Consumers buy products endorsed with user-generated images

People trust social media posts with user-generated images seven times more than traditional ads, a new study reveals.

Only six percent of people surveyed in the UK (between the ages of 16 to 49) trust traditional advertising, while over three-quarters prefer looking at user-generated images (UGC), according to Olapic, which could have critical implications for brands seeking trust and engagement among consumers.

The report, ‘Consumer Trust: Keeping It Real’, which details the results of the survey of more than 4,500 active social media users between ages 16 and 49 in the US and Europe (the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden), finds that photos featuring ‘real people’ are trusted seven times more than traditional advertising.

The study also shows that trust has a significant impact on click-through rates and sales. In fact, over half (56 per cent) of respondents say they are more likely to click on an ad that features a user-generated images and same amount are more inclined to buy the product after seeing this kind of ad.

‘And these figures send a strong message to brands about how they should engage with consumers’, says José de Cabo, co-founder of Olapic.

‘Social media brings streams of authentic images to consumers’ fingertips, transforming how they see products and interact with brands. Today’s low levels of trust in traditional advertising suggest that consumers are seeking a more honest dialogue with brands and marketers.

De Cabo adds, ‘In order for brands to increase engagement and sales, they’ll need to adapt to this changing landscape and communicate with consumers in the authentic visual language they crave.’

Top brands have begun to take note, using branded hashtags to increase visibility and engagement. The #NYXCosmetics campaign, for instance, shows that customers who interact with UGC have a 93 per cent higher average order value (AOV) and convert to customers at a rate 320 per cent higher than those who do not.

Similarly, up-market clothing store AllSaints encouraged consumers to upload photos of themselves wearing the brand’s clothing with the hashtag #ItsUpToYou. Not only did this campaign make it easier for shoppers to browse through user-generated content; it also increased conversions by 50 per cent within the first week.

The report’s findings also show that in the UK in particular, user-generated images play an instrumental role across the customer journey. More than a third (35 per cent) of surveyed Brits are interested in looking at social media photos while ‘pre-shopping’—when consumers begin browsing products—and another quarter (24 per cent) turn to user-generated content while shopping online or in-store.


British respondents also showed a particular fondness for brand engagement on social media as almost half (48 per cent) have uploaded photos featuring a brand’s hashtag. This trend is even stronger among the younger generation, with 57 per cent of British millennial respondents reporting the same.

The motivation for such social media activism is clear: 86 per cent of British millennial respondents who have posted photos with a brand’s hashtag say they did it simply because they enjoyed the product.

The British appetite for authenticity has an important impact on the bottom line, as Brits we surveyed are twice as likely to buy a product endorsed by real people over models or celebrities.

Although all verticals are affected by these trends, the fashion industry is particularly susceptible; in an age marked by heightened consumer backlash against Photoshopped models, 38 per cent of Brits told us they seek ads that feature real people before making a purchase in fashion.

Further reading on social media marketing

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

Related Topics

Leave a comment