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New Global Study Finds User-Generated Content (UGC) Grows More Prominent and Visual With Every Generation

Key findings of the 2020 Cloudinary UGC Study reveal:

  • UGC on the rise: 58% of respondents generating more content, including video and written reviews, compared to last year
  • Younger generations communicate visually: one third of users have started sharing photos with their reviews; 70% of Gen Z and 78% of Millennials find photos and videos especially helpful in making purchasing decisions
  • Beyond e-commerce: people turn to user-submitted photos and videos to see if restaurants, shops and health care centers have adapted to COVID-19

Cloudinary, the media experience platform for many of the world’s top brands,  announced the findings from its new international study on user-generated content (UGC). The online survey executed by Researchscape in October 2020 polled 1,669 respondents from Germany, the UK and the US to better understand the role UGC plays in purchasing decisions, the type of content that matters most to the consumers, and the impact the pandemic has had on UGC use and reliance.

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The study clearly revealed a trend that with each passing generation, the role of visual content grows more dominant in brand communications and commerce, including that of UGC. When evaluating purchase decisions, 70% of Gen X and Gen Z respondents and 78% of Millennials reported finding it “very” or “extremely” helpful to know how other product users feel about purchases, whereas only 52% of Baby Boomers and 45% of the Silent Generation reported the same.

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The younger Gen Z and Millennial generations reported being more drawn to reviews that include photos and videos. 50% of Gen Z and 49% of Millennials found pictures and videos (47% of Millennials and 52% of Gen Z) to be helpful in making purchasing decisions. This could help explain why Gen Z respondents surveyed name visual platforms such as Instagram (88%) and YouTube (85%) as their favorites compared to older generations that prefer Facebook.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Photos drive purchase decisions: roughly half of the respondents (53% in Germany, 49% in UK and 55% in the US) ranked photos as being the most helpful content for researching purchases.
  • UGC creation driven by the younger generations: Gen X, Gen Z and Millennials are most likely to create content about their experiences with products and services. Most popular are star ratings and text reviews (both at 45%), followed by photos (32%).
  • Accentuating the positive: surprising to some, people are more likely to share positive (34%) than negative experiences (10%)
  • Reliance on UGC reviews grew during COVID: 21% of respondents reported checking user reviews “more often” compared to pre-COVID times.
  • COVID has affected overall and online consumer spending differently: 28% of respondents said they spent less during the pandemic while 20% spent more. 52% said that COVID-19 hasn’t changed their overall spending. The picture is different for online spending: 28% reported spending more while 17% said they spent less; 56% said their online spending hadn’t changed at all.

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“The survey shows a clear trend of people increasingly wanting to hear from others through user-generated, visual content. This means brands need to analyze target audience preferences to ensure they communicate online using the right mix of text, visual and UGC. To provide the best user experience in this new visual economy, brands are relying on our tools to automate the many UGC image and video management tasks, including optimized uploads, moderation, compliance, transcription, transformations and thumbnail creation,” commented Sanjay Sarathy, VP of Marketing, Cloudinary.

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