Content Camouflage: How UGC Evolved Ecommerce Marketing

The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Marketing Insider.

While scrolling your TikTok and Instagram feed, you've likely encountered a product review or a "get ready with me" video from a friendly but unfamiliar face. When you stop to examine the post, you'll notice the content is promoted, shoppable, and from a creator or brand you likely don't follow.

Advertisers are finding nano- and micro-influencers who resonate with consumers, scripting UGC for products, amplifying the voice of advocacy through promotion, and adding a layer of credibility in the minds of consumers.

Why ecommerce marketing is evolving

In 2003, Seth Godin published "Purple Cow," a business marketing book that explained the importance of creating memorable advertisements. Brands like Liquid Death utilize this strategy to achieve market disruption.

However, consumer acquisition costs have risen by as much as 60% in the past five years due to Apple’s privacy updates and increased competition, forcing an evolution away from branding and toward performance-driven campaigns to increase revenue.



Consumers are taking the UGC bait

Consumers are tired of advertisements, and a study found that 96% don't trust ads. However, UGC is often not initially received as an ad but as value-added content. Much like the lure used by an angler fish, UGC provides captivating content that simultaneously promotes a product or brand.

Paid UGC is juicy bait that looks like a worm to consumers. Because UGC does not look like an ad, it's 6.6x more influential than professionally shot media and builds trust, making consumers 53% more likely to try the newest products.

UGC tactics driving sales

Brands should consider three main factors that will optimize UGC’s effectiveness.

Talent — Representation affects purchasing decisions. A study found 59% of consumers are more likely to trust a brand whose ads feature people who look like them. Brands should test several UGC creators to find their ideal customer base.

Strategy — UGC-style content provides interesting and relatable narratives. 73% of Gen Z consumers enjoy watching product reviews, so TikTok trends like #grwm (101B views), #unboxing (73B views), and #haul (43B views) are common creative ad formats.

Distribution — Because consumers don't like watching commercials, brands are increasingly adopting a strategy known as "dark posting." The practice promotes content from a creator's profile rather than a company page, removing a direct correlation between a post and a brand, creating a more organic feel and a more positive perspective for skeptical viewers.

Position your brand for the future of ecommerce advertising

As consumer tastes evolve, expect more ads to adopt amateur content into their paid media strategy. UGC-style concepts will likely crossover to traditional media platforms like television, with overly produced commercials replaced with handheld mobile phone videos featuring social media trends.

By focusing on relatable storytelling and encouraging fan interaction, brands can thrive in the next generation of ecommerce advertising.


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