GUEST COMMENT The power of testimonials in 2017
In today’s fiercely competitive online marketplace, retailers must work extremely hard to win over increasingly savvy consumers and secure sales. One way to stand out from competitors is by incorporating testimonials, which act as an effective online equivalent of positive interactions with sales people which would take place in a bricks and mortar store. Doing so could increase the likelihood of a sale by 63%
. Despite this, Summit’s research
found that a third of UK retailers are still failing to include any form of online review.
Effective testimonials don’t simply capture end results; they establish trust, add credibility and help to strengthen relationships with both existing and potential customers. An endorsement from an independent source is often far more persuasive than information generated by the retailers themselves, and also plays an integral part in crafting brand identity. In fact, research has found that customers are 12 times more likely to trust consumer reviews
over brand descriptions. It’s easy to understand the temptation to include only glowing reviews, but consumers will trust a brand far more if they have a realistic representation of feedback. The most effective review sections contain generally positive reviews, with a number of minor areas for improvement.
The customer’s voice
Peer testimonials are most commonly used to display customer satisfaction, and usually feature the name and image of the person explaining why the service is so great. This format helps to add a human feel to a website and is easily digestible for customers. Information can be collected by requesting feedback after a sale has been processed. The value of post purchase communications should not be underestimated. Although often overlooked, contacting a customer to check that they’re happy with their purchase reminds them that retailers care about more than just the sale. This method enables retailers to ask specific questions with the aim of highlighting particular strengths, for example delivery speed or level of flexibility.
Alternatively, social media reviews are usually short and concise, providing an informal account which highlights the customer’s experience. These are directly pulled from social media accounts. Most brands routinely use social listening to track brand mentions, and therefore pulling out testimonials should not require a great deal of additional time or effort.
Another type of effective testimonial showcases an industry insider’s point of view. This features the opinion of a respected thought leader within a given industry. It is usually used to capitalise on the knowledge and expertise of the individual and favoured by B2B companies.
Video testimonials are becoming more prevalent as technology enables retailers to be more creative and move away from text. Not only does this format deviate from the traditional industry standard, it also allows customers to connect with one another.
What does this mean for sales?
Reviews are incredibly effective in validating a product or service, especially where consumers are hesitant to purchase. They should not be limited to supporting products which are selling well, as a good testimonial can overcome any scepticism a customer may be feeling. If a particular product is not as popular as predicted, customer feedback can add credibility without investing any marketing spend. This is also effective for products involving a large investment. As our use of technology develops and the online marketplace continues to expand beyond low cost items, using testimonials to validate investment purchases is likely to become even more common. Whether signing up to a lengthy phone contract or buying something as costly as a car, testimonials are often welcomed by consumers who need a little extra information before making a purchase.
There are various types of reviews and retailers should think carefully about which will work best for them. With access to a wealth of customer information, marketers need to consider who their customers will identify with and who they trust. For example, industry experts may work well for business purchases, but a peer review is likely to be more effective for selling personal items such as make-up.
To make the most out of testimonials, brands should ensure they are clearly visible and placed around decision points on the website. As mentioned, this could be used to validate a particular product or to establish trust as soon as shoppers enter the site. The overall effectiveness is reflected in research, with figures suggesting that reviews and word of mouth are the driving force behind around 20 to 50% of all purchasing decisions
Whether incorporated in marketing campaigns or featured on product pages, persuasive testimonials can increase repeat purchases among existing customers and also boost first time sales. They have multiple benefits for retailers, both as a marketing tool and as a platform for customers to provide constructive feedback for future improvement. Brands which embrace customer feedback and use it to their advantage will succeed over those who try to intercept and conceal it.
Jennifer Ibe is content marketing manager at Summit