One of the monumental shifts in commerce in recent years is that consumers don’t trust brands anymore, they trust other consumers. Social Proof is one of those buzz terms that store owners all want to add to their sales conversion arsenal. For new store owners it's a way for them to prove to their potential customers that they have a product that people have bought. This is how you attract the early majority, they literally will not try a product until they have seen someone else try that product.
One of the greatest accomplishments from Shopify is that it turned people that generally wouldn’t be a store owner into store owners. This is also one of their largest problems to overcome as an organization. Merchants will simply add any app that they think will somehow convert for them and just hope for the best. This results in merchants creating distractions for their users and ultimately could have the opposite of the intended effect. As we know, distraction and anxiety are the biggest conversion killers. So why overdo it? Why add anything to your store unless you’re absolutely certain it's going to provide value for your clients or get you sales? Shopify makes it TOO easy and merchants need to be weary of that.
I work with thousands of eCommerce merchants trying to get their conversions to a better spot. Fera.ai is looked at as a Social Proof and Urgency company, well guess what? I don’t think social proof and urgency is eCommerce’s silver bullet. I don’t think it's going to automatically get merchants more sales. Results will vary based on the industry you’re in, the maturity of your brand, the maturity of your customer base, who is giving you proof socially, and so many other factors. Social Proof is another tool in your toolbox that may or may not resonate with your customer base depending on how the store utilizes it.
In the following post, I’m going to go over a few tips that I generally use as a baseline for any merchant that wants to add Social Proof to their Shopify store to increase sales conversions.
How do you know anything is working? Test, test, and test again. I really hope one day Shopify has built in A/B testing for the reason I described above. I hate to be critical, because they have such an amazing offering and do a great job in enabling their customer / partner ecosystem. The next logical step would be to turn their store owners into conversion optimization experts.
A/B testing essentially allows merchants to see how their customers react to a change in their website by presenting that change to a portion of their customers.
When A/B testing always make sure you have confidence in your data. Depending on the size of your store and your traffic, always ensure your test gets enough information so that you can make a confident conclusion.
Your early customers are your best salespeople. The early adopters act as marketing material for the early majority. Merchants should always be looking to attract the early majority. As you can see from the Law of Diffusion of Innovation below the Innovators and Early Adopters are not enough to sustain significant growth in most businesses.
Even if a merchant doesn’t have many reviews, they should still be highlighting them. I suggest having your best reviews on your front page and then each product page should have reviews that are specific to that product. As we know, about 80% of all consumers look for a review prior to purchase (eMarketer, 2018). Don’t make them look for reviews elsewhere, control the information they’re trying to find and make it easy for your customers to give a review.
Influencers should be your first target when trying to find customers as a new store. Having issues selling your product to influencers? Give it to them for free. Not at a discount - free. People don’t get used to free, they get used to discounts. Influencers will post them using your product to their social media, getting the attention of harder to sell to demographics.
One thing that reviews don’t do is make customers feel like they are in a brick and mortar store. So many variables go into a purchase decision. When a customer is in a physical retail environment they have so many conscious and subconscious feelings that play a part in their decision making. You can see the stock of a particular item, if people are buying that item, if there is a sale, or if there are questions being asked about that product. All of these touchpoints should result in a higher chance of conversion.
When I was selling massive enterprise deals to big Fortune X companies I always heard it took on average 6-8 marketing touchpoints prior to a sale (Salesforce, 2015). Brick and mortar stores have these touchpoints built in and if you create the same environment on your online store, you’ll see similar results.
In recent years, we’ve seen more and more fake news. People are becoming more skeptical and as a result we have created a society of skeptical buyers. In 2012, nearly one third of all reviews online were fake (Source, 2012). That number has only risen and as a result a large number of online consumers limit their online usage because of these issues. In some cases, they will never visit a store every again if they are skeptical.
Social Proof is actually a solution to this problem and immediately makes customers more comfortable. That said, if customers are being presented fake Social Proof data that can do damage to this industry that may be very difficult to overcome.
Don’t add every Social Proof application under the sun to your store. Add them one at a time and test each tool. At the end of the day, all that matters is that people buy your product. By just simply adding anything not only do you not know if its improving conversions, but your customers are going to be distracted. The most established stores have very subtle social proof added. They rarely have popups, and leverage display conditions from their applications to present information to customers they know will be interested in that information.
Social Proof applications like Fera give you options on what tools you can present your potential customers. This gives you agility to present the correct tool to a particular market segment that you know is going to convert more. They also have built in A/B testing to scientifically prove when something is working.
In conclusion, Social Proof requires merchants to be actively involved in the customer experience process. Each customer should be seen as your quickest route to success. Social Proof is an extremely valuable tool for the vast majority of store owners. Find what resonates with your customers through A/B testing and getting feedback. Popups aren’t the only way and could be hurting your customer experience!