Eye of the e-beholder: Online shoppers want more authentic visuals than pre-pandemic

by | Aug 19, 2021 | Public Relations

Modern content is an increasingly visual medium, especially if that content is online, and that trend goes hand in hand with expectations of real-user authenticity—which challenges brand marketers to incorporate both components or risk losing visitors and potential customers.

New research from visual content marketing platform Stackla explores how consumers’ online shopping habits have changed, where people across generations are consuming and posting content online, as well as which platforms and types of content most influence e-commerce purchase decisions.

The firm’s newly released report, Post-Pandemic Shifts in Consumer Shopping Habits: Authenticity, Personalization and the Power of UGC, reveals that 83 percent of people say retailers need to provide more authentic shopping experiences to customers like them.

Eye of the e-beholder: Online shoppers want more authentic visuals than pre-pandemic

The data finds consumers have an increased demand for authentic customer content on brand websites, with a majority (56 percent) of people saying they’re more influenced by images and videos from social media when shopping online now than they were pre-pandemic. By generation, 86 percent of Gen Z and 81 percent of Millennial shoppers indicate they’re more likely to buy from e-commerce sites that display user-generated content (UGC) visuals.

Eye of the e-beholder: Online shoppers want more authentic visuals than pre-pandemic

Key findings from the report highlight UGC’s growing influence on purchasing decisions:

  • Nearly 8 out of 10 people say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions—8.7x more impactful than influencer content
  • 72 percent of people say photos and videos from real customers is the content they most want to see on e-commerce sites when making purchasing decisions
  • 59 percent of respondents say content created by other consumers (i.e. UGC) is the most authentic type of content
  • Only 10 percent of consumers say influencer content resonates as authentic

“All generations of shoppers are telling brands they’re more likely to purchase products if they see authentic customer content on websites,” said Damien Mahoney, CEO and co-founder at Stackla, in a news release. “The survey results tell us online shoppers are influenced by and expect to see visual content from real customers more than ever before.”

Eye of the e-beholder: Online shoppers want more authentic visuals than pre-pandemic

People are creating and consuming the content they want to see from brands

Despite the fact that 41 percent of consumers said the amount of content they post to social media has increased since the pandemic began, more than half (58 percent) said they’ve left a brand website without purchasing because it didn’t contain any customer reviews or photos (64 percent of Gen Z, 60 percent of Millennials).

Fortunately for brands, 58 percent of consumers said they’d be willing to grant a brand permission to use an image or video they posted of a piece of clothing or accessory in its marketing. The data also found that brands who choose to leverage UGC will be rewarded by shoppers, with nearly half of Gen Z (47 percent) saying they’d be more likely to continue engaging with a brand if it shares their photo or video. In fact, 65 percent of shoppers said they have purchased apparel or fashion items based on user-generated images or videos from real customers.

Eye of the e-beholder: Online shoppers want more authentic visuals than pre-pandemic

“When planning Trek’s #GoByBike campaign, we researched other successful marketing campaigns that influenced people’s behavior and found that the common denominator was user-generated content,” said Haley Ludwick, Trek Bicycle communications manager, in the release. “People are far more likely to implement a behavior if they see other people participating. Stackla provided the perfect way for us to encourage people on a global scale to post on Instagram about choosing to #GoByBike. Over a year into the campaign, the #GoByBike hashtag has been used 112,000 times and we’ve gained the rights to thousands of pieces of UGC.”

Eye of the e-beholder: Online shoppers want more authentic visuals than pre-pandemic

“As more consumers make the shift to online shopping, they’re increasingly seeking authentic and personalized experiences to help them make purchasing decisions,” Mahoney said. “Luckily, today’s consumers are creating and willing to share with brands the exact content they want to see throughout their e-commerce experiences. The brands who use UGC to deliver these types of real and relevant experiences are the ones who will win shoppers now and in the future.”

Download the full report here.

Stackla’s online survey of 2,042 consumers across the U.S., UK and Australia ages 18-55 required that respondents browse or post to social media at least once a week and purchased items other than food delivery or groceries online in the last three months. The survey was conducted with Infosurv and their sampling partners.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter