Visual and social user generated content is helping drive online retail purchases, according to new research from product reviews and user-generated content solutions provider, Bazaarvoice.

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 more than 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.

Bazaarvoice chief revenue officer, Joe Rohrlich said, “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.”

Facebook is 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%). However, among 18 to 34 year-olds, 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 to 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%).

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 two or three 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 one-third of consumers (36%), technology and electronics is the most important category for reviewing photos and videos from other customers prior to purchase.

“Visual content shared by previous customers can give shoppers 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,” Rohrlich said.

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%).