When asked to choose between content created by brands and content created by other users, is it any wonder most consumers prefer the latter?

User-generated content, or UGC, has always been an integral part of the internet. From the earliest days of forums and bulletin boards, people have gravitated not to brands but to other people online. The content revolution that started in the early 20-teens and is now going full steam was built around this very principle: people would like brands more if brands sounded more like people.

Now that most brands are fully on board with creating their own content, UGC is more important than ever. Between the demands of running a large content operation and the difficulty in standing out in the content deluge, UGC offers brands a way to build closer relationships with their customers in an organic way.

Here are some powerful benefits and reasons UGC should be part of every marketing strategy.

UGC boosts customer engagement.

Over one-third of visitors to e-commerce brands engage with UGC. Of those visitors who became customers, more than 55% interacted with a piece of user-generated content. People like and trust other people, and content like reviews, testimonials, social images, and other pieces of UGC lend authenticity to brands.

UGC takes a load off the marketing team.

A robust content marketing program takes time — a lot of time. Researching, writing, editing, publishing, and promoting all require input from multiple people. Challenger brands working with limited marketing resources may find themselves at a serious disadvantage as they struggle to keep up. A UGC plan allows brands to keep their content hopper full without needing a dedicated content team in-house, all with the benefit of more genuine connections with users.

UGC is more cost-effective.

Content marketing can be expensive. Writers, editors, strategists, consultants, and agencies all add up. And that’s not even counting the cost of distribution, which can run over $18 per click in some competitive CPC niches. One of the big promises of content was being able to attract more customers with smaller spend, but as content activities scale up, that promise is becoming difficult to keep. UGC lets brands minimize their in-house cost by using engaged and passionate fans to create compelling and shareable content.

It just works better.

Conversion rates for people who interacted with UGC are 161% higher than for those who didn’t. For consumer brands, there is virtually nothing else that comes close to the kind of boost a good user-generated content strategy can provide.

As consumer buying habits continue to adapt to the changing world of social commerce, UGC will become even more important. User-generated content is no longer a “nice to have”—it’s a necessity.