We received an interesting email the other day from Z Gallerie, a home décor and furniture retailer. It caught our eye because of the inclusion of several variations on the “customer testimonial” tactic.
Though it does contain straight quotes, they appear to be pulled from Twitter and what looks like product reviews (either on Z Gallerie’s website or some other online forum. It’s not exactly clear, but some sources appear as screen-names). Some quotes are aspirational (“I wish my house would look like a @ZGallerie ad,” someone tweeted), but others are clearly from people who have bought and are enjoying their purchase from Z Gallerie.
But the really innovative move here is the use of customer-posted images of Z Gallerie products harvested from Instagram as social proof (ostensibly images of the product as it’s being used in the buyer’s home). There is probably no measure of customer satisfaction greater than the customer telling all of his/her friends about it—especially when such proselytizing occurs in a public forum such as a social network.
So, smart move by Z Gallerie.
Should everyone do this? Here’s our take:
The Ideal Fit for Customer Testimonial Techniques
If your company enjoys a generally favorable reputation online, this technique could be a very effective tool. If you have a decent amount of “rabid fans” willing to evangelize on your behalf, especially if they’re already doing so undirected on social media, this type of social proof email could provide exactly the type of convincing necessary to convert shoppers into customers. Envy (and envy’s cousin, FOMO [fear of missing out]) can be a great motivator.
To that end, retailers and some service providers (bath and tile, kitchen remodelers, home builders…anything involving visually compelling results) might consider using this type of “social proof” email.
Social Proofs Aren’t Right for Every Business
The categories of businesses that should probably steer clear of customer testimonials in email include those for whom, by nature of their profession, any whiff of desperation could prove disastrous. Law firms (excepting perhaps those specializing in personal injury). Financial services. Medical doctors (unless you’re a plastic surgeon). Public utilities or entities that act as pseudo-utilities, such as cell phone carriers.
Likewise, restaurants/hotels and other hospitality should exercise due caution, as it’s likely their Yelp! review page contains at least some negative or middling reviews (whether accurate or not). Nothing will undermine consumer trust in your brand faster than if you’re seen cherry-picking favorable reviews from among a sea of bad ones.
Fortune Favors the Bold
In summary, using customer testimonials in email is a bold move, which is part of why the Z Gallerie email caught our collective eye.
If you’re considering this gambit, do your research first. Find out what people are really saying about you online, and don’t just assume that prospects will gloss over negative opinions, however few they may be. At the other end of the spectrum, don’t pick reviews that all have 5 stars—customers will see through that instantly.
Also, get permission from the reviewer! We can’t stress that enough. Even someone who loves your company might be less than thrilled to see their picture, quote, and/or name used for advertising purposes.