Customers are social beings that are heavily influenced through their friends, family and the testimony of others. The three main types of social proof that will drive customers to purchase a product or service include reviews and testimonials, referrals, and other customers also viewed suggestions.

“What is social proof? Put simply, it’s the positive influence created when someone finds out that others are doing something. It’s also known as informational social influence.” Aileen Lee

Businesses can use social proof within their marketing efforts to improve their sales. Including reviews, referrals and other customer recommendations can drastically increase a company’s sales. Amazon has implemented all three of these tools to become the largest online retailer.

Reviews and Testimonials

Reviews and testimonials are the most effective marketing technique that a company can use. Customers tend to view review and testimonials as the wisdom of the crowds. A review from a user is more powerful than an advertisement because reviewers are not seen as financially invested in your purchase. In fact, customer testimonials are considered to have the highest effectiveness rating for content marketing at 89%. (Social Fresh)

When researching companies, consumers look towards outside sources. It is easy for a business to toot their own horn. However, getting other people to say great things about them is social proof that their reputation is good. Chris Anderson, former editor of Wired, put it well when he stated:

“Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what Google says it is.”

Therefore, you’ll want to ensure that Google knows there are lots of positive reviews out there about your brand. You can do that through encouraging customers to write reviews and testimonials.

Testimonials help to create an emotional appeal for your brand. This in turn generates a feeling of connection with the customer. They often will identify ways that their situation is similar to the testimonial to justify purchasing the product. By increasing the amount of emotional intensity, brands receive 3X as much word of mouth referrals as less emotionally connected brands.

Videos and photos can assist in helping customers feel more emotionally connected and engaged with brands. According to Hubspot, videos and photos are 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content. As customers engage online and share your videos and photos, they are more likely to get the word out about your product.

Testimonials also facilitate word of mouth promotion through an increase of trust. According to BrightLocal’s 2017 Consumer Review survey, 88% of people trust the reviews that are written by other customers as much as their own friends’ and family’s recommendations.

A good example of testimonials promoting a brand online is Cirkul. They combined a free offer with a referral program. The customers took to YouTube to review their products when they received them. Cirkul did not have to pay for the videos and many of them had a very wide reach. Not only could the network of the video creators learn about Cirkul’s flavored water, but people who searched for Cirkul reviews on youtube could discover the opinions of current customers.

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How can you increase your testimonials?

Satisfied customers won’t automatically write a review for your business. However, there are a few things that you can do to encourage your customers to write reviews and testimonials. First and foremost, you can ask a customer at the time of purchase for a review.

Create and implement a loyalty reward program. Happy customers will participate in loyalty rewards programs. They will quickly provide a testimonial for your service or product if it leads to a reward. These rewards can be as simple as a discount off their next purchase to a few points in their rewards program.

You should approach your best customers individually. These customers are definitely going to give you a great testimonial. The simple act of reaching out to them personally will strengthen your relationship with them. It will in turn increase their loyalty and make them feel special.

Identify the aspects of your product or service that you would like your customers to report on in their review. Often people need writing prompts to create a review. You can create questions to guide your customers along the testimonial writing process. For example, “Was the customer service good?” “Did you receive your product on time?” “Were you satisfied with the quality?” “How much money did the product save you?”

Request a video or picture. Videos and pictures increase the trust level. When video is used on a landing page it will increase conversions by 80% or more. Therefore, including a video or photo will greatly improve your chances of making a sale.

Where to place the testimonials?

Testimonials are very effective on landing pages. They also can be included in product pages, on the main website and in emails. Sharing testimonials on social media is extremely effective, especially if it is done with videos and pictures.

Other excellent places to use customer testimonials are:

  1. Sales pages
  2. Exit intent popups
  3. Contact pages
  4. Under blog posts
  5. In the sidebar
  6. Social media pages
  7. A testimonial page

It is an excellent idea to create a page dedicated to testimonials. This can be a great asset to your potential customers. Customers who are on the fence about purchasing a product often will be persuaded by reading a testimonial. Make it easy for them to find by having a page with customer testimonials.

Referrals and Loyalty

Referral marketing is very powerful. Happy customers can get the word out about your brand much faster and better than any means of advertising. Referral Marketing generates 3-5x higher conversion rates than any other channel. Not only that, but referred customers are 4 times more likely to refer more customers to your brand.

“One customer, well taken care of, could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising.” – Jim Rohn, Motivational Speaker

Referral marketing can also help you to build your brand awareness. According to the Nielson 2012 Social Media report, 65% of social media users discover brands, products and services through their social networks. As friends and family in your network learn of a recommended brand, they often share it with their friends. Brand awareness then increases.

How do businesses encourage referral marketing?

The first step is to ensure that your customers know about the program. You will want to place information about your referral program in prominent places. Place a link to your referral program on your homepage. You can include it in a drop down menu or on a header bar. Another great place to notify customers of your referral program is in the main site body.

A post-purchase email notification can be a great way to inform your customers about the referral program. After a purchase, they are more likely to open an email from your business and are in a buying mood. They feel positive about your brand and are more likely to share the link with their friends right after they’ve made a purchase.

Keeping your referral program at the top of a customer’s mind is key to a successful referral marketing campaign. With busy lifestyles, many people tend to forget about referring their friends. Having a strategy to consistently remind your customers of a referral program can be the key to success.

Social media provides an excellent way to keep the referral program on the mind of a customer. It is interactive and you can frequently provide a picture reminder of the program. It is important to vary the rewards and promotionals, so your messaging doesn’t get stale. Below is an example of the Topbox referral program being shared on social media.

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Email marketing is another great way to ensure that you are reminding customers to engage in your referral marketing program. It is simple to include the referral marketing program link in your email signature. When you create new promotionals, send out an email to notify your list that they can earn referral bonuses.

Other Customers Also Viewed

If you’ve been shopping on ecommerce sites lately, you may have noticed that there has been an increase in the number of products recommended to you after making a purchase. Amazon does this often by sharing what other people purchased. This marketing technique targets other products that may be useful to you.


Amazon has mastered the social proof technique of using recommendations and suggestions from other customer’s purchases. The Amazon recommendations are based on a few elements: past purchases, items they have in their shopping cart, items customers have liked and rated, as well as what other customers have viewed and purchased.

Amazon refers to this recommendation process as “item-to-item collaborative filtering.” It’s used this algorithm to tailor the browsing experience for each returning customer. This ensures that new moms will get recommendations on baby products and gadget lovers will see the latest device recommendation.

Based on Amazon’s success rate, the recommendation tool works. They reported 29% sales increase to $12.83 billion during its second fiscal quarter. This is up from $9.9 billion last year. Much of that growth is due to the integrated recommendations into each part of the purchasing process.

Below is an example of Amazon’s customers’ also viewed recommendations after I looked at Levi jeans for tall women. As you can see, they came up with more variations to recommend to me.

Customers who viewed

Ecommerce sites like Magento and Shopify have apps that will customize recommendations for your customers. WooCommerce even has a plugin for this type of feature. This is one more way to increase your order total. Consumers are affected by the product choice of other customers. They tend to purchase similar items. For that reason, it is ideal to gather data on what items customers purchase and use it to make theoretic combinations of products.

Using a “customers also viewed” tool allows you to sell more products without spending more to attract new customers. This tool can be set to automatically display related products. It is also relatively easy to install.

Fear of Missing Out

The “Customers Also Viewed” tool implements a type of fear of missing out marketing. People don’t like being left behind or missing the trends. Therefore, they will check out the items that other people are buying. Often, if visitors on your site know that other people are buying a product, they’ll want to buy it as well.

This Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) occurs because there is a psychological trigger that triggers a response. We like to be included as part of a group. Social proof online ties into this need. If other people are liking, sharing, engaging and even buying, we want to do it too. It provides a sense of belonging and the idea that we won’t miss out.

FOMO marketing is most effective with millenials. According to Strategy Online, 69% of millennials experience this phenomenon and 60% of millennials make purchases due to FOMO.

Some other great ways to take advantage of this FOMO psychology that drives millennial purchases is to highlight missed opportunities in your messaging by displaying sold out items. You can also show stock levels and alert customers that the product is almost out. Using a countdown popup can also create a sense of urgency that will trigger a purchase as well.


As you can see, social proof is a strong driver in commerce. Savvy consumers are turning not only to their friends and family for product reviews and recommendations, but also to online reviews. They trust the reviews of others online almost as much as people that they actually know. The social proof is creating a type of connection between customers and often they will make a purchase based on seeing that other people were interested in an item.

Creating and implementing social proof in your marketing can help increase your conversion rate. Therefore, it is important to design an effective marketing plan that includes a combination of reviews, recommendations, and referrals.