Research from Bazaarvoice, reveals visual and social user-generated content is driving online retail purchases. The new report, ‘A picture’s worth a thousand purchases’, finds that in addition to social media, almost three quarters (74%) of consumers prefer to see previous customers’ photos and videos on brand and retailer websites, rather than professionally shot images.

The findings, based on responses from 8,000+ consumers across Australia, Canada, France, Germany, UK and US, also reveal 62% of consumers are more likely to buy if they can view both photo and video content from previous customers.

Joe Rohrlich, CRO, Bazaarvoice comments, “Relatable voices commenting on and reviewing a product instill trust in a brand and product amongst other consumers online. The more realistic and authentic audiences feel the review content is, the more confident they become when deciding to make a purchase.”

As the most used social media network globally, Facebook is also the most popular destination when it comes to influencing purchases (25%) and the most likely social platform for consumers to purchase a product on (26%). Amongst 18-34 year-olds, however, Instagram is the most popular destination, with 31% using it as their main source of inspiration and 27% saying it is the most likely place for them to buy.

Younger shoppers demonstrate a particularly strong preference for visual UGC on social media, as 73% of 18-34 year-olds prefer it when brands use visual UGC for social media outreach compared to an average of 64% across other age groups.

Shoppable images and videos are the type of content most likely to influence buying choices on social media (19%), ahead of video advertising (14%) and posts from followed brands (13%), suggesting rich content and the ease of buying on-platform are now critical in the customer journey.

Fresh content is everything, however. Many want to see new visual UGC content from brands on social media more frequently than they do on websites – almost half (47%) of consumers want to see new UGC content on social media at least 2-3 times a week, with 10% of those expecting updates multiple times a day.

Visual UGC is most important for products that are typically higher in value, as consumers seek evidence and certainty about its quality, as well as the accuracy of the description before buying. For over a third of consumers (36%), technology and electronics is the most important category for reviewing photos and videos from other customers prior to purchase.

Rohrlich comments, “Visual content shared by previous customers can give shoppers the confidence to click the ‘buy’ button and reduce basket abandonment. It’s the best way to demonstrate online how the product fits or works, and can help potential customers imagine how they would use the product in their own lives.”

When it comes to trusting the authenticity of a review when making a purchase, the quality of other customer reviews is the top priority (45%) compared to how recently a review was posted (32%) or the number of reviews a product has from previous customers (23%).

Quality is in the eye of the beholder, however. For 1 in 5 consumers (21%), a quality review is judged to be one that includes photos and videos as well as text, more so than a well written review with good spelling and grammar (16%) or a review that clearly states when a product was purchased (11%).

Rohrlich, concludes, “The honesty and credibility of seeing other people’s real-life photos and videos makes visual user-generated content infinitely more valuable than a product description or professional photos. By enabling visual content from previous customers – as well as text-based reviews – on their platforms and social media, brands and retailers can turn a one-dimensional customer experience into a dynamic one, that will simultaneously drive consumers to purchase. The trends across age groups suggest that those most engaged with online shopping – young shoppers – are the ones that find visual UGC most important. There is a huge opportunity for brands and retailers to stand out to these consumers with visual and social content.”