Social Proof 101: How to Use It to Increase by 18%+ in Sales

Would you prefer a product that is unheard of and no one’s interested to buy over a highly demanded item with good reviews?

I think any rational person knows the answer to that: one will always choose the latter.

But, what’s the reason behind this? This is because people are mostly drawn towards something that other people are clamoring for.

This is exactly what social proof is all about. If you’re wondering how you can use social proof to propel your sales, then you’re in a treat today.

This guide will show you the basics and types of social proof to help you better understand the concept. But more than that, we’ll help you navigate how you can apply social proof strategies into your eCommerce site to boost sales.

What is social proof?

The term social proof first appeared in the 1984 book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, authored by Robert Cialdini. It states that we determine what is correct by finding out what other people think is correct.

Whether it’s about how fast we drive on a specific road or how we peel an unfamiliar fruit, we first understand the actions of those around us before deciding what to do.

In other words, the principle of social proof views the people’s tendency to see an action as more appropriate when other people are doing it.

The 1960s elevator experiment is a classic example of how social proof is at work. Basically, an individual will copy what a group of people is doing inside of the elevator. For example, if the group faces the back of the elevator, then the individual will likely copy it and do the same thing.

Why use social proof in eCommerce?

In the eCommerce industry, social proof is used in an attempt to influence the behavior of buyers, especially those who are unfamiliar with a brand, by displaying obvious clues (e.g. customer reviews) that others have purchased from a specific online store before.

Social proof also provides a convenient shortcut for shoppers who are deciding what products to buy by simply looking at how others behave. Shoppers want to know if a product is worth enough to purchase. The more people purchasing a product, the more potential shoppers will be encouraged to purchase it too. This is why social proof is a great conversion driver.

In a Consumerist study, almost 70% of online customers rely on recommendations from other people before making any kind of purchase. This is echoed by a case study from Reevoo which saw an increase in revenue by 18% when the social proof is applied by online stores.

What are the types of social proof?

Any good feedback you receive for your business or product is a form of social proof. Generally, it’s an endorsement from your previously satisfied customers. However, it’s not limited to this.

There are many forms of social proof that you’ve probably never thought of before. Here are different types of social proof:

  • Customer reviews
  • Social following/likes/shares
  • Testimonials
  • Case studies
  • Celebrity endorsements
  • Influencer endorsements
  • Expert advice
  • Press reviews
  • Credible certifications/accreditations
  • Affiliations
  • Purchase history

How to use social proof

Now that you’re familiar with social proof and its different types, let’s take a look at 12 ways and real-life examples on how you can use social proof in your eCommerce store:

1 – Leverage a product’s high demand

A highly demanded product is a sign that a lot of customers are satisfied with it. This is the very foundation of social proof. We automatically assume that people have a good reason for purchasing a particular product. This is even more magnified if there’s a huge number of purchases made for that item.

If you have a product with a high number of orders, don’t be modest about it. Display how many people have purchased it. Your potential customers will certainly start considering that product if they see that a large number of customers have purchased it already.

displays the number of past orders

Social Proof Example: Always Riding displays the number of past orders for a certain product with a ‘Purchase History’ section at the bottom of the product page. Here’s a guide to show the number of products sold on the product page.

Alternatively, you can also take advantage of your products’ popularity by simply creating a ranking of your bestselling items. You can display them via your homepage or create a bestseller landing page to showcase your most popular products.

creating a ranking of bestselling items

Social Proof Example: Amazon showcases its highly demanded products with its Amazon Best Sellers page. The bestselling items are ranked according to the most number of orders. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a landing page.

2 – Increase urgency by displaying scarcity

Displaying a product’s scarcity is an alternative way to tell customers that your product is so highly popular that it’s likely to sell out soon. A low inventory level automatically triggers the FOMO (fear of missing out) psychology. FOMO states that people become anxious if they feel that they are being left out or missing something.

If your potential shoppers see that a product’s supply is limited or low, they will start thinking that a lot of people are ordering it. They will also begin considering to purchase it because they don’t want to find it out of stock soon.

Show limited or low product's supply

Social Proof Example: The “Only a few left!” call-to-action right below the product name and price used by Sugarcane Market is a great way to get visitors to check them out.

Countdown Cart - Stock Countdown widgetThe Stock Countdown feature of the Countdown Timer app will help you show the number of items left in stock for a particular item. You can show this scarcity strategy either on the product page or checkout page.

3 – Show specific product reviews for each product

Customer product reviews are definitely one of the most popular types of social proof. 61% of customers read product reviews first before buying a product. But, instead of just randomly displaying product reviews, it’s more effective if you display the real customer reviews for a specific product.

If the review is for a specific water bottle, then it should be displayed on that specific water bottle’s product page. This will help your shoppers to understand more about the product they are interested to buy because specific reviews are being shown.

display customers' reviews

Social Proof Example: Argos only display the specific customer review for a product on the product page. To do this, you can collect authentic product reviews from your customers and display them on a specific product page using Bazaar Voice.

Also, make sure to highlight the key points of customer reviews and then group them together to help your shoppers quickly know the real sentiments of previous customers by simply looking at the grouped reviews.

For instance, you can create two main groupings: ‘Pros’ and ‘Cons’. This will split the reviews into positives and negatives. You can then categorize the reviews based on main points like if a product is easy to install then create a sub-group title in your ‘Pros’ list to group them together.

Divide Pros & Cons reviewsSocial Proof Example: Sonos perfectly summarizes its customer reviews by dividing them into two groups: Pros and Cons. The ‘Pros’ list contains all the positive reviews and similar sentiments are grouped together in a sub-category that best describes the reviews.

Implement this kind of powerful social proof by using Power Reviews. It allows you to divide reviews into positive and negative section and then aggregate similar reviews into a specific sub-category.

4 – Display on-site activities

Aside from using the number of purchase orders, you can use other on-site activities to increase your social proof. On-site activities are the actions that your visitors do whenever they are viewing your site. These actions could be browsing, adding items on their carts, or simply clicking the wish list button.

You can do the same thing with your eCommerce store. Here are some on-site activities that you can display to your online store:

  • Number of people who are browsing a product
  • A person who recently viewed an item
  • Number of wish lists for a specific product
  • A person who recently wish listed an item

show number of views of a product

Social Proof Example: Tendencia Wood displays a corner popup telling visitors that 43 people have viewed the similar product they are currently looking at.

Beeketing actually offers an app that can specifically add this type of social proof to your store. It has a social proof feature that allows you to not only display a popup of the number of people who viewed a specific item but also the number of add-to-cart orders.

5 – Use social media numbers

Important social media numbers like the total number of followers are a good way to display social proof. Your social media presence is one of the things that potential customers look at to validate if you’re a legitimate seller or not.

Aside from your social followers, you can also show the number of social shares for particular products or contents. People are more likely going to prioritize to check out products or read contents if they see that hundreds or thousands of people shared it.

social media share

Social Proof Example: Taloon displays social media share count on the product page.

You can do this by simply enabling the Social Media Share Buttons & Social Sharing Icons app to display the share count of your contents as well as make it easy for your viewers to share them.

6 – Don’t forget about customer satisfaction ratings

Written reviews are important because they give potential shoppers an in-depth discussion about the product they’re about to purchase. However, there are also shoppers who are highly visual. This is why enabling ratings as a way of reviewing a product is also essential.

There are many types of customer satisfaction ratings. They usually come in a 5-point scale (5 being the highest) which are a lot quicker to grasp compared to a written review. You can use numbers, stars, percentage, thumbs up, hearts, and a lot more to visually display your 5-point rating scale. The idea is, the more people giving a 5-star rating for a specific product, then the more people will be inclined to try that product as well.

show 5-star reviews and number of people who review

Social Proof Example: AO displays a 5-star rating on the bottom of a product page. It also shows how many users in a specific star. You can steal this social proof example by using the WP Review tool. It is complete with different rating scales like stars, circles, and a lot more.

7 – Share important milestones

A very fast way to build social proof in your store is by simply sharing important milestones that you have reached. It’s not that you’re bragging but sharing your milestones is a way to thank your customers and the people who helped you achieve them.

The following are important milestones that you can share with your audience while at the same time increasing your social proof:

  • Reaching an X no. of customers
  • Reaching an X no. of orders
  • Reaching an X no. of subscribers
  • Reaching an X no. of app downloads

You can display your milestones on your website’s homepage or ‘About Us’ page. Plus, it’s also a good idea to share these milestones on your social media account. Encourage your followers to repost so you can reach more audience too.

show your milestones on social media

Social Proof Example: When Piktochart celebrated its 5th anniversary, it hosted a giveaway contest on Twitter to encourage retweets from its followers. The tweet included a picture displaying the number of users and purchases they’ve reached within 5 years.

8 – Exhibit customer testimonials

Because customer testimonials are genuine reviews made by real people, this automatically provides credibility and trust to your online store. A testimonial is a persuasive marketing strategy because it validates your product’s authenticity from the feedback of people who have tried and tested it before.

In fact, 74% of online shoppers say that they trust an online store with honest testimonials. There are many ways you can showcase your customer testimonials. Here are the most popular ones that you can use to increase social proof:

  • Quote testimonials: Usually, quote testimonials are snippets taken out from a customer review or survey feedback. These quotes summarize the principal idea without the need to show the entire feedback or review. You can simply add quote testimonials on your homepage sliders or on the bottom of a product page.

quote testimonials

Social Proof Example: Poo-Pourri adds an automatic slideshow of quote testimonials on its homepage.

  • Video testimonials: Aside from written testimonials, you might also want to consider video testimonials as a social proof strategy. Video testimonial immediately stands out because shoppers can see real people talking about you. You can upload video testimonials through your store or even share them on social media to reach more audience.

video testimonials
Social Proof Example: Obagi has a dedicated page showcasing video testimonials from their past customers who have seen real results using their products.

9 – Showcase employee testimonials

Your employees are people too and they are the best people who can testify about the legitimacy of your online store. This is because they see first-hand how your products are made and how your online store operates.

Your goal is to make a healthy and happy working environment so that your employees will be your own brand ambassadors. This will help you build trust in your potential shoppers. In fact, employee reviews are one of the most trusted (16%) sources of product information.

So why not showcase your employees? You can add employee testimonials by interviewing your staff about how your products are produced and managed by them. You can also show behind the scenes footage and share their stories while at work.

showcase your employees

Social Proof Example: The Chief of Product from Casper shared a testimonial of how they produced their products. Plus, they also recorded a behind-the-scenes video of the production.

10- Highlight press reviews

Media outlets or simply the press are important news gatekeepers. Because of this, people usually depend on what they say. When you hear about the press, you’ll immediately think they’ll give you unbiased opinions.

This is why it’s important to showcase press reviews into your website to immediately gain a strong social proof. To increase your chances of scoring reviews from the press, make sure you attend important events within your industry where press involvement is present. This will help you build a connection with the right media personnel.

Highlight press reviews

Social Proof Example: Qardio scored many reviews from highly sought after press and media outlets.

11 – Look for celebrity endorsements

Whenever people see that an online store is being endorsed or a product is being used by a celebrity, this immediately adds status and reputation to your brand. Well-known celebrities often have a huge social media following so when they mention your brand, this will already put you under a spotlight.

While you can opt for paid celebrity endorsements, this will be pretty expensive. Depending on your brand, you can look for local celebs that match your brand. For example, if you are a fashion store, collaborate with aspiring models.

Look for celebrity endorsements

Social Proof Example: Marucci, a baseball and softball merchandise store, partnered with Francisco Lindor, a well-known professional baseball shortstop.

This might be tedious but as an alternative, you can proactively look for statements made by celebs during interviews. Often, local celebrities are asked about the products they use like beauty regimens or fashion tips. Their fans love to know more about their normal routines.

Eminence Organics's blog displaying all the celebrity endorsements they have scored.

Social Proof Example: Eminence Organics has a blog displaying all the celebrity endorsements they have scored.

12 – Ask reviews from industry experts

Aside from celebrities, industry experts such as well-known professionals and business leaders are also highly regarded by customers. People regard them as authority figures because they have acquired skills and knowledge from their respective fields.

For instance, if you’re home and furniture store, reviews and testimonials from interior designers give more credibility to your brand because they have the expertise on the art and science of enhancing the interior of a space. You can add a hero image (just like below) of their expert reviews to your homepage or product page so that shoppers will instantly notice them.

Qardio asked for a testimonial from an expert doctor.

Social Proof Example: Qardio, an online store selling blood pressure monitor devices, asked for a testimonial from an expert doctor.

Intensify your social proof

Social proof is a psychological and social theory that explains why people are looking for other people’s advice and recommendations before deciding to buy. Because potential customers know that others have purchased a product before, they’ll gain confidence when shopping from an unknown store or unfamiliar products.

To increase your sales, our 12 ways on how to use social proof will surely make your shoppers feel more comfortable purchasing from your online store. Do you know other social proof tactics that you’ve tried and tested? Share them below and we’ll be glad to feature them soon too!

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