Welcome to the modern shopping journey: Everyone has a microphone to share their experiences with products and services through online tools like reviews, social media posts, pictures, videos, and even quick comments on a friend’s Instagram photo or YouTube video  — and anyone can listen to what they have to say.

The best brands and retailers understand that this is an opportunity — not only to have a conversation with your customers but to let your customers have a conversation with each other.

Studies show that shoppers who interact with ratings and reviews and other kinds of customer content are, on average, 116% more likely to buy than those who don’t. Featuring customer content has become a hallmark of e-commerce, and a significant factor in modern consumer behavior.

But despite this industry trend, the language is still iffy. Most people in the industry refer to all consumer content under the umbrella term “user-generated content”, or UGC. But look up user-generated content in the dictionary, and you’ll find Wikipedia is listed as a primary example. The reason? It’s a collection of content generated by Wikipedia’s users.

If you look further for a more complete definition, you’ll end up with the same confusion. Wikipedia itself defines it as everything from “any form of content created by users of a system” to user-made video games, blog posts, and news coverage from non-journalists.

A simpler definition: It’s anything a person posts or creates online for others without any commercial incentive — and that’s a ton of stuff on the internet.

Words are important, and, in this instance, UGC just doesn’t cut it. Talk to any brand or retailer about “UGC,” and it’s a safe bet you’re not talking about Wikipedia or a crowdsourced video game.

You’re talking about content for consumers, by consumers; things like ratings and reviews, questions and answers, visual content from social media, and anything else where a customer is directly telling other people what they think about a product or service.

Call it what it is: Consumer-generated content

There is a better way to define and name this more specific set of UGC. Some people have called it word-of-mouth content; others have called it peer-product content; and still others have dubbed it user-created content.

At Bazaarvoice, we call it consumer-generated content — CGC for short.

CGC shares some traits with UGC — it’s always posted by people, and it’s almost always publicly available to other consumers and users. But unlike UGC, which encapsulates almost anything a person creates and shares with others without a commercial incentive, CGC is solely focused on products or services. It can be informative, critical, emotional, or even just entertaining. It can be long and rich or short and brief. But no matter it’s form factor, it’s always created by a someone who has used and experienced the product or service in question.

It’s a small change, but it makes a world of difference — the difference between someone who submits content to Wikipedia or posts cat memes to Reddit and someone who writes a review for their latest purchase.

So, to everyone in the e-commerce industry: enough with this term user-generated content. Call it what it is: consumer-generated content. This is the content that brands, retailers, and their customers care about. When it comes down to it, CGC is about conversation, so let’s all speak the same language.

For more insight about CGC, read our other blog posts:

How to find, reach, and win today’s shopper

5 ways CGC can improve customer experience

Under the Instagram influence: Word of mouth in the digital age

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