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Alee Pingol

When it comes to marketing e-commerce brands, many advertisers seem to fixate on paid social media promotions, PPC ads, and other similar methods. While all of these certainly have their place in helping your e-commerce brand grow, they ultimately pale in comparison to word-of-mouth.

Yes, even when you are selling your products exclusively online, the old-school method of word-of-mouth can have a powerful impact on your ability to grow your customer base.

Surveys have found that 74 percent of customers rely on word-of-mouth as a “key influencer” when making a buying decision. This carries over to the online world, as well. There’s a reason so many people check out a product’s reviews on Amazon before they decide to make a purchase.

If you ignore word-of-mouth advertising, you stand to miss out on a lot of natural — and free — growth for your brand. The coffee scrub brand Frank Body is just one example of this.

How Frank Body Unleashed the Power of Word-of-Mouth

In an interview with Canva, Frank Body co-founder Jess Hatzis explains, “When we first launched, we sent our product to a whole bunch of people we thought were influential – makeup artists, beauty bloggers.” Over time, however, the founders quickly came to learn that their customers were the brand’s “most important and valuable ambassadors.”

As the brand encouraged customers to promote their products in personal posts (the social media equivalent of word-of-mouth), they actually discovered that the user-generated content could often outperform content produced by media influencers.

Naturally, the brand wanted to tap into this for even greater growth, and as a result, launched branded hashtags #FrankEffect and #LetsBeFrank. Customers are encouraged to share posts of themselves using the scrub, and monthly contests select winners of branded prize packages. Needless to say, this encourages frequent sharing by the brand’s most loyal customers, greatly increasing its reach.

Frank Body takes things even further with its Hotel Pink loyalty program. This loyalty program gives the brand’s customers “points” for almost any interaction — leaving a review, referring a friend, sharing a Frank Body post on Facebook or posting user-generated content. The loyalty program allows users to “level up,” with new incentives unlocking at higher levels.

While many of the incentives come in the form of product discounts, the loyalty program acts as a way of treating the most loyal customers as VIPs — further cementing brand loyalty. It’s worth noting that each of the incentives in the loyalty program are primarily focused on word-of-mouth activities that are most likely to bring new customers to the brand.

What started with a $5,000 investment has now grown into a booming beauty brand that achieves over $20 million in sales per year.

How Word of Mouth Can Help Any E-Commerce Brand

The case study of Frank Body’s word of mouth success offers a lot to unpack for any e-commerce brand. Perhaps most important of all is the idea of building a true community around the brand.

A big part of this came from how the brand’s co-founders developed Frank Body’s voice. In an interview with Forbes, Hatzis explained, “We needed to be humble, honest, and frank about our product and a variety of topics. So that led us to create the character of ‘frank’ in order to engage in a relatable, direct dialogue with our potential customers and we were prudent on carrying that voice through every touch point of our brand. It made us stand out in an otherwise cookie cutter industry.”

A strong brand persona made Frank Body’s content marketing stand out to customers — so when requests to post user-generated content were made, audiences were already engaged and eager to respond. Of course, incentivizing word-of-mouth also played a major role in the brand’s ability to continuously accrue user-generated content.

Research has actually found that frequent rewards for small tasks can help people become more engaged and motivated at work. Using a similar approach for a customer loyalty program (such as Frank Body’s tiered rewards model) keeps your most loyal customers continuously active.

This way, sharing the brand online doesn’t become a one and done thing. For many, it becomes a habit because there are worthwhile perks that come the more they share. With this type of setup in place, your initial group of customers is poised to become your greatest asset in achieving scalable, sustainable growth.

Of course, loyalty programs and a strong brand persona that supports a sharing mindset won’t do you any good if your products aren’t worth talking about. At the end of the day, e-commerce brands must first ensure that their products fulfill their promises so that customers will have good things to say and share. An amazing product that wows the user will get them talking much faster than any social media campaign ever could.

Time to Unleash the Power of Your Customers

While you will certainly need to invest in paid marketing to gain some of your initial customers, once you’ve successfully reached your target audience, it is time to use them to your advantage.

By implementing some of the tactics used by Frank Body and other successful e-commerce brands, you can create win-wins for you and your customers and build a true community around your brand.

Ultimately, word-of-mouth advertising is what will help you build an e-commerce brand that lasts — it’s time to get going!

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