Yvo Wonders: Social proof, Asian style

Having stayed in Vietnam for the last three months made me realize some cultural differences between the Western and Eastern society. I noticed this for the first time during my first night in Hanoi. It was a Friday night in the busy ‘Old Quarter’ of Hanoi and the streets were filled with people as I just rolled out of my cab from the airport. My first culture shock. Everything was new and I could only rely on my Western inspired survival skills.

Last time I told you about my journey to Asia and how I try to translate the inspiration I get from the cultural differences into new ways to look at marketing. This blog post is the first part of this series.

I needed something to eat, but where to start? As I wandered the crowded, narrow streets I had to resist the urge to grab my phone and Google for restaurants in the area with good reviews. First of all, I didn’t travel all the way to Vietnam for a Whopper at Burger King or some fried chicken at KFC. I wanted to try out a genuine Vietnamese meal. Second of all, I didn’t have internet on my phone yet, so there was no point trying to use it. After walking around for some time and assessing my options, I decided to just go for a restaurant that had a significant number of customers, desperate for some food.

Although I did find some food and I managed to survive, the restaurant didn’t end up in my top places to eat in Hanoi and after a few months I can say there are more efficient ways of finding good Vietnamese restaurants in Hanoi. But I had to step out of my Western way of thinking in order to find out.

In my opinion, Western society can be described as an individually empowered one. The technological advancements in the past decades have enabled us to gain access to information from anywhere we are at any time. There are no social interactions needed to find a good restaurant in the area or to buy a new laptop or TV. However, we often find that not everything can be found on the internet and you can’t do or know everything on your own. Sometimes it’s as if we live in closed bubbles, silently passing each other in our daily lives.

What I noticed about the Eastern culture in Vietnam however, is that people rely more on each other. Ask a random Vietnamese person where to eat and they will give you a 5 minute monologue on their favorite restaurants in the area. Not only because they really want to help you, but also because that is just how it works here. Sure, you can use Google to find a restaurant. But the real gems can be found by the personal recommendation of others.

Clearly, there are differences to be spotted here. But there is one big similarity: we all want to find the gems. But to get there, we need a direction or some advice. As Robert Cialdini mentioned in one of his principles of persuasion, people like social proof. We are constantly looking around us to see what others are doing and base our decisions on them. And why wouldn’t we? The knowledge of the group is usually bigger than our own knowledge.

That’s why we scroll through Google or other platforms to find restaurants with good reviews and that’s why people in Vietnam use the people around them for advice in finding something to eat. But this is not just about restaurants. We look for social proof in everything we do. From finding a new dentist to buying a new TV. So let’s try to remove the barrier and learn from the openness of the Vietnamese culture. We know that people are looking for other’s opinions, why not proactively support them in this? To translate this to your business, I composed three points of advice that will surely help you to support your customers better.

  1. Knowledgeable staff
    Hire experts. Your customers will have questions, guaranteed. So make sure that you have the necessary expertise and remove the thresholds for customers to come to you. A good example is an in-store support centers where customers can come for advice or even get their products fixed. Another example is a personal style expert to help to pick out your new look, so that you don’t have to take your girlfriend (or mom ;-)) with you to pick out new jeans. But also make sure to be responsive on online channels like Facebook chat and support your customers with the advice they need at any place and any time.
  2. Influencer marketing
    Another great way to leverage social proof is to invite authorities to test or use your product. People tend to look at others to make their buying decisions. So people who are seen as authorities in any type of industry will be seen as an example by many. Use this by targeting the right authorities in your market to work together with them in return for massive exposure in your target market on Facebook, Instagram or any other channel your potential customers are active on.
  3. Embrace reviews
    My last point of advice is to use reviews to your advantage. They will be there and people will use them, whether you like it or not. How they turn out is something you can influence, but only when you stop ignoring them and embrace them like family. For one, you can ask customers to leave reviews.

A research of DTG pointed out that more than 2 out of 3 customers that participated leaves a review every once in a while and almost half of this group only did this because a company had invited them to do so. Additionally, a research conducted by Trusted Shops shows that customers who had a negative experience are more likely to leave a review compared to customers who had a positive one. So a proactive attitude towards reviews might wake up the sleeping fans. But asking for a review is not only important for delivering social proof, it also gives you relevant information on what you are doing right or wrong. Plus, rewarding your customers after leaving feedback gives you the opportunity to increase customer loyalty.

In addition to this: work together with reviewing websites. They usually have a large reader base and can influence consumers in their buying process. Therefore try to support them with any information or resources they need to write a commendable review about your product or service.

How do you leverage social proof in your business? Share your knowledge in the comments below.

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