PR Manager, Experian
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The most successful brands will be those that exploit User Generated Content (UGC) as a key to generating sales in the post-recession world, according to Experian’s latest Insight Report published today.
Analysis in the report provided by Hitwise, an Experian company, reveals that as disposal income tightens UK Internet users are spending less time on transactional sites and more on user content driven websites, such as social networks. In March 2009, content-driven websites attracted 138 per cent more visits than transactional websites. Furthermore, brands that have incorporated UGC and social media into their sites are seeing increasing web traffic and conversion rates compared to those yet to embrace Web 2.0.
Experian’s report suggests that in the post-recession world, UGC will be critical as people turn to their peers for recommendations on what to buy – against a backdrop where 40 per cent of UK consumers now believe that most companies are not fair to consumers[i].
Websites that offer something for free have always thrived, but the recession has resulted in a major increase in web traffic to these sites. For example, Hitwise’s analysis reveals that social networks overtook retail websites in the UK for the first time in January 2009 and by March were receiving 14 per cent more Internet visits.
Robin Goad, Research Director at Hitwise, commented: “While social networks remain the primary repository of UGC, the trend has filtered through to other sectors, particularly travel, retail and financial services. However, companies must be aware that, while customers are willing to participate and comment online, they don’t always do so within the defined limits. Vocal customers can be advocates, but they can also be detractors; often more willing to share bad experiences than good ones. The big challenge for brands in the post-recession environment will be to encourage delighted customers and advocates to make themselves heard by providing the right forums and rewards.”
Consumers have taken to Web 2.0 in a major way over the last two years with Facebook traffic increasing by 769 per cent between April 2007 and April 2009, while YouTube has seen a 177 per cent rise and Twitter a staggering increase of 17838% over the same period.
As consumers take up Web 2.0 over transactional sites, Experian’s Insight report suggests that those brands that are best positioned to take advantage when the economy improves will be those that meet the growing demand for interactivity through UGC and social media tools.
Forward thinking retailers from fashion to DIY are already attracting customers to their websites with everything from review sections, videos and ‘how to’ forums. According to a industry research, 77 per cent of online shoppers[ii] now seek customer product reviews before purchasing.
Robin Goad, commented: “The growth in content driven sites such as news, entertainment and social networks over retail and transaction-based websites illustrates how consumer behaviour in the ‘real’ world is being replicated online. The demand for UGC across the online world provides a clear opportunity for transactional websites to drive consumers to their sites through more interactivity. Furthermore, we fully expect to see UGC break out of online and feed into all marketing and advertising channels in the next few years.”
Brands that fail to embrace Web 2.0 tools now risk being left behind when the market turns to companies that are already developing innovative social media and UGC capabilities.”