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Why You Should Be Using UGC in Emails (With Examples!)

User-generated content is any content created by people who use your brand. Or who have tried to use your brand but couldn’t for some reason.

Like in this example where body positivity advocate Andy Neal complains about Target to his 178,000+ followers:

Andy Neal uses UGC content to complain about Target to his followers

You should comb through, collect, and edit the UGC real people create about your company and products. It’s also why you should give them directions about the content they should create in the first place.

That’s where email marketing comes in.  

This article will first teach you to collect the best content about your brand via emails. Then, we’ll show you how to include UGC in your emails to reach your marketing goals.

Keep reading below for more.

What Is UGC (User Generated Content)?

User-generated content is any content generated by users. This definition is fairly intuitive:

  • Users know of your brand and are motivated enough to talk about it. Of course, it’s best to have loyal customers and pleasantly impressed shoppers produce content about your products. Motivated haters, on the other hand, are not that desirable.
  • The content they create and share can be anything. Think of images, social media posts, and videos of any kind. They can be funny TikTok clips showing their delight or testimonial videos. Or, you can have Instagram photos within a UGC campaign you organized.

Lessons Learned

From our experience and the two definitions above, you can infer two main (and pretty obvious) lessons:

  • It’s best to have loyal customers sing your praises.
  • It’s best to have quality, persuasive content rather than low-quality content lacking intent.

Warning: The biggest mistake most companies make with UGC is leaving it at random.

That’s probably because regular people who aren’t your employees have created it.

But this approach means you’ll have unsorted, ineffective, and possibly even dangerous UGC about your company floating around in the ether.

Remember: You must encourage users to create UGC. Then, you should collect, curate, and incorporate UGC in different media to have a successful campaign.

And this particular article teaches you how to do that using marketing emails.

How to Collect User-Generated Content with Emails

Collecting user-generated content is essential because you must first see what you’re working with. You can’t organize and curate something you don’t have.

But there are other reasons to do it:

1. Spreading the word that you’re looking for UGC creates awareness. That awareness mobilizes people to produce content. Why? Studies show that recognition is an essential factor. Besides, the young generation of Zoomers is particularly creative. And they want to show off their skills.

2. It allows you to highlight your rules. You can explain the type of content you want, the deadlines, prizes, and many more. Explaining all those variables allows your customers to create persuasive and useful content for your goals. Here’s how to ask for that content in your future email campaigns:

1. Ask for UGC within a Contest

brands using email to ask for UGC within a Contest

Running a contest with an enticing prize is a typical way to start a UGC campaign. This email marketing strategy is especially useful when:

  • You want to create awareness
  • Increase your conversion rates by offering a palpable incentive

Of course, you’ll need the right:

  • Theme
  • Goals
  • Audience
  • Type of UGC
  • Platforms
  • Prize

Famous Footwear did it right in their UGC campaign:

  • They sent out newsletters asking people to participate in their UGC photo contests. That’s how you create awareness.
  • They set a convincing name for the campaign, “Feel a little famous.” That name almost sounds like a CTA, creating a desire for recognition.
  • The photo contest itself promotes self-expression. People have an innate desire to speak about themselves and show themselves to others.
  • The trip to NYC and front-row view of the Thanksgiving Day Parade is a worthwhile, palpable reward.
  • Including a clear submission link is another great idea because it prevents people from losing interest.

Lessons learned:

  • Use the right name for your campaign according to its theme. Make sure this name is memorable and short.
  • Give various rewards in your UGC contest to motivate more people to enroll. Monetary incentives are good, but recognition and self-expression tip the scales in your favor.
  • Include a visible link to the submissions page. And ensure your audience can finalize the submission process easily.
  • Ensure your audience knows how to create the content you’re proposing. For example, older generations may not be familiar with Snaptik videos.

2. Create a Hashtag Campaign

using hashtag campaigns to ask people for UGC

Another effective way to ask people for UGC is through a hashtag campaign. This idea is effective because it:

  • Bonds you with your followers
  • Creates a community around your brand
  • Allows you to collect and curate the received UGC quickly

The oVertone campaign above works well because:

  • It’s snippy and quick: People understand quickly what they’re supposed to do and how.
  • It highlights the main benefit: Customers can show their results on Instagram – the apex of visual social platforms.
  • It popularizes the hashtag: After all, you can’t run a branded hashtag campaign if nobody recognizes that hashtag in the first place.

Lessons learned:

  • Create awareness.
  • Be specific about the type of UGC you’re after.

Pro tip: Use the right social media scheduling tools to share the UGC people send you within the campaign.

How to Include User-Generated Content in Your Emails

If you incorporate user-generated content in your email campaigns, it increases open rate and click rates, and accelerates sales.

Why does that happen? One reason is UGC exudes honesty and authenticity. But UGC can also create desire or alleviate FOMO. Let’s see how the best are doing it and what you can learn from their examples:

1. Use Reviews

According to Statista, 93.4% of shoppers make purchase decisions after reading reviews. That’s why including user testimonials in your marketing emails has a similar result. But pushing unwanted reviews toward your email subscribers can backfire.

Here’s what Glossier is doing:

using reviews in your ugc email
  • This email’s subject line reads “Love letters.” The suggested intimacy creates a hook, so more people will open this email. Also, it indicates a bond between the brand and the reviewers mentioned in the email.
  • Glossier’s email starts with a thank you to the customer testimonials’ authors. So, Glossier puts those customers in the limelight, offering them recognition first. 
  • The reviews are followed by a CTA button reading “Come again.” That tactic further enhances the bond between the brand and the reviewers. It also creates a community of insiders. So the outsiders are more tempted to become part of this community.
  • Below the CTA, Glossier highlights its top products. After creating that spiral of emotions and desires, prospects will be more tempted to visit the suggested product pages and purchase.

Lessons learned:

  • Pick a good hook for your subject line.
  • Don’t be pushy or intrusive.
  • Include a CTA and your most successful products (without being intrusive).

2. Create Desire

Alo yoga creating desire in their ugc email

Alo Yoga creates desire in the email below through several tactics:

  • The title reads “Fan Faves,” which creates a desire to belong to an elite group. It also underlines social proof. The alliteration in the title didn’t simply happen, either. Letters that roll off your tongue are more persuasive and expressive. In that sense, “fan faves” is better than “loyal customers’ choices.”
  • The subtitle enhances the desire to belong and gain recognition. Alo Yoga prospects are reminded that these Yoga outfits would make them look better on Instagram.
  • The UGC images create desire too. Potential customers immediately see all the possibilities. They, too, can post sexy, hair-flowing, yard-yoga photos on Instagram. They can immediately show off their figures, be inspirational to others, and position themselves as desirable members of their group.
  • The Instagram Shop button leads to action. The button itself is non-intrusive. As you notice, there’s no “click now” pushy type of message. Instead, it’s just there, creating desire on its own, sending people to a channel they use most. A channel they instinctively have the need and habit to be on.
  • The four product categories are, in fact, four hooks. People can choose to browse these categories instead of using the Instagram shop.
  • The shipping returns and Pay Later options are strong arguments. They represent the rational benefits of why people should purchase Alo Yoga products. And they’re wisely placed after the moving, desire-inducing part to help people rationalize their purchase intent. Your subconscious may want you to buy new Yoga leggings that make you look great on Insta; now your rational mind also tells you you should do it.

Lessons learned:

  • If you picked the “create desire” tactic, stick with it throughout the email.
  • Make sure the UGC elements you’ve chosen can actually create that desire or other emotions leading to it.
  • Use insights on your prospects to connect with them.
  • Include CTAs and hooks.
  • Remember that rational arguments after emotional arguments increase the persuasiveness effect.

3. Remind Them about Abandoned Carts

using ugc to remind them about abandoned carts

Alo Yoga is also a master of abandoned carts email marketing campaigns. The example above works because:

  • It sounds personalized. Phrases like “ready to commit” and using the second person repeatedly make this email read very personal.
  • It offers a UGC photo. This picture inspires serenity and highlights how the Alo Yoga equipment facilitates fluid movement. That creates desire, granted. But a picture of someone using the discarded products could have been even more persuasive.
  • It shows the discarded products. That way, the undecided shopper is reminded of what they’re missing out on.
  • It has three CTA buttons. Two of those read “check out now,” and the other is “keep shopping.” As you can see, there’s no “discard now into oblivion” button. And these CTAs fit in nicely with the other ones sprinkled within the email’s body. That brings us to the next point:
  • The numerous CTAs don’t feel intrusive. The personal-sounding expressions tone down the email, so it doesn’t feel pushy or intrusive.

Lessons learned:

  • Use UGC that convinces people to return to their abandoned carts.
  • Don’t be salesy.
  • Don’t offer the opportunity to back out.

4. Introduce Your New Line

using ugc to introduce your new line

Molly Merch introduces its new line of aprons in the “Tie Dye Apron Drop” email. Let’s break this email down, too, and see what lessons you can learn from it:

  • The two photos look UGC. Notice the authentic-looking scenarios. In the first one, the woman prepares a dish; in the second, she’s caught trying it. None of the photos look artistic or glossy, but they are edited a little. These “no-make-up-make-up” photos create authenticity and desire and are more persuasive than unedited pictures.
  • Prove your point. Notice how the added pictures show people exactly how they would look with the new aprons and their benefits (e.g., length, coverage, etc.). The text strengthens this argument through the unique selling point: the invisible stain design. Molly Merch underlines that the aprons in the new Tie Dye collection don’t show stains. And that also explains the collection’s name.
  • Connect with your audience. Notice that this email reads fairly personal as well. “Hot min,” “real talk,” and “shmessy cook” are just a few examples.

Lessons learned:

  • Edit and curate your UGC, or use UGC-like photos with a similar effect.
  • Ensure your UGC serves to prove your arguments.
  • Ensure your UGC strengthens your unique selling point.
  • Choose UGC that’s in line with the rest of the email’s tone of voice.
  • Pick an email template builder to design the best email for your UGC.

5. Highlight an Offer

You can also use UGC to highlight an offer, like Salesforce is doing:

using ugc to highlight an offer

This Salesforce email doesn’t rely directly on UGC, but it does use it to:

  • Prove a point.
  • Create social proof.

And it does that by using the principles of order in the following:

  • Visual elements
  • Argument building

These things enhance persuasiveness. Let’s see how:

Notice that the picture of the happy event participants is strategically placed in the upper-right corner, slightly above the title. Why does that matter?

Seeing those happy faces first and then reading the “Hundreds of inspiring sessions” part suspends judgment. That’s a rhetorical term meant to signify people’s tendency to argue. Those happy, exciting, clapping people prove without a doubt that Salesforce’s events are inspiring.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Or 60,000 words in marketing.

Also, notice the FOMO part. The text reads, “one last chance to save,” which creates a risk. People naturally avoid risks more than they tend to grab benefits.

The text is split into two paragraphs, separated by CTA buttons. These paragraphs further present reasons why people should enroll in the sessions. The first paragraph creates scarcity, while the second highlights the expert speakers. Also, the CTA buttons “register now” make it easy for people to enroll.

Lessons learned:

  • Use UGC that helps you build powerful arguments.
  • Use the principles of order. UGC should be at the top of your email because it suspends critical reasoning, proving your point.
  • Make sure the UGC you’re using complements the surrounding text. Your marketing email should have an intent, and the UGC you choose should facilitate it.

Capping off UGC in Email

User-generated content in email marketing is an excellent tactic to create awareness, boost sales, and increase the click-through rate. UGC, as you’ve seen from the examples before, is convincing and authentic, so that’s why it works. But, as with any other marketing strategy, you must learn to do it right.

Remember to have a theme and use UGC to support your arguments. So, choose a persuasive UGC that your audience resonates with and always – always – start from your audience’s needs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

UGC stands for user-generated content. UGC includes any content created about your company and products by your users. But to ensure maximum efficiency, you must collect and curate this content within thorough UGC campaigns.

You can ask for UGC emails within contest-based or hashtag campaigns. You can also ask your customers for reviews after buying your products. Remember to ask for their permission before reusing their content.

UGC on Internet is also user-generated content, but you will find this mostly online. UGC in the Internet is usually on social media channels, marketing emails, and online ads. You can also have offline UGC in banners or street ads.

An example of UGC is a social media post that one of your customers makes about your brand. Other examples include videos, photos, and customer reviews.

The best way to ask customers for UGC is to be direct without feeling pushy. Remember to outline the benefits (e.g., rewards and prizes). Also, include clear directions about the required UGC. Your customers want to understand what it’s required of them clearly, but remember not to sound salesy.

David Morneau

David Morneau is the co-founder and CEO of inBeat agency, which helps brands scale their marketing efforts. He has helped over 200 DTC brands to date.