User-generated content (UGC) has become a critical component for brands in establishing credibility with today’s consumers. To better understand the role UGC plays in purchasing decisions, the type of content that matters most to consumers, and the impact the pandemic has had on UGC use and reliance, media experience platform Cloudinary announced the findings from its newly released international study.
The study clearly reveals a trend that with each passing generation, the role of visual content grows more dominant in brand communications and commerce, including that of UGC. When evaluating purchase decisions, 70 percent of Gen X and Gen Z respondents and 78 percent of Millennials reported finding it “very” or “extremely” helpful to know how other product users feel about purchases, whereas only 52 percent of Baby Boomers and 45 percent of the Silent Generation reported the same.
Key findings of the study:
- UGC on the rise: 58 percent of respondents generating more content, including video and written reviews, compared to last year
- Younger generations communicate visually: One third of users have started sharing photos with their reviews; 70 percent of Gen Z and 78 percent of Millennials find photos and videos especially helpful in making purchasing decisions
- Beyond e-commerce: People turn to user-submitted photos and videos to see if restaurants, shops and health care centers have adapted to COVID-19
The younger Gen Z and Millennial generations reported being more drawn to reviews that include photos and videos. Fifty percent of Gen Z and 49 percent of Millennials found pictures and videos (47 percent of Millennials and 52 percent of Gen Z) to be helpful in making purchasing decisions. This could help explain why Gen Z respondents surveyed name visual platforms such as Instagram (88 percent) and YouTube (85 percent) as their favorites compared to older generations that prefer Facebook.
Other key findings from the survey include:
- Photos drive purchase decisions: roughly half of the respondents (53 percent in Germany, 49 percent in UK and 55 percent in the US) ranked photos as being the most helpful content for researching purchases.
- UGC creation driven by the younger generations: Gen X, Gen Z and Millennials are most likely to create content about their experiences with products and services. Most popular are star ratings and text reviews (both at 45 percent), followed by photos (32 percent).
- Accentuating the positive: surprising to some, people are more likely to share positive (34 percent) than negative experiences (10 percent)
- Reliance on UGC reviews grew during COVID: 21 percent of respondents reported checking user reviews “more often” compared to pre-COVID times.
- COVID has affected overall and online consumer spending differently: 28 percent of respondents said they spent less during the pandemic while 20 percent spent more. Fifty-two percent said that COVID-19 hasn’t changed their overall spending. The picture is different for online spending: 28 percent reported spending more while 17 percent said they spent less; 56 percent said their online spending hadn’t changed at all.
“The survey shows a clear trend of people increasingly wanting to hear from others through user-generated, visual content,” said Sanjay Sarathy, VP of marketing at Cloudinary, in a news release. “This means brands need to analyze target audience preferences to ensure they communicate online using the right mix of text, visual and UGC. To provide the best user experience in this new visual economy, brands are relying on our tools to automate the many UGC image and video management tasks, including optimized uploads, moderation, compliance, transcription, transformations and thumbnail creation.”
The online survey was executed by Researchscape in October 2020 polled 1,669 respondents from Germany, the UK and the US.