sense. There has to be common ground between you or customers will be confused about what’s going on. For instance, if you have retail software to sell, you need to find an affiliate with a credible retail background.
Encourage customers to share content
You can encourage sharing by putting in links from your site to the UGC, with a few words asking customers to share it. Then, make sure that your affiliate has a prominent share button or CTA on their space.
Employ specific tags for easy tracking
As well as adding product tags for the customer, add specific tags to the content for you to track engagement on various parts of it. This will help you decide what parts are working best.
Embed affiliate links in UGC
If you’re using UGC on your own site or on your own social media platforms, put in custom affiliate links to keep the partnership between you thriving and productive.
Include clear calls-to-action within content
Product videos or imagery without clear CTA are just eye-candy. Customers need to know where to go and what to do to engage with the product. Make it clear for them, so that they can make their purchase decision without impediment.
On top of this, make sure you track your different CTAs and their performance to see what works best for your product and with your customers. This way, you’ll be able to see whether your UGC is working and how it fits with your overall business plan and goals.
Let shoppable UGC enhance your sales
Shoppable content experiences tend to have a greater impact on customers than the big-budget ad spectaculars of yore. Customers crave realism, and want to know what your products will do for them in their lives.
This is how you get great user engagement and boosted sales. Teaming up with your affiliates to produce a shoppable UGC content strategy will work wonders. Try it for yourself - see how you can boost affiliate sales with Brandbassador.