How to build loyalty through the power of social proof

Customer trust in brands is wavering. You only have to look at the latest data breaches to see why. As a result, individuals are more concerned about the value of their data and are reluctant to give it up to just anyone. 50% of customers say they’re not willing to give up their personal information for better offers and 53% find it creepy for stores to make recommendations based on their online activity. They’re keeping their data close to their chest, making it difficult for e-commerce merchants to get them to opt-in.

This is incredibly worrying considering how customer trust is not only vital in an environment where expectations are high and competition is fierce, but it also acts as a brand differentiator that could make or break a store.

The big question around trust is how to create it. Put simply, it’s all about being authentic and transparent with your customers. Studies show that 63% of customers would buy from a company they trust and consider to be authentic. This is exactly why social proof has become so important. So much so, that today a huge 92% of customers say they trust user-generated content (or UGC) over all other forms of advertising. This content shows your customers the reality of your products in a way sales messaging can’t.

But encouraging social proof from your customers can be a challenge. It requires extra time on their part that they could be spending elsewhere. A loyalty program can help you win over your engaged customer base and encourage them to share trustworthy content on your behalf. Here’s how.

Make reviews a priority

With so much choice out there, customers need more information to help them make a purchase. For a huge 77% of shoppers, product reviews are their main source of validation online. Without touching, feeling or trying on the product, the commentary from others becomes an incredibly valuable part of the decision making process. Particularly given how different stores can be when it comes to sizing and how each product looks and feels.

Not only do reviews help customers make decisions, but they also build your customers’ confidence in your brand. According to research, 88% of customers actually trust online reviews written by others as much as they trust recommendations from friends or family. And, when a photo is attached, this trust skyrockets.

Use your loyalty program to reward customers for leaving product reviews. You could even add bonus points if they add a photo. If your customers know they will get something in return for leaving thoughts about their experiences with your brand, they’ll be more inclined to leave them. This content then acts as a credible source of social proof beyond the standard sales images for new customers.

Encourage customer advocacy

Research shows that happy customers tell as many as nine friends about their positive experiences with a brand. And, 82% of emotionally connected customers will not only tell friends and family about a store but will also spend more. By fostering relationships with your already loyal customers so that they become advocates on your behalf, you’ll naturally build up emotional connections with new customers. They’ll trust the integrity of your brand because they’re being recommended by someone they know.

 

Use your loyalty program to offer points to fans of your brand if they refer your store to others. This creates a win-win scenario for everyone involved: The advocate gets more points that they can spend in a store they love. The new customer saves time as they can instantly trust your brand instead of shopping around. And, finally, you get more qualified customers landing on your site that spend more – research shows that customers acquired through referrals spend 200% more than the average shopper.

Leverage the power of social media

Not only can social media increase website visits but it can also build trust. Today, more and more customers use social media as a shop window. It showcases your products on real people and also becomes a vetted way of shopping. The photo evidence provides confidence where customers can’t experience your products in reality.

Use your loyalty program to reward customers when they follow or share photos on social media. Astrid and Miyu even use their own social channels to share images posted by their community. This shows their existing customers that they value their shopper base, but also serves as inspiration and validation for new customers who are wondering how their products are in real life.

In an era full of mistrust and faceless corporations, independent retailers need to make the most of the customers who already know and trust their brand. By using a loyalty program to reward reviews, referrals and social sharing you’ll be able to create an authentic experience that captures the minds and hearts of individuals everywhere.