"I have over 5,000 contacts in my networks," said Empowerment Coach Donna Dahl. But I'm most grateful for the testimonials." She's got 34 on LinkedIn.
Believe it. There’s immense power in social proof. Why? Because people feel safer knowing others they trust are doing it, too. More often than not, the presence or absence of social proof will be the make-it-or-break-it factor in your business.
Social proof – through testimonials and other forms of digital content – can send traffic to your website where visitors convert to customers. It's true for the solopreneur and it's equally important for business at the enterprise level.
So what does social proof look like online? Here are a few examples:
- customer testimonials
- influencer endorsements
- online rating systems
- proudly-displayed certification or credentials badges
- social media shares
- media mentions
- client icons
According to Google, 70% of Americans now say they look at online reviews before making a purchase. A CompUSA and iPerceptions study also revealed that 63% of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews.
Other sources quote figures ranging from 50% to 95% saying that consumers depend on reviews for shopping research.
57% of buyers expect a business to have more than 11 reviews.
~ Local Consumer Review Survey (2018, December 7) https://www.brightlocal.com/research/local-consumer-review-survey/
Nobody denies that testimonials are a driving force behind all purchasing decisions made online. Predictive analytics converter Granify revealed that “social proof” is often more important to online buyers than “low prices” when influencing purchasing decisions.
Aberdeen Research also found that companies using social proof had, on average, a 12% advantage in customer satisfaction over the competition. And Granify continues to advise that testimonials count among the top three methods to build trust for online retailers: return policy, social proof, and price.
Investing in services like doorstep pickup, free shipping, and fast delivery could be a competitive advantage that retailers need.
Search Engines Love Testimonials
The all-important search engines crawl for ratings and reviews so shoppers click through to product pages after conducting their search.
There are two types of Internet shoppers: Learners and Buyers, says Jerry Dreeson in Build to Grow – 14 Thought Leaders Deliver Engagement Strategies for the C-Suite.
“Buyers have an idea and they are trying to find the best price,” says the SEO expert. Their price includes shipping and handling and, adds Jerry in support of previous sources, 20% of buyers also are checking return policies.
The Learner is a researcher and a potential buyer “who doesn’t know it yet.” Search engine robots or spiders crawl the web in search of new testimonials and then update their database to provide that new information to their users.
Either way, your clients aren’t merely sales numbers; they’re powerful tools of persuasion that can help you grow your business.
Insights from PowerReviews for Testimonials
- Nearly half (45%) of shoppers will turn to a search engine if there aren’t reviews (or aren’t enough reviews) on a brand or retailer site;
- 65% of consumers agreed they need 10 reviews as a minimum. How consumers defined the ideal number of reviews varied greatly, from less than 10 to more than 50;
- Negative reviews help establish brand credibility and trust. Why? Because as John McAteer, Google’s VP US Sales and Operations, Google Retail and Tech, said, “No one trusts all positive reviews.” Consumers understand that products can’t be all things to all people, and thus use negative reviews to hone in on the products that are right for them.
More on negative reviews. They provide a baseline for the worst-case scenario consumers could have with a company. “For example, if a product’s negative reviews [or services] revolve around difficult assembly but the other aspects are given strong marks, a consumer unconcerned with assembly may go ahead with the purchase.”
- Consumers also consider the reviewer. If the author of a negative review seems unlike the reader, the reader may discount the authenticity of the review for them personally. Transparency gives consumers confidence in their purchase.
- Visitors read longer reviews, especially for more expensive products and services. A review with under 20 characters (less than half the length of a previous Tweet limit) had less than half the positive votes when compared to a review of 500 or more characters. This para has 224 characters.
- Longer reviews provide greater detail, which makes them more helpful to future shoppers.
- The influence of word-of-mouth marketing is growing, especially among younger consumers. When compared to those over the age of 60, people under 45 are 61% more likely to trust consumer reviews more than the recommendations of friends and family.
Still, be careful of a negative review as they stop 40% of buyers from wanting to use a business. Not replying to reviews risks increasing customer churn by up to 15%.
Potential Comments for Testimonial Authors to Address
Back in 2008, UPS and Forrester conducted a joint study on return policies. They found the following that generally remains true today:
- 81% of participants agreed with the statement: “If an online retailer makes it easier for me to return a product, I am more likely to buy from that retailer.”
- 81% agreed with the statement: “I am more loyal to retailers that have generous return policies (e.g free return shipping, ability to return any time for any reason)
- 73% agreed with the statement “I am less likely to buy in the future from an online retailer when the returns process is a hassle.”
Special Attention to Apparel Brands and Retailers
Today, according to Forrester Research, eCommerce accounts for 27% of total fashion sales; this compares to 15% two years ago.
Add this. “The growth of online apparel retail will likely accelerate now that Amazon has ramped up its apparel offerings. In addition to featuring online “boutiques” for established, popular apparel brands such as Kate Spade, BCBG, Hugo Boss, and 7 for All Mankind, Amazon has recently launched seven of its own clothing brands for men, women, and children, threatening to take market share from other apparel retailers.
“According to a report from Morgan Stanley, Amazon currently has a 7.7% market share of the apparel industry, but by 2020 that number is predicted to climb to 19%.
Gather More Testimonials
Don't forget to promote your testimonials in social media channels or to sprinkle them throughout your website, blog, and email marketing.
After all, social proof is only effective if it’s amplified.
About the Author— Sharon MacLean
Entrepreneurship, Magazine Publishing, and Social Marketing are the threads that weave throughout my career. They reflect my professional life driven largely by purpose and relationships — most recently through WorldGate Media and Boards of Directors for TechInvest Alberta, Alberta Council of Technologies, and RoadShowz/StreetSeenz.
Yet, it was through starting up and running Edmontonians magazine for 21 years where a reputation for community engagement flourished. In some ways, I see the magazine that covered leaders of commerce and the community as a predecessor to social media!
My world changed dramatically in 2010 given the disruption of traditional media which led to the sale of the magazine…and my launch into new media.
The disruption opened doors for an investor start-up in online wellness with an international team. Experience with journalism media and community publishing incubated an understanding of content creation, distribution, and network platforms.
Every skill acquired during the foundational years has been leveraged to serve my passion for professional communications in the digital age.
Social enterprise fired up all my neurons and stretched my resilience. I now help professionals and business owners flourish using traditional and modern forms of communications marketing. Learn more.
A version of this post was first published here.