We know from working with hundreds of eCommerce brands that they are always looking for the best ways to utilize user generated content (UGC). In this case study, we are sharing a few tests we ran for Mountain Housean eCommerce business that sells freeze-dried foods for hikers, hunters, and camping enthusiastsshowing how adding UGC in strategic places on an eCommerce site can increase the conversion rate.  

Specifically, we curated and displayed photos on the main category pages, which lead to a conversion rate lift of 13%.

In this post, we are sharing what we learned in the process including:

  • The psychology of why this worked.
  • How to leverage UGC content and social media to improve conversion rates.
  • How you can apply these learnings in your eCommerce business.

To see your best possible conversion rate, you need an advanced strategy designed for your specific audience, and we can help. If you’d like our CRO experts to see what conversion best practices can be applied to your eCommerce site, contact us here.

About the Mountain House Instagram Contest CRO Test

An important part of having UGC work for increasing conversion rate is the quality of the photos. eCommerce brands should think of their user generated content strategy similar to their own product photography. High-quality photos will increase desire for the product and likely, the conversion rate.

So for Mountain House, instead of pulling random UGC photos, we chose stunning images that capture customers’ attention from a contest that Mountain House ran on their Instagram profile.

Mountain House has cultivated a loyal and large brand following with more than 45,000 followers on Instagram. They ran a contest collecting UGC photos from loyal customers and Instagrammers in the summer of 2017. This conceptalong with the AB test we ranput the best content on the category pages and exceeded all expectations.


Mountain House's original webpage before the user generated content was added.

Variation: 13% lift  

Mountain House's original webpage after the user generated content and pictures were added.

Specifically, we curated and added awesome contest photos to category pages as a value add to drive home that people buy and love these products (as shown above).

We used ReadyPulse to curate and pull in these images dynamically. We did it by category and specifically pulled out our favorite ones for this test. We looked for unique places and customers doing cool things, and not just your typical “I’m holding the product in front of a door photo.” That’s not engaging.

Because Mountain House has a diverse customer base comprised of camping and hiking enthusiasts, outdoor adventure seekers and preppers, this contest helped to reinforce the brand perception of one of their key customer segments: everyday people who go hiking and hunting on the weekendsand how they love consuming these products.  

And, the customers who got their photos featured feel special. They feel like the brand recognizes them, which builds more brand loyalty, and then they are more likely to keep buying the products.

How to Incentivize Your Customers to Create Compelling UGC Content

UGC content works well when you tap into your most engaged customers on social channels, and then give them a reason to get excited to share content with you.

You need to incentivize them by empathizing with them and understanding their motivations.  

In this example, we needed to be able to give credit to them in a way that gets them the “notoriety” that they’re looking for. This means having a prize that motivates people to want to engage. In this case, it was a year’s supply of freeze-dried food.

A photo submission for their #savortheadventure user generated content Instagram challenge.

Location of UGC Matters: Don’t Just Test UGC in One Place and Declare It a Success or Failure  

Since the homepage is the page that almost everybody lands on, and probably gets the most traffic, it is a natural place to run CRO tests for the first time.

However, we often see brands quick to call something a success or failure after only testing it on the homepage for a short time. That’s not always going to be the spot with the most significant impact.

Our CRO tests with Mountain House prove that. We first did a test on their homepage. This was the original test. It was less impactful, and it only resulted in a small lift.

Mountain House added user generated content to just about every category page.

Then, we tested it further down the funnel. We added it on every single category page. The category pages are where it resonated with visitors. No matter where people navigated to, they saw it.

You can also test adding UGC on product pages. For example, if you’ve got only a handful of products or you’ve got a huge Instagram base, putting it on the product page is definitely something worth trying.

We wouldn’t recommend adding it on ‘add to cart’ and ‘checkout’ pages though, because you don’t want to push people to your Instagram page and further away from completing a purchase.

This UGC strategy can work well with any brand that has visually captivating products and a large concentration of social influencers. For example, this could also work well if you sell juicing products.  

Leveraging Social Proof to Generate More Sales

The underlying reason why this worked so well is that it shows real people using their products in real life. This may seem obvious, but few eCommerce businesses leverage this social proof effectively.

In addition, it is easy to underestimate the power of social media platforms. Everybody thinks of social media as something that people interact with, but only some companies understand how it can affect their conversion rate. This clearly proves that this kind of content from social media can be used strategically on your site to achieve the latter.

If you have a strong brand and a social following with engaged users, you can use UGC content like Instagram posts to increase your conversion rate.

Don’t throw social media channels to the wayside just because you think it won’t influence purchasing decisions.


While this UGC campaign worked well for Mountain House, every site is different. It’s helpful to benchmark your results against the best in class sites.

Every year, our CRO experts evaluate 25 top sites through our 154-point matrix, which breaks down the most important eCommerce features.  

If you’d like our CRO experts to see what conversion best practices can be applied to your eCommerce site, contact us here.