How To Create Social Proof And Make Your Online Store Stand Out
As much as we might like to think that we’re pillars of independent thought, always eager to reach our own conclusions no matter what others say, all evidence points to the contrary. We evolved from tribal animals, and tribal animals we remain. Going against the crowd typically makes us feel uneasy — some people lean into that and become contrarians, but they’re still fundamentally taking cues from what others think.
We do have some logical facilities, of course, but they tend to go towards making big decisions with small sets of choices — when you’re facing hundreds or even thousands of viable options, it’s cognitively overwhelming. That’s when you look to the wisdom of the crowd.
This is of paramount importance in the ecommerce world, because the online shopper has near-infinite options: countless product types, brands, and storefronts, all competing for their attention. What’s more, making the wrong choice when buying online can lead to disaster: items can show up faulty, or never arrive at all, causing inconvenience and/or financial loss.
Due to this, a core part of building an online store that can thrive in the frenzied ecommerce landscape is turning social proof to your advantage: showing all those who happen upon your store that sticking around and buying from you is the crowd-approved move to make. Here are some tips to help you do just that:
Use Structured Data Aggregate Ratings
Structured data allows you to lend context to the content of your store, allowing search engines to extract more information about it, and this can be hugely useful for social proof because of the star rating system. Most online purchases start with organic searches, and a store that appears with a 5-star rating will have a significant edge.
It isn’t a good idea to fabricate reviews, of course, so you will need a large range of reviews before you can do anything: a system like Trustpilot or the review functionality native to your ecommerce CMS should do the trick if run for long enough. Once the data is there, here’s how you can format it correctly to be picked up by Google.
Prominently Display Notable Comments
Businesses in the B2B world have the advantage of being able to list their most prominent clients — seeing that a seller has an established relationship with a major company can go a long way towards convincing someone that it’s worth working with. That may not be viable for a B2C seller, but you can display glowing testimonials on your homepage.
In gathering feedback from various sources, you’ll pick up certain comments that really stick out. Someone might describe you as their favorite company, for instance, or heap praise on your support team, or claim that your product range is the best they’ve found anywhere online. When comments like that come along, jump on them — they’re hugely potent if deployed correctly.
What does correct deployment look like? The more powerful the quote, the more space it warrants. If you get a really good piece of feedback, you should give it an entire row in a notable position on your homepage (perhaps just below the fold, or even above it if you’re happy to make it the centerpiece of your promotion).
Presentation matters as well. A bold quote demands a bold font that’s clear, crisp, and suited to the environment (contrast is essential). If you happen to have an image of the customer (rare, but it can happen), then include it to put a face to the claim — if you don’t, then ensure that you have a happy face of some kind in a background image (good stock imagery at low opacity will be perfect for this).
Make it Optimally Easy to Leave Feedback
The generation of social proof needs to be central to your regular operation, but you can’t exactly create it yourself: rather, it’s a matter of prompting it at every suitable moment. It isn’t something to be forced, so you can’t be pushy with it — demand feedback, and it’s somewhat likely to be scathingly negative when it arrives.
There are two great times to request feedback: immediately after an order is placed, and a short while after an order is received. The former is great for collecting feedback on your store in general — how the customer found your navigation, rated your pricing, enjoyed your copy, and feels about your brand in general.
The latter is for gathering specific product feedback, which is vital for creating competitive product pages. How does the item live up to their expectations? How are they using it? Can they provide any visual content (images or videos of the product in use)? Here are some solid examples of how to write emails of this kind.
Either way, it’s best to automate this collection process through triggered emails. General feedback requests can go out directly following shipping emails, while product feedback requests can be set to send perhaps 7 days after products have been received. Consider offering an incentive to make it worth the reviewer’s time: perhaps a modest discount code.
Offer Various Social Sharing Options
Another way to prompt valuable social proof is to get people talking about your company and products through social media. A simple tweet about your product range from someone with a reasonable number of followers can get you a lot of attention, and signal to broader social groups that your brand is worthy of endorsement.
You can work social sharing buttons into your emails, of course — everything from marketing emails to order confirmations — but you should also provide them for every suitable page on your website. There should be options to post on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, as well as to share by email or by direct link.
As with requesting reviews, you might want to offer an incentive to encourage sharing, through it needn’t be particularly valuable. Doing something like entering someone into a prize draw should be sufficient: it isn’t much, but it’s certainly going to help. You can also reach out to customers on social media to ask them about their experiences — if they have positive things to say, you can use them as highlighted comments.
Social proof is something to encourage and collect over time, so don’t rush it. Use it well, and your brand will gather momentum, with positive feedback leading to more orders and yet more positive feedback — assuming your brand actually deserves positive feedback, that is! If it doesn’t, then you have much greater problems than social proof.