Leveraging the Power of Social Proof

Mar 27, 2013 9:02 PM  By

Research shows that 77% of online shoppers use ratings and reviews when making purchase decisions, and 70% of online users trust consumer opinions posted online. There’s no denying that social proof is a powerful marketing too.

Realizing the impact social proof can have on marketing, it’s not surprising we’re seeing more and more ecommerce merchants incorporating ratings and reviews into their email marketing campaigns to help boost conversions, capture increased sales and increase customer lifetime value.

There are many ways to do this, beginning with a simple request.

Ratings and Review Request
It’s a no- brainer that the more ratings and reviews your products or services receive, the more meaningful they are in the eyes of a consumer. So, while there are many eager, socially active consumers who will take the initiative to review products on their own, why not prompt all purchasers on your email list to give post purchase feedback? A simple request can pay off – literally.

In September 2012, home wine making supplies purveyor E.C. Kraus implemented a post purchase email campaign that featured a review request. Listrak worked with E.C. Kraus’s Magento system integrator, Groove Commerce, to install the Listrak Connect Extension for Magento. The primary goal, obviously, was to increase the number of reviews it received for products.

From January to mid-September 2012, before E.C. Kraus included review requests in post purchase emails, they had received a meager 48 reviews. Forty-eight in almost nine and half months, which is less than one review every five days.

From mid-September to year’s end, after incorporating a review request into post purchase emails, E.C.Kraus received an impressive 220 reviews. This was a 360% increase in reviews in a little more than one third of the time. What’s more, those post purchase emails actually had a 14% conversion rate.

President Ed Kraus commented “I have always felt that having another reason to contact a customer is a good thing, and that is exactly what our review request program does.  It allows us to capture more reviews for our products while at the same time providing more interaction between our company and our recent customers. The additional orders from these review request emails have more than paid for the entire program.”

Shopping Cart Abandonment
Now imagine a customer browses your website, puts a pair of shoes in her cart and then abandons. We already know that your first follow-up email does not have to feature a discount to lure her back. Often, she simply needs a gentle reminder that the shoes she selected are still being held in her cart so she can easily complete her purchase.

But how much more compelling would it be for her if, in a follow-up email, she sees a glowing review about those shoes she left behind? If she was unsure about them for some reason, a positive review reassures her that making the purchase is a good decision. If her shopping was simply interrupted and she just hasn’t gotten back to it, the review reminds her of what she is missing and prompts her to complete the sale.

This can even work for products with a longer sales cycle.

VintageTub.com is the country’s largest family owned retailer of claw foot tubs and one of the top 500 online retailers. The company’s products are generally not sold on impulse. In fact, customers typically return to the merchant’s site several times to review products they’re considering before adding them to the cart. Even with product reviews on the website, however, Vintage Tub still experienced an abandonment rate of 80%.

Then in 2012, Vintage Tub began incorporating reviews of abandoned products in its three-email shopping cart abandonment campaign. Within the first three months, the merchant achieved a 122% lift in email channel revenue. Split testing of SCA emails with and without reviews confirmed that including reviews had a positive impact on sales.

Interestingly, the three-part shopping cart abandonment series with reviews generates a 15. 84% conversion rate – the first email converts at 13.85%, the second at 7.58% and the third at an incredible 26.09%.

Basic Marketing Emails
But you don’t have to wait until a customer abandons a cart to use social proof to influence her purchase decision. Last year Vintage Tub also began incorporating ratings and reviews of featured products into general marketing email campaigns. With reviews added, marketing emails yielded a 75% increase in click-through rate and an 80% increase in topline revenue.

Those results exceeded the client’s expectations.  Alan Dick, executive vice president of merchandising,  told us, “We expected that product ratings to help improve conversion rate and decrease product returns, but the conversion and revenue lift we received by using customer reviews in our email campaigns really impressed us.”  

We’ve all heard social media marketing advocates say, “Consumers are already talking about you, so why not join the conversation?” Why not take that a step further and leverage what they’re saying to help you boost your business?

Ross Kramer is CEO of Listrak.