Why and How You Should Let Your Customers Help Build Your Emails

With customer content — reviews, ratings and social media posts, for example — you can elevate your email marketing by turning your messages into two-way conversation.

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Great email marketing isn’t a one-way street. It’s a two-way conversation between your brand and your customers, held in the privacy of the inbox. You’re probably great at holding up your end of the conversation, but where’s your customer’s voice in your messages? You can make it heard when you add customer content, like reviews, ratings, winning entries, customer images, social media comments and images.

Top 10 reasons to add customer content to your emails

There are myriad reasons why user-generated content can help you create more engaging, more effective email. Consider these as just a good starting point:

  1. Win-win: Show your customers that you value their commentary and contributions. That builds brand engagement and equity. 
  2. Community: Customer content can build community among customers with similar interests and promote your social media channels.
  3. Social proof: Reviews and ratings from peers give them the guidance and support they need to buy more confidently.
  4. Inspiration: Images and how-tos pulled from your social media, user groups or content entries show customers what other people do with your products.
  5. Partner up: Customers share the content-creation workload with you.
  6. Instant influence: Build up a market quickly for new products by sharing them with loyalty program VIPs or high-profile followers and then spotlight their comments or ratings in email. 
  7. Variety: Customer content helps you vary your message. People aren’t in the market every time you email them. Customer content can keep them interested until they’re ready to buy.
  8. Face time: Customer content humanizes your emails. If your brand is one of many in their consideration sets, having emails with a human connection can help you move to the front of the pack.
  9. Trust: Ratings, reviews, endorsements and proof of use helps build trust in your brand.
  10. Rewards: Customer content can be an easy and inexpensive way to spotlight your most engaged and influential customers.

How to find and include customer content 

Start with your user groups and social media channels like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. Look at review platforms like Bazaarvoice, Qualtrics and Medallia for a steady source of customer content. But the best source is the same as it ever was – your pool of customers. Just ask them!

  • Run a contest to name a product, create a slogan, pick their favorite product or come up with a new way to use it. 
  • Solicit selfies of people engaging with your product.
  • Ask purchasers or users to review or rate your products.

Automating your customer content curation

The best part is that including more UGC doesn’t have to mean a lot of extra work for your creatives and coders. In fact, it can even save you time and effort; crowdsourcing content can mean your team spends less time brainstorming and producing it themselves.

One simple way to streamline customer content curation is the implementation of an automated feed that sweeps up customer content from your website, social media channels and independent sources and then serves it in dynamic content modules in each email.  

It takes some advance work to set up rules to filter out irrelevant or unwanted content, as we explained in a recent blog about adding user reviews to emails. Once you get those in place, you just need to keep an eye on the feed and adjust it as needed.

3 Rs of customer content use

1. Keep it real. Today’s hyper-aware consumers can spot fake sentiment in a flash – and they’ll hold your brand’s feet to the virtual fire if your message strays too far from your brand identity.

2. Keep it reliable. Reviews are popular because people love to express their opinions. Many customers refuse to buy unrated products. But consumers also are getting more worried about fake reviews. A BrightLocal study found 92% of consumers ages 18-34 said they spotted fake reviews, compared with 59% of older consumers (54+). 

3. Keep it relevant. Automating a social media feed cuts your email prep time, but you must keep an eye on it to make sure the selections you include are relevant to the brand and support your email’s objectives.

3 brands doing it right

It’s not hard to find good examples of brands that have figured out how to feature customer content in their emails. That’s good because it means brands are finally seeing the value of letting their customers do their marketing for them.

But it also means that including customer content is becoming a differentiator among brands. In other words, if your customers don’t see themselves now in your messaging, they might go find a brand that does.

Below are three uses of customer content:

1. The Body Shop

This promotional email shows how to use customer content to sell a product. It draws a direct line from the product to a related customer review to the buy button. The review softens the hard sell but can still nudge customers into acting. 

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2. PetSmart

This email makes us feel warm and happy all over; and not just because PetSmart achieves an entire cat-carrier full of goals with this email:

  • Promotes its pet adoption service
  • Ties in with National Adoption Weekend 
  • Encourages store traffic for selfies 
  • Highlights its #PicMe hashtag
  • Directs readers to its Instagram channel to build traffic and followers

Besides, it’s packed top to bottom with kitty and doggy pictures. What’s not to love?

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3. TripAdvisor

Reviews and ratings are standard fare for travel companies, but they’re also an area where customers are becoming skeptical about fake reviews. TripAdvisor addresses that by adding a human touch, incorporating a real headshot of each featured reviewer to add authenticity to each commentary.

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Want to see more? MailCharts curated a group of consumer emails featuring 15 premier brands at the top of their game. Each incorporates customer content differently to achieve different goals. Check it out for even more inspiration!

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Maria Braune is a Senior Product Strategist with Liveclicker. Within this role, Maria provides strategy and guidance internally for the Sales and Account Management team. Her background in client management has made her successful in being a strong client advocate when it comes to Product direction and release.

Maria Braune
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