Boosting a website’s conversion rate is often a process of getting many small details right. However, one of the most significant single differences you can make is to add an element of social proof, a technique that has been used to encourage sales since the dawn of marketing itself.
Social proof is the tactic of appealing to the herd instinct of potential buyers. By showing that other customers have used your services with good results, it helps to overcome objections and worries. It adds a human edge to your brand and reassures people they’re in good company with the buying decision they’re about to make.
Social proof can come in many forms, but these are the top seven which work exceptionally well in the online arena.
1) Customer Testimonials
Publishing testimonials freely given by happy customers is a venerable tactic that’s a mainstay of direct marketing. It’s as valid in the online arena, helping to add the human touch that’s missing in any distance selling.
To use it, include short quotes and recommendations from real customers, adding a photo if appropriate. To make testimonials more useful, however, there are three crucial points to bear in mind.
– Testimonials need to be believable. If you use one that showers lavish praise, it will be treated with cynicism even if it’s genuine. Pick a positive but not over-the-top quote which rings true; otherwise, a testimonial will backfire.
– Choose quotes which are specific rather than general. Ideally, a testimonial should refer to a single product and the benefit it brought to a situation.
– The customer you quote should be as close as possible to your ideal buyer persona. Testimonials work far better when readers can relate to the writer, even if the quote itself isn’t quite as superficially glowing.
2) User Reviews
Opening your company up to reviews on your website is a big decision. You’ll need to keep a close eye on what’s written, both to deal with unhappy customers and to spot fake or malicious reviews. That takes commitment and resources.
However, the modern web naturally will have your services reviewed on third-party sites such as Yelp, as well as on the various social media platforms. That will happen whether you like it or not, so capitalize on it by cherry picking the most positive reviews and quoting them on your site. As with testimonials, it’s essential to choose believable examples rather than outlandishly complimentary ones.
3) User-Generated Content
If you do decide to host reviews on your web property, why not take the idea a stage further by encouraging user-generated content? Set up a forum where customers can share their experiences, ask questions, or chat about related topics. Moderating this will take careful management, but a thriving community of satisfied customers creates powerful signals of trustworthiness for newcomers to your brand.
4) Endorsements by Influencers
Another technique used since the dawn of direct marketing is the celebrity endorsement. The idea is that a trusted and widely recognized figure can lend their credibility to your brand through association.
The modern, online version of this technique is influencer marketing. Find a prominent social media figure in your niche with an engaged following, and arrange an endorsement or mention of your brand. That can be as subtle or direct as you like, but the key is to work with an influencer who’s genuinely trusted. Make sure to link to these endorsements from your sales pages to maximize the transfer of credibility.
5) Real-World Uses and Case Studies
To place your products in context and show their value, publish in-depth examples of how a customer has used them with success in the real world. Give the story a human touch with original photos, names, locations, benefits, and direct quotes. In effect, this is an extended testimonial, but with far more detail and a narrative, you can help control.
6) Use Impressive Numbers
A large number is always impressive, even if the context isn’t necessarily recognized or understood. Try showing sales counters next to top-selling items to prove how popular they are. Tell your customers how many shipments you’ve made this year, or how many subscribers your newsletter has. Publish the number of times the visitor’s current page gets shared via social media.
All of these devices can help to strengthen the sense of safety in numbers, making the reader feel they’re in the company of people they can trust.
7) Third Party Media Mentions
From positive product reviews through interviews to news story mentions, if your brand got featured on third-party media, then make sure your visitors know about it. People might not trust the press as much as they once did, but the fact you’re showing up elsewhere is a strong signal you’re a genuine business with genuine customers. The more prominent the media outlet, the bigger the song and dance you can make about your mentions.
For a successful online business, attracting visitors is only half the profit equation. Converting enough of those visitors into customers can make or break a website, and social proof is one of the most effective ways of doing just that. Is it a tool you’re using to its full potential?