User-generated content is hot right now, and with good reason. Consumers trust other people’s opinions much more than branded content, which means UGC is a powerful tool for building trust with prospects and customers.
Notably, UGC is utilized more heavily for certain kinds of purchases. According to Bazaarvoice, a provider of review software, Millennials rely most on UGC when buying personal electronics. Cars are next, followed by hotels.
Here’s the full list: Electronics - Cars - Hotels - Travel - Credit Cards - Insurance.
These products are clearly very different. What they have in common, though, tells us a lot about today’s consumers—and why UGC matters to them.
Consumers want help and advice when making big purchases
What Bazaarvoice’s study shows us is that other people’s advice is especially valuable for big purchases.
The electronics category, for example, includes computers, smartphones, and TVs. The average person buys a smartphone every 2–3 years, and a new computer once every 3–4 years. TVs are replaced even less often.
The reason, of course, is that all of these electronics are pricey. Most people can only afford to upgrade their phone every couple of years (at most).
An even better illustration of how price sensitive consumers are is the No.2 UGC category: cars. After housing, a car is the biggest purchase most people make. That’s why the average car on American roads is more than 11 years old : It’s expensive to buy a new car, so when a person is in the market for one, they’re going to do their research.
Increasingly, this means seeking out the experiences of other real people. Research and measurement firm Nielsen has said friend-and-family opinions are trusted by 92 percent of people when making a purchase.
A lack of transparency in the marketplace
The reason why real people’s input is so valuable? Most purchases are completely nontransparent.
That is, the average (non-expert) person simply isn’t going to know what their options are, or which options are good—or even how to define “good”.
Expert opinions from the media continue to be valuable. Professional review site The Wirecutter was respected enough to be acquired by the New York Times and folded into their product portfolio.
The true holy grail for the consumer, however, is help and advice from expert product users—those, in other words, who aren’t offering their advice professionally.
This kind of input is more valuable to consumers because it’s more authentic. Real people can share the pros and cons of using a product, arming the shopper with information that helps them make a considered choice.
How widely used is authentic content in buying decisions? According to software developer OfferPop, 85% of people think images shared by their peers are more influential than images created by brands.
There are lots of options
The final commonality in these categories is that there are many options available, at many different price points.
Take cars, for example. Today, there are more than 220 vehicle models available for sale in the US, from about 40 manufacturers. That doesn’t include dozens of now-discontinued models.
Among credit cards, and insurers, too, there are many, many choices on offer. That’s great for consumers—until it comes time to actually pick one!
Not coincidentally, many online communities have sprung up around these financial products. Financial-advice blog FatWallet has one such forum. FlyerTalk is another, for frequent-flyer points. It’s the 2,000th-most visited website in the US, according to Alexa.
Peer advice helps people narrow their options—and that counts when there are a lot of options on offer. Now, more than ever, real people’s input really matters.