Social proof is a powerful psychological principle that has been used to boost sales for centuries. Primarily, social proof utilizes FOMO (fear of missing out) to persuade undecided shoppers to make a purchase decision.
Online retailers are well-positioned to leverage this tactic by using social media testimonials in product descriptions, offering discounts or deals when a customer completes a purchase with a friend’s referral, leveraging influencers to recommend products, and many other ways!
Even the most novice ecommerce marketers appreciate the role of psychology in purchase decisions—particularly online where there are so many options available without the physical limitations that you find in brick-and-mortar stores (like shelf space).
This being said, savvy business owners can use social proof in seven ways to strategically nudge consumers towards purchasing their products in 2021.
What Is Social Proof?
Social proof is a psychological concept that suggests people are more likely to do things if they see other people doing them. This idea of normative social influence means we will also conform to be liked or accepted by the influencer (or society).
So when you see product reviews, product awards, celebrity endorsements they are all forms of social proof designed to influence purchase decisions. Essentially, social proof is borrowing third-party influence to sway potential buyers.
Why Is Social Proof Important?
To simply understand the importance of social proof, take a look at these powerful statistics below:
- 97% of consumers say online reviews impact their purchasing decisions
- 91% of 18-34-year-olds trust online social proof reviews as much as recommendations from someone close to them
- 100% of those aged between 18-29 said they “checked reviews before making a purchase” in a 2018 eMarketer survey
- 93.4% of online shoppers rely on customer reviews when researching online retailers they are not familiar with
If your website doesn’t have reviews, customers could potentially see that as a red flag. Likewise, if you’re not controlling places where negative reviews are present (TrustPilot, GMB, Yelp), it could be deterring potential buyers.
Within various studies, social proof has been found to increase conversions rates and help websites drive more sales.
So let’s get into how you can use social proof on your website to do just that.
7 Ways You Can Use Social Proof On Ecommerce Websites
1. Product Reviews
This is one of the most well-known social proof tactics because it’s so easy to implement. Research from Bazaarvoice found that conversion rates of product pages with reviews are up to 3.5 times higher than those that don’t have them, so it’s an essential tactic for any ecommerce store to leverage.
Social proof can:
- Nurture trust through its sense of transparency
- Create a feeling of confidence: “If that customer loved it, I will too!”
- Answer questions to remove potential barriers to purchase
In order to collect this type of social proof, make it as easy as possible for customers to leave a review either on social media or your website when they complete a purchase. You can also maximize the level of feedback you receive by asking customers to leave a review in exchange for a discount.
2. Urgency Signals
Creating a sense of urgency can be very effective in driving sales. When deployed well, urgency can be used to persuade both customers who are on the fence about a purchase and last-minute shoppers.
Urgency signals are most effective when it is clear that an item is in limited supply because this drives feelings of FOMO, which often convinces shoppers to make a spontaneous decision.
A sense of urgency has consistently proven to be a key ingredient in driving purchase decisions from consumers, but it only works if you know how to deploy it correctly!
To simulate this experience online, ecommerce retailers can create the feeling that a consumer is competing with others by displaying how many people are viewing, or have viewed, a product while they’re browsing the product page. This tactic is achieved using apps and on-page tools that show visitor and view counts.
Remember: when people feel like they’re running out of options, they’ll shop more impulsively to avoid feelings of regret down the line!
3 – Scarcity Signals
Along with urgency, scarcity is one of the go-to tactics for marketers as it creates a desire for immediate action.
When shopping within a brick-and-mortar store, shoppers can see exactly how many items are left in stock – but digital stores cannot replicate this experience. However, ecommerce retailers can warn customers about low stock levels by giving specific numbers (i.e., “Hurry – only 3 left!”), or simply indicating that there’s limited inventory available.
4. User-Generated Content
One way to convince potential buyers that a product will suit them is by showing it in action with real customers. Joseph Joseph does this very well. Whilst their ‘above the fold’ content is fairly standard for a product page, when you scroll down a bit further you’ll see something very clever.
Joseph Joseph uses a scrolling social feed of user-generated content under the headline “Joseph Joseph At Home”. This form of social proof is one of the most authentic you can get, with real customers using their range of products in a variety of ways.
5. Questions & Answers
Your product page should be designed to answer all of the questions a potential buyer may have. However, consumers will always have questions you haven’t thought of.
One way to address this and answer any lingering doubts is to have a Q&A section on your product page.
A nice example of this is rvupgradestore, which has a Q&A section where visitors can ask specific questions.
According to the case study from AnswerBase, they also converted 75% of asked questions into a new sale.
6. Trust Badges
There are many ways to validate your ecommerce store. One way is getting a thumbs-up from customers, team members, or industry experts – which can be as simple as them liking and commenting on pictures of you in action.
But there’s another powerful social proof that’s becoming more widespread: trust badges.
Whether it’s an online badge displaying approval from a respected organization – such as the Better Business Bureau – or a physical one – printed onto clothing labels for use at trade shows, for example – trust badges distinguish themselves among others and assign authority based on what their audience desires most: ensuring buyers don’t end up with regret due to a lack of information upfront.
Trust badges come in many different forms:
- Accepted Payment Badges: Customer confidence increases when they see a recognizable logo. That’s why accepted logos are so effective for payment options – visitors feel confident that the site is safe when they see Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and PayPal all listed. For best practice, these buttons should be placed in the footer of your website and can also be listed on your payment page.
- Certifications: The trust badges on your website are all about proving that you’re a credible business. These programs usually involve an application and review process, so they signal to customers who you are – an established company with good reviews. Cruelty-free makeup brand, Covergirl, displays the prestigious Leaping Bunny certification on their products to build trust with their customers, and also display that their products are approved by impartial, third-party organizations.
- Free shipping and free returns badges: A “Free Shipping” and/or “Free Returns” badge will build confidence among your customers. When a shopper sees this, it removes any potential concerns about extra fees they may incur for ordering or returning items from your online store, which in turn boosts sales.
7. Utilize Best Seller Recommendations
If someone else has purchased something, we are given an instant sense that that product is worth purchasing – and this psychological phenomenon is exactly how “best seller” product categories work.
Grouping products into best sellers automatically drives curiosity and reassurance. If many people are buying these products, then they are likely to be a good investment.
Ecommerce retailers can use the same principle to help sell their items. In the below example, Estēe Lauder’s popular products feature prominently on the website’s navigation bar, while compelling copy is also used in the headers.
The best way for ecommerce websites to boost sales is by leveraging customer psychology through design cues that guide shoppers towards what they want before realizing it themselves.
One tactic might involve using images of other customers who are also buying selected product options – not only does this show us how much others have enjoyed these items, it subtly guides their decision-making process too.
By highlighting certain designs over others (either through filters, descriptions, or image placement), shoppers become more likely to purchase because the sense of FOMO kicks in.
There are many other ways you can utilize best-seller recommendations on your website, different positions, and designs so you may even wish to split test a couple of different ideas to see which one works best for you.
For example, you could try showing best-selling SKUs on the homepage to 50% of your visitors to see if that increases the sales of those specific products. Likewise, you could decide to show all homepage visitors a bestseller list just 50/50 split test the design to see which performs better.
Social proof is a must-use tactic for any ecommerce website looking to increase their conversions rates. Depending on the ecommerce platform your website is made on, these features may already be built-in. If not, it will be worth taking time to identify a social proof solution that can integrate with it.
Using any of the above seven social proof tactics should give your website a boost. Just make sure you’re in a position to track its impact once implemented.
About the Author – James Garnier is a Content Marketing Manager at Yieldify. 63% of marketers struggle with eCommerce personalization. With Yieldify, you won’t be one of them. Brands such as Adidas, Qantas, and L’Oreal turn to the Yieldify platform and support team to improve their customer journeys and increase revenues.