Tell Your Friends: A Guide to Word-of-Mouth Marketing in Ecommerce

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Today’s ecommerce market is competitive, with tight margins and plenty of retailers trying to convert the same group of online users into loyal customers. Savvy merchants know they must use every tool at their disposals to distinguish their stores enough to acquire and retain customers.

It’s important to diversify your marketing channels of course; whether paid, email, content, social media or etc. However, many of these strategies depend on brand-to-customer communication. This means some percentage of viewers will always be skeptical. This skepticism can delay or prevent people from making a purchasing decision.

So, what can retailers do to motivate shoppers to turn into buyers? Try word-of-mouth marketing. This strategy uses the power of social proof, from one consumer to another, to convince people to visit a website and make a purchase. It builds trust because people are more likely to trust other real people than they are to take a brand’s word for it.

Want consumers to tell their friends about the awesomeness that is your online shop? Here’s a brief guide to utilizing word-of-mouth marketing in ecommerce.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Offline and Online Benefits

Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing is often more difficult to quantify with analytics than other marketing methods. Why? Because much of it occurs offline. But it’s important not to underestimate its benefits. One study found “an offline WOM impression drives at least five times more sales than a paid advertising impression, and much more (as much as 200 times more) for higher-consideration categories.”

Simply put, people are more likely to believe friends, family members, colleagues and other acquaintances when it comes to product and brand recommendations. A simple conversation beginning with, “I like your X product, where did you get it?” can easily help the seller acquire a new customer. But it all depends on whether the previous buyer wants to recommend your

store—there will be very different outcomes between, “Oh, I got it at this great online store called Y” and, “Oh, I got it online but I’m not sure if I like it yet.”

There’s also something to be said about online word-of-mouth interactions. People are still more likely to trust other online users than they are to believe brands. As Smart Insights cites, 92 percent of customers “trust recommendations from other consumers, through reviews, influencers, etc. over ads or content coming directly from the brand.” This underscores the importance of displaying ratings and reviews prominently on your website. You can also form partnerships with influencers within your niche to gain the trust of their audience; a recommendation from a highly regarded online figure goes a long way these days.

Creating a Successful Referral Program

The good news is retailers don’t have to sit back and wait for customers to hopefully sing the praises of their stores. You can incentivize people to recommend your products to people they know via a referral program. This creates a win-win situation for both participants and the brand.

Before you launch any kind of referral program to bolster WOM marketing, make sure your website is ready to make a great impression on new visitors. An appealing ecommerce theme like those offered by Shopify that clearly conveys your branding—while providing a top-notch user experience—is a must. Look for one that fits your brand identity and niche well; this will go a long way toward welcoming new potential customers warmly.

Then, it will be time to set up your referral program. Many stores offer consumers a percentage off the price of their next purchase if they refer a friend who also makes a purchase. Depending upon what you sell, you may also offer one free item to referrers. The key is making the reward tempting enough to motivate people to share a link or an offer code for your store—and to motivate potential customers to visit your site and convert.

It’s worth your while to ramp up word-of-mouth marketing for your ecommerce store because people are more likely to believe other customers than they are to convert based on paid ads.

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