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Email Marketing + Social Proof: The perfect formula to convert more browsers into buyers

Tuesday, June 5, 2018
email marketing + Social Proof - The perfect formula to convert more browsers into buyers

SmartMail, who fills eCommerce companies automated email needs, and Trustpilot, helping online businesses collect and leverage reviews, teamed up for this crash course in the power of email marketing and social proof.

Why is email so powerful? Consider this - email is the highest converting channel, period. Email is also likely the least expensive channel you’re running. Once you start personalizing your emails to different available segments, often referred to as behavioral emails, watch your conversion rate skyrocket.

Behavioral emails work, it doesn’t matter what products you’re selling, how much they cost, or if you’re B2B or B2C.

Learn how to convert more customers, more quickly, by watching this webinar and discovering how to combine social proof and behavioral emails to maximize your least expensive channel.

About Trustpilot

Trustpilot exists predominantly for two reasons. The first is to help consumers. We help them buy with confidence by being able to see reviews from other people. And it also provides a place where they can share experiences with their peers. Second, and just as important, is that we help companies collect reviews very easily from their customers and leverage them to create trust with their clients, and improve the performance of their marketing.

There's some stats here that just show you a little bit about the size of our platform. We have about 100 million online reviews on trustpilot.com. And we see about 1 million new reviews come in every month, with over 300,000 brands reviewed on Trustpilot.

About Elite SEM

Elite SEM is an award-winning digital agency. They were founded on Search, overall. And now, they're actually focused on performance-driven digital marketing. So, their expertise spans paid search, SEO, shopping and feed, display, paid social, conversion rate optimization, and now email and CRM. They have an unprecedented 97% employee and 94% client retention rate. So they clearly have a huge commitment to their people and performance. And they are one of the top digital marketing agencies in North America.

What is social proof?

To start off, what is social proof? And so what social proof technically is, it's the phenomenon that people are looking to their peers, they're looking to other people, to see what their opinions are and their behavior is, in order to make the right decision on their own. And what this means for marketers is that this is really the tactic that we should be using to ease the mind of worried consumers. It helps you naturally build credibility. Again, you can leverage this concept of the fear of missing out, or FOMO, to help them choose your product and your services.

At this point, social proof is pretty common. While it's still getting defined in the industry, it's very widely used by most businesses to help customers pick their business, and help them make the right decision. There's a lot of different types of social proof, and some of these overlap a little bit. But there's user-generated content, which basically just means what it sounds. It's content that comes from your customers or your users. So this can include ratings and reviews, but it might also include images of your product that come from your customers, as well.

Ratings and reviews

Ratings and reviews are very common. Again, most customers at this point are looking to ratings and reviews before they make a purchase decision. And we'll cover that more in the later slides. Case studies and testimonials are very popular too, especially for B2B businesses. Influencer opinions are very common for consumer businesses. You have badges, awards and seals that come usually from third parties, again, showing that your business is credible. And then, live and dynamic viewer data is becoming more and more prevalent too. We're seeing this more common on business websites and landing pages. But especially in email, we're starting to see this become more popular there as well.

Here at Trustpilot, we think reviews are one of the most important social proof tactics. And the reason is, is first just because they're really easy to collect. They don't take that long to get reviews from your customers, where a case study might take a lot of time to build out, or same with the user-generated pictures that we mentioned. Those often take time to get a decent sampling size up. But second and most important, is that reviews are just, again, they're really common and consumers expect to see them.

92% of consumers now read online reviews, that's nearly the entire market. And 40% of consumers form an opinion just by reading one or two or three reviews. So again, it doesn't often take a lot of reviews to form their opinion, so it's really important that you have something, and that they are positive reviews, that they reflect your business. Because if those two or three reviews aren't good, obviously that won't bode well for your bottom line.

Some things that are important to remember when it comes to reviews is even though I just said it only takes two to three reviews to really influence their opinion about your business, consumers are scanning reviews for keywords. So, it's probably important to have more than those two to three reviews about your business, so they can find reviews that are relevant to their decision. It might be about the fit of the product, or the quality of the product, or shipping. So again, it's good to have some variety there that they can reference.

Second, consumers are strongly motivated to leave reviews by invitation. This is a question we get from businesses a lot, is, "How do I collect more reviews? I see these other companies have tens of thousands of reviews at this point." So the biggest way those companies are usually collecting reviews, is by inviting them to leave a review via email. And if you're not doing this, what's probably happening is people are going online, they're searching for places to leave reviews. And those people are often probably not super happy about your business, so those reviews are going to be negative. Again, it's really important to invite your entire customer-base to get a healthy sampling of reviews.

Last but not least, reviews are more relevant for certain industries. While we're finding that almost all industries, reviews are pertinent to you, if you're in e-commerce, reviews are just critical. Consumers are expecting to be able to find out about your business. So if you're not showing them, they're definitely searching online. And also, if you have a bigger ticket item, or if you're in the finance space, maybe it's insurance or healthcare, those are products that are really important, very impactful. So people are definitely looking to reviews to make a decision, and make sure they're making the right one.

Email marketing and reviews

So we like to look at reviews based off of how consumers purchase. And This is where email really comes in. In order to help push consumers through their purchase journey, hopefully you're using and leveraging emails to move them along, provide them the right information and help them purchase from your brand. And reviews can play a different role, based off of where they're at in their purchase journey. So in the earlier stages of the buying cycle, you need recognition or product specification. This is probably where you'd want to use product reviews, because this can influence their needs as they're defining their needs. And help influence the type of product that they want to purchase. And ideally, you can influence them to decide that there's specific requirements that your brand just happens to be able to fit.

So later in the buying cycle, when they're starting to look at, "Where should I buy this product from? Is it safe for me to buy from this specific business?" This is where you'd probably want to leverage service reviews is what we call them. And these are reviews that are all about your business as a whole. How is the buying experience buying on your website? How is the customer service if they had to make a return? How is the shipping? Things like that. And then post purchase, again, this is a great place to leverage email, to collect more reviews from your customers. So that you can leverage more reviews, again, with new customers.

Email marketing reviews. I'm just going to go ahead, and throw these all up here. The reason reviews really work in email, and the reason that they help improve the engagement, click-through rates and conversion is because of the reasons here. We mentioned they're user-generated context so they're more credible. And with user-generated content, it's important to show that they're fresh and updated, that they're timestamped. And hopefully, very recent so that they're more relevant to your customer base.

Also, reviews will be using natural language of your customers. This is really important so that we're not just using marketing speak. This natural language is often more effective, getting them to take action. And more effective because they're more trustworthy. And then social proof, again, these reviews because they're social proof feel like recommendations from friends. They're more credible. And again, it's more likely to get them to make a purchase, because they want to fit in with their peers or make the right decision based off of that.

It's important to leverage reviews differently, based off of where they're at in the buying cycle. So you can target them in different ways. And some creative ways we've seen customers see this, is based off of the pages that the person visited last. If they were on a product page, again, for instance, they might want to use product reviews there. And if they were on your shopping cart page, but then abandoned, that's a great place to show reviews about your customer service, about your shipping, these things that people usually worry about before they make their final decision.

Reviews are more credible when they come from a third party. If they're not from a third party, they might just look like they're copied and pasted onto your website. They might not feel as credible or believable. It's really important for your website, for your email, whatever tactic, especially with email, to make sure that they have a third party that they've come from.

I know we talked a little bit about email and how important it is as far as social proof and reviews, collecting reviews. But overall, just to put it in perspective, email has a median ROI of 122%. So if you think about that, as far as all of the other marketing channels go, it's over four times higher on average than all other marketing channels. That's why we think it's very valuable for you to put that social proof in your email. As it's already a strong marketing piece, you can enhance it.

Whenever you have a new idea, we recommend that you do some testing. Every brand works differently, so if you have something very unique that your audience engages with, that is something you definitely want to move forward with.

Luckily, we see some enhanced marketing with review content being leveraged across the board. So, people are starting to adapt that and really relating back to their customer's needs. But sometimes, there can be little tweaks that you can make that are different from other brands, or even different from a competitor. Like stars, how many stars on average a product got. Even doing a short review that you have a CTA to click through on there, to read the rest. Those types of things may be different based on the demographic that typically purchases from your brand, or if you're a B2B brand.

Overall, testing, it does seem overwhelming. But if you use these three strategies, you can break it down into something that's a little bit more digestible. So we use champion versus challenger type testing at Elite and I'll explain that a little bit more on the next slide. Range of statistical significance, which is how we measure. And then implementation of successes, which is really a given, but it's the most important part.

For champion versus challenger testing, what this is, is an approach that's a little bit different from AB testing or multivariate testing. It eliminates opinion, uses multiple variants and it has actionable insights at the end that you can implement. How this works is you take an existing experience, match it up to a challenger, and then the new champion matches up to a new challenger and so on, and so on. The most important thing that you can do is having a predetermined implementation timeline. So every month, every quarter, every six months, go and review your test results, implement successes, and then continue testing.

Implementing success

We see so many brands not implement successes. They're just spinning around and around because they want to be perfect with their test results or have more definity. But really, at that point, if you see something that works or works moderately, then you are leaving money on the table by not implementing. So for example, if you test no reviews in your emails versus reviews in your emails, and you see those reviews work, go ahead and either implement those right away. Or, have a predetermined timeline where you're reviewing things like that, so that you don't miss out on anything.

For success measurement, statistical significance definitely is an intimidating thing. It is very easy, much easier than you think, by using an online calculator. So we have an example here, and you can find a ton online. But overall, you put in your inputs, which are two numbers, and then it spits out some information about how confident those test results are based on the numbers and based on the input. 95% is usually the golden number for statistical significance. If you get to a place where you're 95%, that means that 95% of the time when you have this exact test and these exact variants, you'll be able to have the exact same results.

So if you are using email where you have a big send list and sometimes smaller clicks or smaller opens, or even smaller conversions compared to that initial send number, it will be very tough to get to 95%. So we use sometimes this scale here at the bottom, where it may not be that golden number of 95% like data scientists would typically use for a study in say the medical field. But, we can say that there's more suggestive or less suggestive results, and that will help you at those predetermined times to really say what is the best implementation of the successes that we've had so far in testing.

Another interesting stat for you guys... 93% of email marketers in a recent survey said that testing is important and they test regularly with their programs. So that doesn't mean that they're doing both, but everybody, almost everybody, agrees that testing is important. So instead of just rolling out with something that may not be an optimal experience, or that you could tweak to be an optimal experience, you should definitely test it.

Effective marketing includes brand trust, the "Others like me." mentality, and comparison shopping is definitely the future. That is what we're seeing across the board. I'm sure if you reflect on your current status of what things that you bought in the last, say, week, month, year, you've probably done some comparison shopping for yourself. So by putting in the comparison shopping into your marketing focuses, reviews could definitely help with that.

It will set your product and a competitor's product that may look on the surface exactly the same, it will set you apart. It may even set your brand or service apart. So if you have the same product, but maybe you offer free shipping or fast shipping, or great customer service or even more education than another brand selling a similar product, that could set you above the rest and really help that person make this conversion choice.

81% of shoppers conduct online research. So that includes reviews or comparison shopping before buying. Personally, I think this number is probably even higher as we get into the holiday season. So if we can give them the online reviews that they're looking for, and that social proof, it will help then drive the conversion to your brand.

91% of respondents from a recent survey said that the review influenced a buying decision. So how powerful that is, is exponential. If you take 91% of the people that come to your website and know that if they see reviews, if they like what they see, it will help them purchase, it is tremendous. So just take those numbers and do some quick math in your head. But overall, having reviews is going to drive those conversions and it's going to drive loyalty. So it creates that, "Like me." mentality, like we talked about before and increases the amount of conversions and brand trust that you have right out the gate with first time purchasers.

A couple of visuals for success stories, you can see here. In email reviews are very seamlessly integrated. This particular version you can see as the star rating, it has, "Hear what our customers are saying." So it's very clear that these are customer quotes, not quotes from the company or quotes from a manufacturer, these are customer quotes. The people that actually have the product, spent their own money on the product, and reviewed the product. It is a tremendous approach for anyone who is a new customer, or maybe even into exploring different categories of your business that they haven't purchased from before.

And another rendition here, you can see the star rating, it's nice, it pops. And it gives that appeal of a great product, a product that people love, because it is that aggregate of multiple people scoring systems. And then it has a little bit of a quote from one of the easy and beautiful reviews that we have here. It is seamlessly integrated. It has the information that you need. And in one glance you can see absolutely everything that you need to see that this is a loved product, that it's not going to be something that they're going to be disappointed when they get it home.

To sum up...

So overall, just a quick summary. If you take nothing else away from today, most consumers, if not all, are using reviews to make purchase decisions. And that number increases every single day, especially as we head into holiday. Email's an impactful place to add reviews because of how many people you email, that reach, and also the ability for you to put things like star ratings and curate that information to be really specific to what the consumer is looking for or what the prospect is looking for.

And test to find those optimal experiences. Remember, every brand is just a little bit different. And so is every demographic – so if you test to find those optimal experiences, your unique customer base will also respond very well.

If you'd like to learn more about reviews and conversions, check out our guide below.

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