How to Earn and Showcase Credibility in Ecommerce (Because It Can’t be Bought)

How to Earn and Showcase Credibility in Ecommerce (Because It Can’t be Bought)

There’s a reason Google’s Business pages average 158.3 million unique monthly visitors a month and Yelp brings in 145 million.

It’s the same reason Angie’s List, Trip Advisor, and even old-school organizations like The Better Business Bureau rack up an additional 39.9 million.

In a world of gimmicks, half-truths, and fraud … credibility matters.

But, how are new visitors supposed to know whether you’re one of the “good guys?” How do you build credibility online, without all the usual trust-markers we depend on for interpersonal relationships?

Two of Arizona State University Professor of Psychology and Marketing Dr. Robert Cialdini’s six principles of influence show the way.

He calls them “social proof” and “liking.”

(“Authority” is great as well, but a whole different topic for a different day.)

People like to do business with people they like … and they trust the people their friends, family, and fellow consumers trust.

This means that showcasing what other people say about you is far more important than saying it yourself. Likewise, know what your market likes, who they are, and what they value and they’ll be drawn to your product.

With these pillars in mind, here’s how you can overhaul your site to build credibility with viewers and compel them to give your store a shot:

How to Get Buyers to Write a Review

A study conducted by iPerceptions found that “63% of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews.” Photos of the person reviewing are an added credibility driver (or “truthiness”) of the online review.

Campus Protein, for instance, increased the number of visitors who moved from the product page to checkout by 28.9% by adding user-generated photos with Yotpo:

Another study about customer reviews says 57% of online shoppers reported looking for websites with product reviews. And 70% of mobile shoppers were more likely to purchase something if the mobile site or app had reviews.

Customer reviews make a world of difference.

As such, it’s part of your job to make sure buyers turn into satisfied customers, so much so that they share that satisfaction online in the form of a review.

Action Steps for Getting Buyer Reviews

The best way to get a meaningful review is to ask in a meaningful way.

Author and marketer Jay Baer writes about his experience at a restaurant in Mexico where the head waiter provided exceptional service and, at the end of the meal, politely asks the table to leave a TripAdvisor review.

The head waiter explained that his manager would give him a day's wage for each time his name appeared in a review during the restaurant's off season — a three-month period — and that he needed these reviews to get by:

“I would probably have reviewed Le Kliff anyway, because it is so extraordinary, but when Ramon asks us personally because it will benefit him personally, the psychological impact of that appeal is quite powerful.”

Think about how many customers are on the fence right now — “Oh, I probably would’ve reviewed the store anyway…”

They just need a nudge. Making a personal request is one way to do that. You can

You can write something simple, like, “Did you get what you ordered? If you like it, would you write us a review?” scheduled for customers a few days after they receive their product.

You could also incentivize reviews. VentureHarbour’s Marcus Taylor found that this strategy tends to works best at scale with automated personalized emails.

Experiment with the timing, incentive, and wording of this email.

If you want to avoid bias, don’t announce a contest. Just make a request for product reviews. Then send the reward after they review the product, so that it doesn’t affect the way they write. Imagine their delight!

Go Beyond the Press Release

Have you ever been in a conversation that goes something like this?

Them: “Hi, I’m Jack.”

You: “Hey Jack, good to meet you. What do you do for business?”

Them: “I’m glad you asked! I’m a really great creative director, I’ve hit quota this month, clients love my brown eyes…”

This is essentially what happens when someone goes to your store and just sees your product descriptions bragging about the thing you’re selling. And that’s why an unbiased, third party, perspective is so valuable.

Think back to your favorite neighborhood restaurant, and how it posts clippings of newspapers reviews in the window or framed on the wall.

Consider how visitors referred by a fashion magazine or blogger to Rent the Runway drive a 200% higher conversion rate than visitors driven by paid search.

Press releases, and the subsequent coverage, is obviously important, but can ultimately be fleeting. What’s more important is how you leverage the coverage after the fact.

Consider how Secret Labs, an office chair retailer, displays the logos of the popular (and relevant!) media outlets who have covered their products on the homepage.

What’s notable about what logos are featured here is that they’re borrowing the credibility from the media outlet, who is likely known and frequented by their target market.

In other words, if Secret Labs first time visitor is also a reader of “Kotaku” the review, is fantastic for enforcing credibility and reaffirming trust. (Sidenote: Kotaku readers also make a fantastic target for ad-campaigns.)

Unfortunately, a lot of people just don’t understand the strange world of the literati. They write up a word doc of what looks like a “press release,” scrape a bunch of email addresses, and shotgun send the press release to the emails hoping to land a couple of stories.

That’ll get you nowhere really fast.

When pitching a story, most people overlook the interesting part of the equation.

Your new product launch, while exciting and important to you — is not an inherently interesting story. You have to show them you have a story that will be interesting to a diverse audience.

Robleh Jama, formerly the founder of Tiny Hearts and now working in product at Shopify, breaks down how to do the press kit right.

How to Get Visitors to Like Your Store’s Story

Generally, it takes repetition and time for people to trust others — people and brands. This is known as the mere-exposure effect, the tendency for us to prefer things the more familiar we are with them.

A person is more likely to relate with, and trust, another person because of emotional commonalities that create a sense of connectedness. And according to Forrester Research, 50 percent of every buying decision is driven by emotion. Forrester also reported that 89 percent of respondents felt no personal connection to the brands they buy. Harnessing emotion to your advantage is crucial.

And the way to leverage this commonality comes down to how well you can tell a story — something that makes your visitors empathize with you and your spokespeople enough to trust your product.

You don’t need to hire an influencer to be the spokesperson for your company. A co-founder or leader of the company could be the spokesperson. Whoever it is, make sure they’re around for the long haul, because they’ll be the lightning rod of opportunity if things work out as planned.

We’re led to believe that fascinating our audience means we must tell a story in an over the top, Hollywood way. It is easy to forget however that many blockbusters are built on a core rooted in emotion that elicits a sense of empathy with their viewers.

Action Steps for Telling a Story that Visitors Like

When you build your story, start with a basic story structure, and then plot your own personal story along a structure like this. If you have no idea where to start, try Pixar’s storytelling class:

Or, use Elon Musk’s story structure — which is a bit more business-y and less personal, but still equally inspiring. Talk specifically about the before and after — and how the world is going to be a better place with your product or store.

When telling your story, introspection is key to getting to what resonates with your audience. Look into why you, or your partners, started to do what you do:

  • Why did your team members join? Was there something personal?
  • Even if your motive was simply to build a big business, what was it about this industry that inspired you? Was it the prospect of growing a company?
  • What were the first customer success stories you’d gotten?

For example, consider Mads Timmermann. Timmermann started a skincare business because he wanted to fix his acne. His pivotal conflict was not necessarily about the literal acne, but what it caused. It was about having the confidence or courage to take even the first steps to find love. While not everyone has acne, everyone has wrestled with doubt, unworthiness, or insecurity at one time or another (especially in our love lives).

Sit with that. Once you’ve crafted your story, get ready to rewrite and edit it. If you’re looking for inspiration, look at Kickstarter videos. People selling on Kickstarter make great stories because they have to. They're selling people on products that don't even exist yet.

Here’s a simple way to find out which parts resonate — and which parts don’t:

Pitch it.

Talk to your customers about it, your internal stakeholders, and other collaborators (such as an agency, if you have one). Sometimes, all you need is a fresh pair of eyes, and ears, to save you some major time (and money) down the road. If you can’t even keep a group of your customers engaged, how are you going to keep a random viewer hooked?

Once you validate your story and the feedback, you’re ready for the next step…

Spread it.

For example, put that into an email to a journalist — perhaps one that you’ve built a relationship with in the first section …

Final Thoughts

It’s crucial to build something worthy of your visitors. But once you validate the product, and your story, it’s also important to shout it from the rooftops. It takes work to make sure that visitors know they can trust you and your products. And as you can see from this post, while the principles are relatively straightforward, it’s not easy — it requires a lot of concentration and execution.

Remember, no reputation is built overnight. And don’t lie, because the truth always comes out (see Theranos).

True credibility is a competitive advantage because it can’t be bought, only earned.

About the Author

Herbert Lui is the creative director of Wonder Shuttle. He was a staff writer for Lifehacker, and his writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail, the New York Observer, and Fast Company.