We use social proof as an indication of how trustworthy a website or app might be. If a site appears popular and has good reviews it provides reassurance to visitors that it is likely to be a genuine site. People also know that a site with a good reputation are less likely to sell faulty or sub-standard goods or services because they might damage their brand reputation.
Social proof is especially influential when we are faced with uncertainty, such as when buying something for the first time. This is why displaying ratings and reviews for products or services can be so powerful. A large number of ratings can help build trust and credibility of your site and provides guidance for customers on which products people are most satisfied with. This helps to reduce anxiety about your site and the products you sell.
Ratings & reviews:
Here are six commonly used e-commerce product rating and review platforms to help build trust and credibility on your site. For other digital marketing solutions see my free conversion toolbox and my conversion marketing glossary which has many real-life examples from A/B tests that I have completed.
Offers a suite of applications via a cloud based user generated content engine that helps you capture, manage and respond to customer input to grow your business. This covers 5 core products;
Conversations encourages customers to review products, ask questions, give answers and share stories.
Connections manages responses to shopper questions & reviews across their network of retail sites.
Local makes authentic customer reviews available on your website and on the sites of local providers that carry your brand.
Curations pull authentic, moderated social media content into your buying experience by displaying it on your website.
Media engages active shoppers online and in-store via their ad targeting technology.
Bazaarvoice claim their clients see an average 65% lift in revenue per visit and 52% uplift in conversion on product pages with ratings and reviews. They also see a 98% average conversion uplift when shoppers engage in Q&A on major retail sites. Has over 3,500 clients.
A rating and reviews service that provides qualified reviews from real customers who have made a purchase from your organisation. Every review can be shared across social platforms and with the Feefo Facebook app you can automatically position reviews into the heart of your social engagement strategy.
As a Google Licensed Content Partner, Feefo submits ratings and reviews on behalf of merchants to be included in to Google’s listings. Offers a Free trial period to try out the service.
The system is available in English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese. Free 30 day trial available.
A suite of solutions including product reviews that is deeply integrated with social media which means that it is easy to share customer reviews with your business’s Facebook page and Twitter account which drives qualified traffic. The core features cover:
Review generation – Delivers automated, fully-customisable and mobile responsive emails after purchase which includes upsells in all review request to increase lifetime value. A one-step submission process also increases the number of reviews received.
On-site – Full customization of widgets, with all reviews labelled with a trust badge, the ability to ask buyers questions and includes in-depth information on each reviewer to help buyers qualify relevance.
Retention – Focus on lifetime value of each customer through the use of post-purchase coupons, ability to comment on reviews and community Q&A.
Marketing – Social integration allows you to automatically share your best reviews on Facebook and Twitter to increase their reach. Yotpo ads and email upsells leverage your reviews to bring quality traffic to your site.
SEO – Increases your SEO visibility by showing your reviews and ratings on Google and offers the ability to display your reviews across Google Shopping and search with product listing ads.
Visitors have become accustomed to major websites such as Amazon displaying product ratings and reviews on relevant pages. This has led to a huge increase in user generated content and an expectation that genuine sites automatically display ratings and reviews to assist users. This means that sites that fail to encourage user generated reviews may be perceived to be less trustworthy. It also likely that conversion rates will not be as high on sites that fail to display customer ratings and reviews.
About the author: Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for brands such as Deezer.com, Foxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com. He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback. By aligning each stage of the customer journey with the organisation’s business goals this helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website. If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.
Digital marketing and website optimisation is about getting visitors to take action. But what if your visitors come from a range of different countries and cultures? Will one strategy work for all of your different site visitors?
The Power of Culture on Conversions:
Culture has a deep and pervasive influence on how people perceive and react to web content. For global brands in particular it is important to consider how people from different cultures interpret and respond to such variants as colour, language, images and technology to be able to serve optimal content.
McDonald’s for instance has a separate website and uses
different colours for every country it operates in.
The most influential research studies on cultural differences in
communication were conducted by the anthropologists Geert Hofstede while at IBM and Edward T Hall when he taught inter- cultural communications skills at the US State Department. Their research studies are a must for anyone wanting to develop culturally responsive content as they provide many important insights into how people from different cultures process and respond to information and imagery.
A Framework for Understanding Cultural Dimensions:
Professor Geert Hofstede conducted probably the most comprehensive study of how cultural values vary by country between 1967 and 1973. Whilst working for IBM he analysed data from over 70 countries and has since utilised further studies,
such as the World Values Survey, to validate and refine his cultural dimensions theory. This identifies 6 cultural dimensions that can be used to explain observed differences between cultures.
Hofstede’s 6 Cultural Dimensions:
1. The Power Distance Index – How is power distributed in a
culture? The Power Distance Index is the degree to which people accept and expect inequality in a society. Cultures that score low on this dimension will seek to reduce the level of inequality and expect justification for where it does exist.
2. Individualism versus collectivism – Is a person’s self-image defined by “I” or “we”? In Western cultures, we tend to focus on the
needs and wants of the individual. Conversely, Eastern cultures place the needs of the collective ahead of individual.
3. Masculinity – Does a culture have a preference for
achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards? If so, to what degree? In this context, femininity translates to collaboration, modesty, caring and quality of life.
4. Uncertainty Avoidance – How comfortable does a society
feel with uncertainty and ambiguity? A high score indicates a society that has formal rules and policies and are often intolerant of unorthodox behaviour and ideas. They also like to plan for every eventuality and are more concerned about product specifications than societies that score lower on this dimension.
5. Long Term Orientation – This describes a culture’s time
orientation – long-term vs short term. Scoring low means a culture favours long-standing norms and is suspicious of societal change. Cultures that score high are pragmatic and take a long-term view of business.
6. Indulgence versus Restraint – Does a culture restrain or
indulge in fun and instant gratification? A high score means a culture
encourages instant gratification and enjoying life and having fun. Low scores reflect strict social norms which suppress indulgent behaviour.
Free Resource on Cultural Differences:
Data from over 100 countries has been made available in the Country Comparison tool by the Hofstede Centre. This is very useful if you’re trying to boost conversions in a cross-cultural context.
For instance, this chart shows us that Japan scores much lower on
individualism than the United States. This suggests that web content in Japan needs to focus more on the community and relationships, rather than showing pictures of individuals in isolation. Japanese people don’t like to stand out from the crowd and are more likely to put the needs of society before personal preferences.
Their high score for masculinity reflects their competitive drive
for excellence and perfection, together with a strong work ethic. These values should be reflected in web content through both high
quality imagery and messaging about how the product quality cannot be beaten.
At 92 Japan is one of the most uncertainty avoiding countries in
the World as they like to plan for every eventuality. This means Japanese people usually won’t make a decision until they have reviewed all the facts and figures. Risk assessment and planning tools, as well as detailed and fact based information, could help boost conversions in that cultural context.
However, one study that analysed Facebook profile photos found that 12% of Americans’ photos lacked any background – compared to only 1% of photos from the Far East. Both our art and Facebook profiles reflect our cultural ideals and preoccupations that influence our behaviour in all kinds of ways.
Western culture emphasizes individualistic and independent traits. People focus on their own face and pay less attention to the background. Eastern culture emphasizes communal and interdependent traits. There is more of a tendency to include context (e.g. the background) and other people in their pictures.
High-context cultures (e.g. China and Japan) have many
Low-context cultures (e.g. the United States) leave little left
to interpretation. “It is what it is.”
Low context and high context cultures relate to a number of cultural traits, including commitment, trust, overtness – and even time.
Monochronic vs Polychronic Cultures:
People in low context cultures often have a monochronic
perception. This means they see time as tangible and sequential. They follow strict time schedules, focus on one task at a time and set deadlines that they aim to meet at all costs.
High context cultures tend to have a polychronic perception
of time where it is more fluid. Punctuality and structure is less important and deadlines are seen as more flexible and people work on multiple tasks at once.
In polychronic cultures, rich context can be displayed using:
Multiple graphics, icons, boxes, and animation
Check out Chinese e-commerce website Taobao on the left and compare it with the UK’s John Lewis site. Both are very successful e-commerce sites, but vastly different website design approaches due to the cultural values of the countries they operate in:
In his book, Drunk Tank Pink, the American psychologist Adam Alter
suggests that colours have meaning partly because they are associated with practically every pleasant and unpleasant object on Earth.
As a result our interpretation and preference for colours is strongly influenced by factors such as language, climate, gender, age and context. For example the way languages categorise colours differs (e.g. Russian has two words for blue), and certain colours are also
used to express moods and feelings in some languages which inevitably affects how we perceive them.
Colours Mean Different Things to Different Cultures:
In 1999 American researchers investigated how people from 8 countries perceive different colours. The analysis allowed researchers to generate a colour spectrum of meaning with red at one end and the blue-green-white cluster at the other end. Red is associated with hot/vibrant and the spectrum gradually moves
towards calm/gentle/peaceful that the blue-green-white cluster is associated with.
Testing by international search and conversion agency Oban International suggests that cultural preferences for particular colours may also be driven by strong national associations and brand identities taken from individual sectors of the economy. Joe Doveton tested this hypothesis in Germany where brands such as Siemens, Mercedes and Audi are renowned for promoting engineering excellence as an integral part of their USP.
In tests for global air charter company Chapman Freeborn,
they discovered a strong preference among German visitors for a silver button and a big dislike for a red button. Silver in Germany is synonymous with the Mercedes brand.
Germany – Silver CTA UK – Red CTA
Use Localised Copy For Personalisation & Conversions:
Your value proposition is the most important element of your communication. The danger of using direct translation, especially for keywords, is that you will end up with copy that uses words out of context. The term “mobile” for example is fine in the UK, but people in the United States refer to mobile phones as “cellphones”. In Germany people use a different word again, “handy” and in
France “portable”. The same term can also have multiple meanings in a language.
Understanding your customers is the best way to craft a great value proposition. However, your customers preferences’ will likely vary according to their culture. This is where you can use qualitative
research to learn new insights and validate or challenge your existing ideas on how to improve conversions. You can then use A/B testing to evaluate different copy and images to identify the best performing messages.
Pro tip: use loanwords in your copy – they’re often left out of copy that is directly translated.
Fonts and Font Sizes:
Fonts often have visceral connotations behind them, and they often vary culture-to-culture. For example in the United States people relate Helvetica with the US Government and the IRS because it is commonly used on tax forms.
Another example is how logographic language cultures use smaller, tightly packed text, confusing American readers. That’s because the language itself (e.g. Japanese) communicates a lot of information in just a few characters. Further, as Japanese doesn’t have italics or capital letters it is more difficult to create a clear visual hierarchy to organize information. So web designers often use decoration or graphic text to create emphasis where required.
For more on font psychology read this post by Alex Bulat.
Further complicating the issue of conversion across cultures, we
have the distinction between bi-culturalism and multi-culturalism.
Bi-Culturalism and Multi-Culturalism:
In the 2010 US Census over 6 percent of the population (over 2 million citizens) associated themselves with two or more ethnic or racial groups. Psychologists have discovered that bi-cultural people engage in frame switching, which means they can perceive the world through a different cultural lens depending upon the context of the situation and whether it reminds them of one culture or another.
So we can’t assume people coming from a different culture (e.g.
Vietnamese Americans), will retain all the same preferences as
individuals still living in their native culture. Web analytics may help you identify potential bi-cultural visitors.
Even across monocultural people there are strong contrasts in
values and behaviour. The concept of honour tends to be more strongly associated with East Asia than the West. However, even in the United States honour is known to influence behaviour more in southern and western states than in the northern states. All this goes back to understanding your customers.
Other Cultural Considerations for Conversions:
Technology: We can’t assume people will all be using the same technology in different geographical markets.
In Africa, for example, mobile commerce is much more established in certain sectors, (e.g. banking), because of a lack of fixed-line internet infrastructure.
For various reasons, iPhones have failed to establish a large market share in Spain, so Android and other operating systems more relevant to the Spanish mobile user.
Browsers: – Browser usage is also fragmented at an
In large parts of Central Africa, Opera is the dominant browser.
For more detailed information check out data from StatCounter.
Search Engines: – The major search engines use different
algorithms for different countries and languages.
Although Google has increased its penetration in Russia, the local search engine, Yandex, is still an important search engine in the country.
In China, Google is not used at all, with Baidu being the top
search engine with a market share of over 50%.
For more details of search engine market share see an article from extraDigital.
Payment Methods: – There are different payment methods. This means having a single cashier or ecommerce check-out design is unlikely to be optimal for a global audience.
In Europe, credit card penetration is much lower in Germany,
Netherlands and Poland. For cultural reasons many Germans dislike credit and as a result the single most popular payment method (38%) is (ELV).
In the Netherlands a similar payment option, iDeal, is the
preferred method of payment for 55% of online shoppers.
Security-conscious Russians still like to use cash as a quarter of them use Qiwi to make online payments. This allows people to deposit cash into ATM style machines and then make payments online without having to transmit sensitive bank or credit card
numbers over the internet.
Even in Turkey where credit and debit cards are
very popular (87% market share) you won’t see Visa or MasterCard on most cards.
In Islamic countries Sharia law prohibits the acceptance of
interest or fees for loans and so potentially limits the use of credit cards and other Western style financial products. The expansion of Islamic banking is making e-commerce more accessible to Muslims, but again adds to the complexity of online payment processes.
6 Cultural Implications for Website Optimization:
Websites that use identical content and colours across all countries and cultures are at a major disadvantage because of the impact diversity of values, norms and other differences have on how we interpret the world. Here are the key takeaways for optimizing a global website:
1. Research competitors: – To obtain a feel for whether your website is out of sync with the local culture conduct a competitor review of sites in the country concerned. This will give you the opportunity to look for similarities across your competitors’ websites that may indicate areas for A/B testing. (Just don’t copy your competitors; they don’t know what they’re doing either).
2. Focus on colours and words: –
There is sometimes a tendency to focus on purely transactional matters (e.g. payment methods) when adapting websites for an international audience. This is a mistake and I would recommend paying attention to your website colours and the language you use to ensure the site conforms to local preferences.
3. Use qualitative research to get a local perspective: – In addition, use local contacts, such as colleagues and suppliers to obtain feedback on your site in different countries. I’m surprised how often I come across websites and apps where it is obvious that a key page or journey has not had input from someone in the targeted country. Don’t fall into this trap as it is dangerous to rely solely on website experts who are not embedded in local culture.
4. Consider cultural dimensions and context: – Utilise the country comparison tool to understand the cultural dimensions of your audience and how contextualised your website needs to be. The more your website can reflect local cultural preferences the more likely your visitors will happily engage and interact with your content. However, use testing to ensure you validate your hypothesis as there needs to be a return on investment as otherwise you may be better spending your money elsewhere.
4. Serve targeted content: – A/B testing is also ideal for evaluating the use of dynamic content to target images and messages that are responsive to how different cultures see the world. This allows
you to increase conversions by using geo-targeting (i.e. based upon country IP address) or other cultural indicators and let the data guide your website design.
Both of these Hertz websites are on the same domain and root
directory (Hertz.com), but have different languages, visuals and appropriate text.
5. Analyse customer behaviour: – Cultural targeting
has perhaps the greatest potential for your existing customers where you can track and analyse their behaviour over time. Use your customer database to analyse behaviour by cultural indicators to see if you can identify key cultural drivers to their behaviour. Alternatively try A/B testing personalisation based upon cultural differences to see what impact this has on your KPIs.
6. Multiculturalism: – Due to the increasing influence and spread of cultural preferences across the globe there are likely to be opportunities to segment by cultural indicators even in your home
country. There are strong cultural and racial indicators, such as customer names, that you can utilise to segment your customers by and test the performance of targeted content.
Given the complexity of the human psyche and the pervasive power of cultural influences on our behaviour it is dangerous to assume anything when trying to improve website performance. Make A/B and multivariate testing your friend and guide in the multicultural jungle.
Thank you for reading my post. If you found this post of value please share it with your contacts by using the social network icons below or at the top of the page.
About the author: Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for brands such as Deezer.com, Foxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com. He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.
Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website. If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to email@example.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.
Are you annoying visitors by having icons without labels?
Labels are helpful right? Without labels we are unable to categorise products, services, websites, cars, even people and many other things. So WTF – I keep coming across websites and apps that use icons with no labels. Are they completely mad or do they think it is cool to create uncertainty and confusion among their visitors?
Here are the latest navigation icons from Tumblr. I use Tumblr a few times a week but I still can’t remember what all the icons stand for. Inventing new icons and not giving them clear labels just creates ambiguity, confusion and ultimately frustration from a user perspective. Many of us have tested the infamous hamburger button and found it inferior to a simple “Menu” label.
Ok, so labels can have negative associations if they are misleading or inappropriate for the situation. But if you are unsure what the best label is then A/B test them to confirm which is most effective. Labels can also work to your advantage as vivid descriptive labels can help to create images in our mind that grab out attention and encourage a positive response. Buffer has the “Awesome” plan for their more active customers. Why use a boring term when you can inspire people.
Labels are immensely powerful as they frame how we perceive a situation or event. For instance people are psychologically more driven to avoid a loss than a potential gain. We can use this to our advantage by framing an action from the perspective of a potential loss. VWO use a label on their alternative CTA that reinforces what a visitor will miss out on if they don’t click on the primary CTA. This makes it psychologically uncomfortable for the visitor to click on the alternative CTA. This in turn makes the primary CTA appear even more appealing.
Avoid confusing simplicity with a minimalistic approach:
One of the reasons why icons are used without labels appears to be that simplicity is confused with having a minimalistic approach. This often leads to over-simplicity which risks creating more friction and cognitive load because key navigation elements are either hidden or sit behind meaningless icons that new visitors cannot be expected to decode. Sure, try for a simple design, but think very carefully before you remove anything in case it assists the user journey.
Zeebox is a case in point where they thought their app would benefit from removing the top navigation buttons by introducing a side-menu activated by the now derided hamburger button. They thought this would de-clutter their app and give more prominence to their content.
However, after they implemented the new design they found that engagement time halved. They had to rush out an update to undo the damage and decided to A/B test it next time. When they did A/B test a new version of the side-menu it was again a disaster. Needless to say they did not implement a side-menu.
Navigation is crucial to an app or website’s success and so make sure you A/B test new architecture before implementing it. Just because Facebook is testing something new don’t assume it will work on your site. Even Facebook have added labels to their persistent bottom navigation. So, please stop annoying your visitors by using icons without labels.
Thank you for reading my post. If you found it useful please share it using the social media icons below.
Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website. If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, check out the Conversion Uplift Facebook page or connect on LinkedIn.