How Social Proof Helps Retailers on Black Friday

Mike AustinMike AustinNovember 19, 20189min

It’s that time of year again. As Cyber Week is upon us, retailers up and down the country are anticipating crowds of shoppers on the hunt for bargains.

Let’s look at a typical online customer journey this week. Savvy shoppers might have done some pre-planning on the items they’re after. Others will be scanning emails and browsing online for the best deals, potentially feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of deals to consider. All the while knowing that thousands of fellow customers are doing the same thing and might be snagging the best bargains from right under their noses.

Receiving some guidance from online retailers on which items best fit their requirements can help shoppers make the right purchase decision. By efficiently directing customers through their purchase journey, brands can increase conversion rates and help free up site traffic, preventing the cardinal sin of a site crash during the shopping event.

Applying social proof tactics in marketing can be very beneficial, offering a little method to the madness of the ‘Black Fiveday’ long weekend while helping guide and convert browsers into customers. Here’s how.

Following the crowd

Social proof describes the psychological phenomenon that people assume the collective actions of others (even if they’ve never met them before) dictate correct behaviour towards a given situation. One aspect of social proof is FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) which can be a powerful tactic for Black Friday marketing. The shopping event is all about discovering and bagging deals that are available for a limited time only. If you’re late to the party, you’ll miss out on the best offers.

By highlighting on the product pages the number of customers that have purchased an item recently, how many are looking at it right now or how much stock is remaining, customers will be more likely to feel a sense of urgency to purchase in fear that the product might be gone soon. Displaying the hottest trending items prominently on the homepage is another way to help shoppers identify customer favourites that they might like too. Retailers usually see a minimum three percent increase in conversions from including a ‘trending products’ feed on the homepage.

Let your customers do the talking

Cyber Week can bring a large amount of first-time customers to your website who haven’t bought from you before. They may have come across your offers when browsing online for special deals or your products might exceed their budget when at full price. These shoppers might be looking for some trust signals on your website to be willing to part with their money.

Incorporating user ratings and reviews helps you leverage honest and impartial customer feedback in your marketing. Customers now expect to be able to read through customer opinions when comparing products and making purchase decisions, often sifting through to the positive as well as negative pieces to be aware of product strengths and any potential weaknesses. One-in-three consumers (34 percent) even state they won’t purchase if an online store doesn’t show product ratings.

Prominently displaying service and store reviews on your homepage will help build trust and a sense of security for new customers. While showing ratings on the product pages is a given, they are also a proven tactic to help increase the conversion rate of your emails. Adding them to your promotional Black Friday emails as well as the shopping recovery emails, which you’ll be sending to bring lapsed purchasers back to your website, gives those messages some extra oomph. For example, including ratings and reviews in your cart abandonment emails delivers an average conversion uplift of 38 percent.

The social network

User-generated multimedia content, such as photos and videos of customers with the product, provides an additional layer of genuine information. Pulling pictures or tweets of people sharing their excitement about the purchases they made from the social network into the website or emails in real-time can amplify the effect of your corporate content and helps develop a sense of community and brand culture. New customers can get a feel for the sorts of other people that have bought the item they’re interested in. And in contrast to professional, potentially photoshopped product imagery, UGC shows how the products looks like in the flesh, used or worn by real people.

Some retailers have gone one step further to help engender the atmosphere of customers engaging with their brand. Fashion retailer In The Style mixes studio shots with selfies taken and posted on social media by its customers on its product detail pages. This is a great example of a retailer making its customers the focus of the brand and enhancing the sense of community by utilising the UGC it receives on social media.

Keep in contact

Just because customers might be rapidly heading elsewhere for their next Black Friday purchase, it shouldn’t mean you’ll never cross paths again. Given that acquisition costs are high and margins low during Cyber Week, it is vital to turn first-time shoppers into loyal customers that will purchase from you again and again. One of the best ways to do this is by offering a personalised Customer Experience.

Capturing the email address for new shoppers and browsers is of critical importance. Also make sure to put the behavioural and transactional information that you collect for the customer to good use. Smart retailers will use all insights gathered from the website and emails to personalise the shopping experience seamlessly across all devices, based on the shopper’s stage in the customer lifecycle, purchase funnel or individual preferences.

By making the shopping experience simpler and more convenient, you are increasing the odds significantly that a first purchase on Black Friday will turn into repeat business throughout the year.


Mike Austin

Mike Austin

Fresh Relevance system adds real-time engagement marketing to your existing ESP and website, providing live omni-channel personalization and triggered messaging such as cart abandonment. Fresh Relevance CEO, Mike Austin, is a serial entrepreneur and technologist. He has been building software companies for over 20 years. During the 1990s Mike provided IT security consultancy to the UK financial sector and created some of the first PC mapping software.




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