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How Social Proof Can Hurt Your Revenue—And What to Do If It Does


Old Navy sells a line of women’s jeans called Rockstar. They’re incredibly popular, as evidenced by the rave reviews that customers leave. However, the line branches out of the traditional denim into colored jeans, and that’s where the customer love ends.

Old Navy Rockstar Jeans

At the top of the page, the first thing I saw was that, based on 240 ratings, these jeans got an average of just over two stars. After reading the less-than-favorable reviews, it was obvious that customers had similar complaints about the quality and consistency. And in fact, it could be deduced that these poor reviews were impacting how many conversions were happening. Besides the fact that the price had been slashed significantly, we also have to take into consideration to power of social proof.

When it comes to online shopping, people are definitely influenced by what their peers are saying. More to the point, how products are rated. If I see a product with a lot of reviews and very few stars, I’m off the page fast.

So what can Old Navy do better? And does this negate the efficacy of using ratings?

If anything, I think this proves just how powerful social proof is. Here’s a few ways that Old Navy—and you—can turn around a negative social proof experience.

If you’ve got it use it.

What’s the point of asking for ratings and reviews if you’re not going to listen to your customers? You’re getting feedback from the people who are spending money on your site. This is incredibly valuable data that should be used to optimize your site, your products and your customer’s experience.

If you’ve improved it, tell us.

The biggest thing that Old Navy is missing out on here is the chance to really show they listened to the customers. They have made these jeans “new and improved,” but it only gets a tiny nod in a small font. (I honestly saw that and assumed it was an “out of stock” message or something to that effect.)

What we’d do…

People like to know they’ve been heard. So first and foremost, acknowledge that the reviews were read and changes made because of them. I think it would be smart to have some bold, positive messaging at the top; something like:

You spoke, we listened. The Rockstar jeans are new and improved, thanks to YOU!

That’s not enough, though. “New and Improved” has no flavor without facts. How is it new and improved? Old Navy should try a few simple and effective bullet points that address the changes customers asked for:

• More accurate sizing

• New, better fabrics

• Extra stretch for a perfect fit

Old Navy Rockstar Jeans

Old Navy could also be shouting this message out in other places. Their home page features a big splash module about Rockstar Jeans. This is another perfect place to show that customers have been heard, changes have been made and the jeans are new, improved and on sale.

Put Your Social Media to Work

Old Navy Rockstar Jeans

Old Navy recently put on a fashion show in Bryant Park, featuring “everyday” women wearing Rockstar jeans. The Old Navy page on Facebook has heavy coverage of this, but it’s not where it could really have some social proof power, like on the product page online. Why not feature a video clip from the Rockstar runway show? It will work hard to dilute the negative reviews, and underline the improvements that have been made to the jeans.

BONUS idea

To get some sizzle back into their social proof, wouldn’t it be cool for Old Navy to really engage their customers? Here’s an idea: Choose 20 customers at random in a contest to receive a free pair of the new jeans and try them out, then review them. Not only would it be a great way to spotlight the changes and features, but it would start beefing up the positive reviews and ratings. Plus, it would underscore that the customer voice is heard.

The Proof Is in the Social Pudding

Social proof holds a lot of sway when it comes to influencing customer behavior. The important things to remember are to track the activity, take action with the data, and use it to turn things around if your ratings start taking a nosedive. How are you using social proof to your site’s advantage?