I loathe reality TV. No, really—I hate it. There. I said it. And I must be the only one person in the northern hemisphere that feels that way because every season there is a new and more ludicrous reality TV show vying for a spot on my TV watching line up.
Why, you ask?
It’s all a sham.
From start to finish, the whole thing is scripted. Everyone knows that it’s scripted and everyone pretends that what they see is really happening while the cameras are rolling. Newsflash: it’s all marketing. Strategically planned and executed, extremely well-funded marketing.
So, what does my extreme dislike of reality TV have to do with B2B ecommerce?
Simple. Your B2B ecommerce site is nothing but strategically planned, well-funded marketing and your customers know it.
Your customers know that everything on your site is controlled by your organization and that your ultimate goal is to get them to buy, but they pretend that your reason for creating the site is purely an altruistic attempt to serve their needs. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s not far off from reality TV.
The good news is that B2B ecommerce has an edge that reality TV will never have—user generated content (UGC). Why does this matter?
UGC—whether in the form of ratings, reviews or Q&A forums—provides an instant credibility that the content created by your marketing department will never have on its own. Why? UGC is created and posted to your site by real people. UGC allows your customers to share their opinions and provided unsolicited feedback on the product or service in question. This, in turn, helps other customers understand the product and how it performed in real time.
User-generated content is a powerful way to demonstrate that your organization cares what your customers think and is confident enough to openly share those insights with other new or existing customers. UGC is also a powerful step away from presenting a highly controlled (read: scripted) marketing experience in lieu of real-life feedback and endorsement. And it’s that willingness to relinquish control that will speak powerfully to your customers and lend an authenticity to your site that is missing in most B2B ecommerce sites—and in reality TV.