Expert opinions can carry more influence in purchase decisions than others. Not always, of course, but in some situations.

Home Depot launched a new video series last month featuring an expert influencer, Martha Stewart, to inspire new home gardening projects and steer viewers toward certain products. In “Ask Martha” videos, she answers some of the most-asked questions across categories, pulled from the brand’s consumer Q&A on the brand site. And in “Learn & Do” videos, she walks viewers through do-it-yourself projects like home organization and gardening.

It’s a great example of a brand acting as a publisher to inspire new needs in consumers while also proving valuable, sharable content that draws viewers in. Home Depot has especially embraced its role as a publisher, featuring how-to videos in aisles via mobile apps and QR codes, and offering in-store do-it-yourself classes.

But what defines an expert today? No one can argue with Martha Stewart’s gardening chops. But not every brand can afford to land their category’s Martha – especially not for an extended campaign. How can these brands give more credibility to their products and services?

Create your own customer experts

Brands can identify and anoint their own customer experts using tools like helpfulness voting. Badge contributors who receive the most helpfulness votes as “most helpful” or “expert contributor,” and those who provide the most feedback and answers as “top contributor” – adding credence to their content across your site.

Badging these advocates as experts also feeds their ego and gives them recognition, making them want to keep contributing. Create leaderboards of the most helpful and active contributors to encourage them to participate even more. Thank them for being so active by inviting them to focus groups or offering unexpected perks.

Become the expert brand

On retail sites, brands that answer shopper questions – especially technical, fact-based questions – cultivate a helpful and expert image. “Can I wirelessly display my tablet’s screen on this smart TV?” “Which shades of eye shadow pair best with my eye color?”

Badge your brand experts on retail sites with your logo to add credibility to your answers. Our data shows that shoppers who interact with Q&A on product pages show 94% higher conversion – and that lift jumps to 111% when they interact with answers from brand reps. Shoppers also vote answers from brand reps 85% more helpful than those from other consumers.

Your branded answers live on the retail site forever, helping other shoppers who undoubtedly have the same question, says Sten Hallock, Senior Manager Online Marketing for Samsung:

“For every question you’re getting, there are ten people asking that question but just aren’t going to go through the hassle of writing it down, or assume it’s going to take a long time [to get an answer], or are going to go somewhere else.”

Place products in expert context

An expert needn’t be a specific person so much as a context. For example, take shoppable magazines. Young women read Teen Vogue and Elle because they trust the style tips – and studies show that shoppers are more open to ads when in researching and buying mode. They respect the magazine’s expertise in fashion, and therefore give attention to the products it curates. Of course it’s not new to advertise in magazines relevant to your category. But many of these magazines are adding shoppable functionality to their online and mobile editions, letting customers click through to the brand’s product page and buy – tacitly endorsed by the publishing brand for added credibility and more subtlety than an obvious ad.

Some TV shows are likewise becoming shoppable. CW’s Gossip Girl – a very fashion-focused program – has partnered with mobile app Shazam to make the wardrobe available for purchase. Viewers simply use the app during the episode, and Shazam loads product pages for the wardrobe seen in the scene. Unlike ads pushed on viewers during the program, these consumers have opted in to the content – self-identifying as interested in being marketed to.

Reveal every customer as an expert in their own way

In some categories like consumer electronics, buyers trust reviews from average consumers over those from expert, professional reviewers. It may be that shoppers in a complicated category like electronics relate better to casual users like them. A review from an amateur documentary filmmaker bashing a simple digital video camera’s lack of functionality won’t resonate with a dad looking for an easy-to-use camera for his daughter’s dance recitals. Many factors can make a particular reviewer an expert in a certain shopper’s eyes.

  • “They’re like me”: A Floridian praising a specific grass seed is more “expert” to a lawncare shopper in Ft. Lauderdale, due to their shared geography and weather conditions.
  • “They share my use case”: A reviewer describing their experience using a carpet cleaner to remove pet stains is more “expert” to a new puppy owner than the reviewer who details using the product on their children’s spilled finger paints.
  • “They have more experience than me”: A diaper genie review from a mother of three is more “expert” to an expecting first-time mom because the reviewer has been in her shoes (thrice!).

Help shoppers find the reviewers most expert to them by letting them search for specific keywords and filter by persona, geography, etc.

Truly, anyone can be an expert – a brand, a consumer, a publication, or a celebrity like Martha. Determine the right experts for your brand and budget, and start influencing.