How many times have you tried or bought a product on the recommendation of a friend or co-worker? If so, you've been swayed by what marketers call "social proof."
On the web, social proof comes in many different forms: reviews, testimonials, press mentions, narrative customer success stories and more. Social proof is like the sales guy who points out how your neighbor owns a BMW, and then asks you why you don't own one.
Surround your customer in "trust signals"
At its best, social proof gives prospects reasons to trust they'll be satisfied with your product. It shows your product has been chosen and preferred, and that the customers who've chosen it are mostly satisfied with their choice (and hopefully more than a few are delighted with it!).
Put differently: it's the rare prospect who likes to be first in on a new and unproven product.
But what if you're just starting out and don't have many customers? You can still create trust by following these four steps:
1. Post positive and negative reviews.
Product development is a skill refined over time. Every iteration of your offering is bound to be a little bit better than the last. Knowing this, it can be tempting to cut negative reviews from your site — especially reviews that refer to older versions of your product. That's a missed opportunity.
Instead, embrace criticism and offer an empathetic or corrective response. Say a critic blasts an old version of your product for bad battery life and you've just introduced a software patch that boosts life more than 300%. Respond publicly with kindness, apologize for the trouble, note the upgrade and offer to send a coupon in exchange for an email address. Validating negative criticism makes positive feedback trustworthy.
2. Use a reputable trustmark.
A trustmark lets visitors know your site is secure. How is that social proof? An organization shoppers trust says your site is trustworthy, therefore it must be. But again, only if the source is itself trustworthy, and McAfee is by far the most trusted brand in this area.
According to a study by Inflow, eCommerce sites that use the McAfee trustmark — Weebly customers can get it here — to indicate secure purchasing enjoy 15.7% more conversions. Depending on how much product you move monthly, that extra layer of trust could bring thousands or tens of thousands more in annual revenue.
3. Secure your site with SSL.
Having someone else say your site is secure is one thing, actually providing layers of digital security is another. Fortunately, it's not that difficult to implement. Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, protection is available through most top-tier website builders.
4. Use testimonials when relevant.
While reviews are a must-have, testimonials are a nice add-on if they enhance visitors' trust in your offerings. How do you get that? Testimonials from known professionals who rarely back anything can be powerful, as can the endorsement of a large company, or the industry heavyweight whose products your ideal customer admires. Testimonials from trusted sources can deliver a heaping helping of social proof, especially if you include a high-quality photo of the endorser smiling or otherwise expressing delight.
No one likes to buy blind. Give shoppers reason to trust you by posting and responding to every review. Use a strong trustmark with SSL, and provide relevant testimonials.
You won't hook a sale every time, but you may be pleasantly surprised by the number of visitors who show up to your site as prospects and leave as customers.