November 16, 2018
  |   Blog, Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, UX / CX

How to Use Customer Generated Content to Strengthen Shopper Engagement

Cranking out endless amounts of content that is engaging and valuable takes a significant amount of time and effort. Customer generated content (CGC) provides retailers and brands a break from creating original content and is proven to improve customer engagement. Luckily, if you provide your customers a space to share their comments, CGC is easy to find and leverage. In addition to providing content to email promotions, website, and print media, CGC can be used to generate new ideas and products for your site.

Bob’s Red Mill, an online natural food store, started its CGC strategy with one simple question: “Why did you buy this?” On the order confirmation page, the digital marketing team placed a comment section asking that one question for each product the customer purchased. Kevin Irish, Digital Marketing Manager at Bob’s, said that these comments and reviews became a “gold mine.” Not only did they use the comments for email and promotional materials, but they rebuilt entire sections of their website based on the feedback.

On the homepage of Bob’s Red Mill, they use customer quotes from the comments under each featured item. For full transparency, each quote is dated based on when it was submitted. They continuously update the quotes, so none are more than a few days old. Using TurnTo, a user-generated solution for ecommerce, it’s easy for Bob’s content team to moderate all of the comments coming in and select which ones are “heart-warming” enough to make it to the homepage feature section. The team also uses an auto-moderation feature to automatically eliminate any comments that include inappropriate language or phrasing.

Irish’s digital team also found email to be an effective way to share customer comments and ask for comments in return. In the welcome email for new customers, the team includes a quote, driving more customers to return to the site. Asking for feedback through emails has been their most popular channel for reviews—since October of 2017, over half of their reviews came from email solicitation. Almost two-thirds of their reviews come from desktop, so the team is seeking to optimize the mobile process.
Within its ecommerce site, Bob’s Red Mill has a recipe section, which accounts for 40 percent of its total traffic. Based on user feedback, the team found that their original ecommerce platform resulted in slow load times and caused friction for the customers. This lead to them replatforming to Magento Commerce Cloud.

After receiving hundreds of comments from customers, Irish and his team realized many of the comments were not actually comments, but questions about how to use the product in a recipe or what other users have tried with the product. With Magento Commerce Cloud, Irish’s team created a Community Q&A on the recipe site so customers can easily ask one another questions and advice. Without any promotion or announcement, they received their first organic question within 30 minutes of the soft launch. After the first month, the community received 260 questions.

The next endeavor for the community is visual reviews. It’s common for people to take pictures of their meal and post them on Instagram or Facebook. On the community Q&A and the reviews section, users can add a photo or an image to the comment. However, Irish said they haven’t quite cracked the code to encourage users to share their photos. As of now, they only have about 500 visual reviews, but they’re hoping to drastically improve this number by optimizing the mobile experience.

Irish and his team also leverage the reviews in print media. For print, they categorize the comments based on persona. For example, they have pamphlets titled “What athletes are saying about us” or “What working mothers say about us.” They mail the pamphlets to similar audiences and bring them to conferences.

The customer generated content brings significant SEO benefits as well. Irish tells the story of a customer who left a comment on a product about how she used it in a recipe for “biergen muesli.” Because biergen muesli was unknown to the auto-moderator tool, Irish had to approve the comment himself. After approving the comment, he did a quick Google search for biergen muesli. The very first entry on Google was the Bob’s Red Mill page with the customer comment.

Because the natural food store provided its customers an outlet for providing feedback and comments, Bob’s Red Mill grew its average daily CGC from 1.3 to 115.2. It now has thousands of pages worth of content (or over 23,000 comments total)—all raving about the products. They have over 400 products, and each product has a comment. Additionally, its ecommerce conversion rate has remained over 10 percent and as high as 18 percent each month since October of 2017. It comes down to one thing: customers trust other customers. By asking one question, Bob’s Red Mill empowered its customers to provide their feedback and start a conversation with one another. If you’d like to discuss a CGC strategy or you’re looking to replatform your ecommerce site, please feel free to reach out to us.

Shannon Abel
After graduating from Clemson, Shannon started her career in marketing, focusing on content creation and engagement. As Blue Acorn iCi’s Media Marketing Specialist, she keeps clients and customers up-to-date on the latest trends and news in the ecommerce world. She also produces and hosts Blue Acorn iCi's podcast, The Funnel. In her free time, she enjoys running with her dog and checking out the local breweries in Charleston.
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