Word-of-Mouth Marketing In eCommerce
Raw, uncontrollable power. That’s what word-of-mouth is. Word-of-mouth marketing is what you do to create that power.
When influencer marketing first started gaining traction, it was because its core concept and inspiration was word-of-mouth. Influencers were regarded as more reliable than media and advertisements (in general). For influencers, the fact that they were not obligated to disclose when a partnership was compensated meant that everything was for promotion. For businesses, the sales figures were impressive.
Now, while the influencer era has somewhat dwindled down, it is still one of the most effective marketing channels out there. However, it's not nearly as efficient as word-of-mouth from friends, family, and acquaintances or from anyone else who doesn't get paid to suggest goods or services.
With numbers like those, you definitely want a piece of the cake. But the thing is: as powerful as word-of-mouth is, as tough it is to get going. That being said, it’s not impossible.
Let’s start from the beginning before going over some short and long-term word-of-mouth marketing strategies.
What Is Word-of-Mouth Marketing?
Word-of-mouth marketing (WOM marketing) is a push/strategy/tactic you make to influence the appearance of word-of-mouth. It refers to situations when you influence customers to willingly spread the word about your business and recommend its products or services to their friends and family.
Thirty years ago, word-of-mouth was a purely offline phenomenon, but social media and the internet have increased its significance and gave birth to WOM marketing. Word-of-mouth has always been regarded as quite effective, but due to oversaturation with advertisements, as evidenced by the numbers I shared above, and growing mistrust in institutions and media, it is certain to become even more significant in the years to come.
Today, word-of-mouth can be both organic and paid, and both approaches come with pros and cons. Organic word-of-mouth approach (friends, family, customers, etc.) will almost always have a longer-term ROI that is superior, while paid or focused WOM (influencer marketing) can have phenomenal short-term results. The organic approach is a marathon (but one well worth the effort), and it costs close to nothing (except time), while paid approach results pretty much depend on your budget and if you got the right influencer for your product/service and their engagement rate as well.
Still, both are effective.
Building Brand Loyalty
To start with, having people talk about your business and recommend your products means that you’re establishing your brand image, ideally, a good one.
With that comes brand loyalty and trust. And then comes an increased sales volume and higher customer retention with an increased lifetime value.
Remember that a 5% increase in customer retention can boost your profits by over 25%.
Increase Sales With No Ad Spend
WOM isn’t a short-term strategy, nor is it a regular one-off cost you’re used to with paid advertising.
In fact, the best kind of WOM is done over a longer period of time and is completely free. It’s all about fostering the relationships you have with your customers, so they end up promoting your products because they want to do so.
With influencer marketing, you’ll have to spend some of your budget, but it doesn’t hurt to note that these prices will likely be less than that of online advertising and get better ROI, which is why it became so popular in the first place.
The Network Effect and Virality
Do you remember the six degrees of separation idea? It hypothesizes that all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other. Now, think about what this means for WOM marketing.
With the right moves, the word about your business could spread like crazy. And the more your company grows, the more WOM you start getting, and the faster and wider your network will spread.
Before you know it, your company will be a household name in your niche.
How to Start Building Your Word-of-Mouth Marketing Strategy?
So, we talked about what word-of-mouth marketing is nowadays and its advantages for your business. Let's now go into the strategies you need to start using to have WOM marketing in place.
Really, Really Work on Your Product/Service
It's essential to have a fantastic product/service that you never stop improving if you want WOM marketing to be successful and fruitful. WOM marketing has to be product-led.
There aren't many things you can do to encourage your customers to take action if your product/service sucks. What’s worse, it’s actually more likely that you’ll be getting yourself negative reviews and your brand image ruined.
Build Rapport with Your Community
Establish a community around your product, service, or business, and make sure your clients feel heard. If your product, for instance, is updated iteratively, pay attention to community criticism and suggestions. Adapt your roadmap. Be transparent with them.
Even though you have the opportunity to control the narrative when working on a community, if you can actually make people feel like they are a part of your movement, product, or vision, you'll be astonished at the lengths to which they will go.
Keep in mind, though, building a community is a hard, time-consuming process.
Offer Amazing Customer Support
Create a customer support team that’s responsive, fair, and whose main goal is to provide a great experience for your customers.
In the age when scams seem to be omnipresent, getting a prompt response from a company’s support team that’s helpful and caring will go a long way.
With each support request, utilize your existing community to encourage participation and feedback. By helping a single customer, you are, in fact, helping all of them.
Ensure a Stellar User Experience
You’re already probably aware of the value the user experience today carries, right? Reports suggest an improved user experience might boost conversion rates by as much as 400%. Sounds amazing, doesn't it?
One of the finest conversion rate optimization (CRO) tactics is a better user experience, which requires careful consideration in order to function as intended. It must be attractive, well-designed, simple to use, fast and performant. Additionally, it is one of the most important aspects of how your brand is perceived.
And on top of it all, it's a key determinant of whether a customer chooses to buy from you or your competitor.
Call to Action and Encourage User Generated Content
Don’t forget to use a call to action and encourage user-generated content (UGC). Use your communication channels: social media, emails, community, and more to ask your customers for testimonials, reviews, ratings, and other user-generated content.
Consumers may not realize how helpful they’d be if they shared their positive experiences, and you’d be surprised by the responsiveness you usually get from these CTAs.
Provide Channels for WOM Marketing
The user experience of giving recommendations about a product increases the number of recommendations you get, so make sure to provide channels for your customers.
Most importantly, try to start a referral program where new customers can use referral codes from existing customers upon account creation, rewarding both of them in the process.
Not only is that a great way to incentivize your customers to recommend products, but it also makes it much easier for them to do it.
In addition, creating a space for reviews, similar to that of the app stores, is another great way to provide a WOM marketing channel for your customers.
💡Perils of influencer option.
Let me ask you something, are you able to tell the difference between an earnest opinion from a paid one on social media? An example is the latest cautionary tale for all influencers where Kim Kardashian will have to pay $1.26 million to settle an SEC investigation into her allegedly shady promotion of the crypto asset EthereumMax.
One of the reasons that brought influencers to life, TRUST, seems to be undermined by the practice of influencing, i.e., you may end up losing the TRUST of your audience instead of gaining one.
It all comes down to the way you conduct your business. I mean, for some, SPAM mail is still a business option. Black hat SEO in the form of backlink purchases as well. The reality is that the methods we employ in work and in life will shape the environment in which we live and work, and we could all wind up losing far more than just customers.
What About Word-of-mouth in eCommerce?
For eCommerce businesses, it all starts with a customer experience that supports your amazing product, of course. Customer experience involves the already talked about UX but also a seamless order process and a good amount of personalization besides everything I already mentioned.
Inefficient order processing and lack of information on product pages and/or during the checkout process influence shopping cart abandonment and brand image. Remember, a great UX is something people talk about.
Make sure everything is there—including the price range, accurate inventory information, descriptions, and reviews—and that it is simple to explore everything.
Exceed customer expectations. Get personal with your customers either with personalized messages while communicating delivery, for example, or with personalized gifts/notes they would get with the product they ordered. Show you care for them. Make them feel special.
These will become brand-related triggers that are simple to link to and spread.
Reviews and UGC
We talked about user-generated content (UGC) already, but the thing we did not mention is that, in general, people trust UGS much more than brand-communicated content.
On top of that, reviews are one of the most deciding factors when it comes to local SEO as well.
You can’t force people to talk about your business. But you can nudge them in the right direction by providing them with a good product/service and support they’d find is worth talking about.
The best nudges come from the marketing channels you cover and the way you cover them, the community you build, referrals and brand ambassadors you have on your side, and the value your product brings to the table.
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