No matter what you’re selling online, chances are you’re facing crowded competition.
What separates brands today, isn’t only the quality of their products, but also their ability to generate positive word of mouth around their brand.
Because customers today crave authenticity. 90% of consumers say that authenticity matters when making purchasing decisions.
Enter the era of social proof.
Showing off your customers and their positive experiences is a smart move for creating a buzz and proving to prospects that you’re the “real deal.”
Modern marketers are scrambling for word-of-mouth from their satisfied buyers in the form of customer testimonials, photos, and experiences.
And there’s arguably no better place to put social proof front-and-center than your email campaigns.
Here’s How to Integrate Social Proof into Your Emails
Below we’ve highlighted six specific ways to show social proof throughout your marketing emails.
From one-off messages to full-blown campaigns, any combination of these tactics is fair game.
1. Show Off Photos of Your Satisfied Customers
Customer photos are a potential goldmine for marketers looking to increase email engagement and show their audience some love, too.
But why are customer snapshots so valuable?
Think about it. Customer photos follow the rule of “show, don’t tell.”
Rather than try to talk up your product, prospects can see it in action themselves.
Oh, and the data behind the power of user-generated content (UGC) such as customer photos speaks for itself
There’s an oft-cited statistic by Salesforce which notes that UGC in email results in 73% higher click-through rates.
Meanwhile, Stackla states that its customers observed a 29% lift in sales by including user-generated content in their email campaigns.
If you have a visually striking product, don’t be afraid to let customers be your billboard. Many brands active on Instagram have made their customer photos a cornerstone of their email campaigns, too.
This message from Paravel is a prime example of how to show off satisfied customers.
By featuring customers who have used their branded hashtag, the brand also encourages email subscribers to join them on their social media channels.
Here’s another example from Warby Parker, where they place a hashtag front-and-center in the email, in addition to some eye catching, colorful Instagram photos.
Here’s another example from Brandless. They use their customers’ Instagram pictures for the holiday email campaign as a sort of “thank you” to their audience.
Showing customers that you have an active, thriving community on social media is another form of social proof that can help you win more purchases.
The good thing is that you don’t need many customer pictures and photos. All you need is a couple of beautiful Instagram pictures, and you can quickly put together a great, engaging email.
2. Highlight Your Best-Selling Products
Promoting your best-selling products is a subtle yet significant form of social proof that all marketers should consider testing with their audience via email.
Because by noting your top-sellers, you’re essentially providing your prospects with peace of mind.
Specifically, peace of mind that what you’re selling is up to snuff and has already pleased plenty of customers.
Food for thought: product recommendations make up a staggering 31% of e-commerce sales. The takeaway here is that sometimes people just need a little “push” to make a purchase. Showcasing your best-sellers can make it happen.
For example, check out this promotional email from Methodical highlighting their most popular products.
Note that the email copy frames this message as helping undecided customers make a decision. This makes this message feel a bit less “salesy” despite promoting products directly.
This message from Sole Society is entirely centered around “crowd favorites,” funneling readers to their best-sellers on-site.
This is a great way to re-introduce a product line to shoppers or fill-in-the-gaps between campaigns.
That’s what Bliss does in this colorful email template.
Framing their best-sellers as the “It List”, this email directly invites readers to check out their most popular products.
Beyond social proof, a bonus of these types of emails is that you can send them with confidence as you know the products you’re promoting are already winners in the eyes of your audience.
3. Put Your Positive Reviews on Display
On-site and third-party reviews are the bread and butter of businesses today.
According to a report by PowerReviews, 89% of consumers consider reviews to be essential to making any purchasing decision. 70% of those same consumers won’t purchase if they don’t see reviews first.
That’s why it’s important to share and promote your customers’ positive reviews and feedback about your products and services.
Email should be part of the mix.
For example, Casper includes a positive customer review to their abandoned cart trigger emails.
This is a brilliant move to convince an indecisive shopper to finally pull the trigger and make a purchase.
Another example is this email message from Mun-Skin featuring a variety of five-star customer reviews to sing the praises of one product.
One of the comments “best cleanser I’ve ever used” was used as the email’s subject line.
Star-ratings are awesome for highlighting a top-shelf product without having to be wordy or take up too much space.
Here’s another email featuring a customer product review, this time from Coastal. This message combines text review snippets with product photos to give recipients a comprehensive view of what each product is all about.
Note that the review snippets are conversational and don’t feel stuffy at all. This is exactly the sort of authenticity that customers want to see from brands that can ultimately win over new buyers.
Speaking of authenticity, some of the best types of “reviews” are off-the-cuff and might not look like traditional feedback at all.
Case-in-point, this email from MeUndies, that highlights positive and humorous comments directly from Twitter.
Blurring the line between UGC and a customer review, this sort of social proof is valuable regardless.
If you aren’t already actively scouring review sites and social mentions for shout-outs, maybe it’s time to try it out.
Major milestones can help position your business as an industry leader, or at the very least as a brand that’s “walked the walk.”
Maybe it’s your 5th year in business. Perhaps it’s your 10,000th customer.
Either way, this sort of benchmark is worth sharing with your audience.
For example, Annmarie raises awareness of the long-term positive impact their products have had on customer health and the environment.
They highlight their impact by placing a huge number in their email headline, front-and-center, a foolproof way of grabbing your readers’ attention.
This is another great example of a milestone message, from Transferwise. Using their one million user milestone as the theme of the email message, the call-to-action to invite a friend frames the email as a way to keep their business’ positive momentum rolling.
Canva’s 2,000,000-member announcement is similar but also scores points by personalizing the email for each recipient.
This makes the message feel more personal to the reader while also reminding them that they’re part of a community.
This email from Leesa is another good example. When showcasing milestones, it’s important to provide context rather than coming off as bragging.
This email template does exactly that to put the brand’s sense of selflessness on display.
A nice touch of many milestone-based emails is the opportunity to catch people’s eyes with a numerical subject line (hint: numbers-centric subject lines correlate with higher open rates).
5. Tell a Customer Success Story
These types of messages might be few-and-far-between, but they’re incredibly effective at making an impact on your readers.
Whether through a detailed story, case story or testimonial, you can build up your company narrative while proving that you’ve done well on behalf of your customers.
Storytelling in emails is a nice change of pace from traditional sales messages.
For example, Junique highlights an illustrator’s story to showcase the human side of their products.
In addition to customer stories, these types of emails are perfect for influencer marketing campaigns where you can collaborate on copy and messaging.
And if you already have existing customer case studies or long-form testimonials, adapting them to email is a no-brainer.
6. Talk Up Your Company’s Awards and Accolades
Businesses today will take whatever they can get to stand out from the competition.
If your business is nominated for an award or gets featured in a major publication or list, make sure to spread the word.
Such messages are great positioning tools. Even if you don’t have a sales-centric goal or call-to-action in mind, sharing the big news with your audience should still be a priority.
For example, Maxwell Scott isn’t shy about their nomination announcement (subject line: “We’ve been nominated for a prestigious award”).
That said, thanking customers for their continued loyalty and support is a gracious way to conclude a brand-centric message.
Meanwhile, Hotel Drisco’s nomination email does double duty of announcing a feature while also asking readers to vote for them to foster a sense of community.
By now you have a good sense of what effective email campaigns based around social proof look like in action.
And to wrap things up, let’s take a moment to review some key points about using social proof in your emails.
Ask for Permission from Your Customers
Perhaps the most important issue is asking for permission for user-generated content.
Simply put, businesses can’t simply take customer photos or feedback and plaster it across their marketing campaign without asking first.
As highlighted by Shortstack, “explicit permission” is required. This could be something as simple as a tweet or DM, although you could also ask via email.
Here’s a real-world example of asking for permission from Old Navy on Twitter. No tricks or secrets here: sometimes if you want something, all you need to do is ask.
You should also ask for permission before featuring reviews in your email campaigns.
Most customers will be more than happy to give you the green light, so don’t worry about bothering them if there’s a review or snapshot you want to feature in your marketing emails.
Bear in mind that there is no “right” way to feature social proof in your emails in terms of email design.
Feel free to experiment with your existing email campaign templates or whip up something new to feature customer photos or reviews.
And don’t forget to link to your social media channels in your emails.
Using drag-and-drop email builders such as Chamaileon, you can easily include cool-looking social media icons in your email and link directly to your channels.
Coupled with a ton of ready to use email templates, creating a beautiful email can be done in a matter of minutes.
Finally, note that there are also evergreen types of social proof that you can feature in your email signature or header.
In other words, every email you send can include social proof.
For example, consider three popular elements of social proof such as…
- A “best-sellers” category for your e-commerce header
- Social media buttons which signal that you have an active social community (like we mentioned previously)
- A lookbook or social feed section which includes recent customer photos and your company hashtag
This message from Credo highlights subtle forms of social proof as highlighted in the pointers above.
The takeaway here is that you can consistently include social proof in your emails time and time again.
Social proof is one of the most important elements of modern marketing.
The good news? If you have satisfied customers, you can start curating it for your emails today.
That’s so much of the beauty of social proof. Showcasing it simply means adapting what’s already out there into your marketing emails.
Hopefully, this guide serves as inspiration and motivation to do exactly that
Not only does social proof showcase your brand’s authenticity and personality, but it also results in higher engagement rates for your emails.