Social Proof Messaging: One Retailer’s Story

On 2 July 2020, Taggstar hosted a webinar with our technology partner Movable Ink.

A highlight was hearing from our mutual award-winning customer The Very Group about how it continuously experiments and rigorously tests new technologies in its own UX Lab to help it deliver an ever-better experience for its customers. 

The Very Group was an early adopter of social proof messaging and has seen an uplift in conversion rates and millions in extra revenue as a result.  You can listen to the whole session here

If you’d like a taster of what was discussed, then The Very Group product manager Kathryn Jones has written this quick recap. 

Kathryn has over 23 years’ experience in multi-category retail and ecommerce, product strategy and vision, UX research, product lifecycle, stakeholder engagement, prioritisation, product road mapping, experimentation and data analysis. At The Very Group, she is responsible for search, navigation, product recommendations and user generated content.

Look, listen and learn: how technology testing helps The Very Group continuously improve UX

By Kathryn Jones, product manager, The Very Group

The Very Group is the UK’s largest integrated digital retailer and financial services provider, and we’ve been helping customers say yes for over 100 years. Our purpose is to make good things easily accessible to more people. That means combining 1,900 brands our customers love, a seamless customer journey driven by data and technology, and flexible ways to pay. As a digital-only retailer, the quality of experience we deliver to our four million customers is super-important: they make 1.5 million visits a day to our website, and eight out of 10 are shopping on a mobile device. 

To support our vision to become a word class digital retailer, in 2013 we designed and set up our own in-house UX Lab (at our head office in Liverpool) to trial emerging technologies with customers and interact with them face to face. We’d learn from users’ interactions, receive immediate feedback and be able to rapidly amend our way of working to give them a better experience. When it came to designing and building the lab, there was little industry best practice to follow, with no other UK retailer having a similar facility in-house. We looked primarily to the technology and gaming industries for ideas.

The lab itself comprises two rooms. The first is the customer room, which is a relaxing space where customers can carry out tasks set by our usability researchers. The viewing room provides a space where we can observe customer behaviour through one-way glass, and debate, collaborate and innovate with our partners. Running regular experiments informs our customer experience roadmap and keeps our fingers on the pulse of what our customers really want from us. And right now, during lockdown we have observed our customers shop in their homes, and all the challenges and opportunities that brings.

2013: social proof in the UX Lab

We started working with Taggstar in 2013, around the time we set up our UX Lab. For a lot of people, shopping is very much a social activity and because we don’t have bricks and mortar stores, it’s important to replicate some of that buzz;, that personal interaction, online. Social proof messaging looked like a solution. We brought a group of target customers into our UX Lab and gave them the experience of shopping with social proof messages. The feedback was incredibly positive, and we moved quickly to introduce social proof messaging to our website. The commercial results from the initial experiment alone were excellent: £14m incremental revenue directly attributable to Taggstar’s social proof solution.

After that first success, we were keen to experiment further. This time, we used the UX Lab to test the impact on customers of adding social proof messaging across the full funnel – every touch point on the online journey from home page to basket. Again, customers were very positive. They welcomed guidance right at the beginning of their shopping journey with social proof messages on the gallery pages; they felt it would help them narrow down their wish list – especially with more complex purchases. As a result, we rapidly expanded our deployment of the Taggstar solution. This model of continual experimentation and involving our customers at every stage is one that we follow with all of our technology partners.

2016: what’s hot on Black Friday 

By 2016, Taggstar was one of our trusted strategic technology partners and we turned to them for help maximising Black Friday – our biggest trading day of the year. By opening up Taggstar’s API for us, they helped us to build a specific Black Friday customer experience that enabled us to tell customers about real time best sellers and trending products within a three hour window, rather than 24 hours as previously was the case. 

2018: a high street presence for Black Friday

In 2018, we went even further for Black Friday. Working with out-of-home (OOH) and location marketing specialists Posterscope, The Very Group and Taggstar achieved a world first when we injected real-time dynamic social proof messaging into 1,400 billboards and adshels around the UK. This innovation was an incredibly powerful way for us, a digital-only retailer, to have an eye-catching presence right in the middle of real-life shopping centres and high streets where our customers were out and about. 

We used social proof messages on the billboards to remind our customers of special offers and show them what was hot, what was trending and what other shoppers just like them were buying. One example showed an LG smart TV, with the message: “Going Fast: 17 sold in the last hour.’ By using both product purchase volumes and a time bracket, The Very Group was able to show that the TV was proving popular with other customers, creating a buzz about the product, and reinforcing that the offer was limited. The results included a six per cent increase in spontaneous awareness of Very and a 25 per cent increase in purchase consideration. This campaign actively contributed to The Very Group’s successful Christmas 2018 trading results.

2020: increasing CTR with dynamic email content

In 2020 we saw an opportunity to use social proof to help unify the entire customer journey by including email. We send out a vast number of emails across all our brands. It’s a challenge to ensure that the content is always relevant and engaging, that we don’t repeat ourselves. We’ve recently worked with Taggstar and Movable Ink – another partner in our technology ecosystem – on a collaborative project to add a dynamic element to our outbound dynamic emails. 

By adding social proof messages that update in real-time we make the email relevant at the point the customer opens it. And by offering recommendations, or pointing out popular items, it also adds a personal shopper element into the experience, which is important to us as a digital-only retailer. We’ve also found that using social proof in email helps us with multi-category messaging and cross selling, adding gaming products to menswear emails for example. Introducing social proof messages into our customer emails has increased the 

Click Through Rate (CTR) by 41 per cent. 

This is far from the end of the story. Having our own UX research facility on-site means we can quite literally put customers at the centre of the business in a way that other online-only players can struggle to match. The Very Group will continue to experiment and evolve our use of social proof, and other innovative retail technologies that can bring us ever closer to our customers. 

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