Free-Photos / Pixabay

Jump in! The Water’s Fine!

Social proof has become a hot topic in ecommerce, but what is it, exactly?

Social proof is a sales tactic based on the psychological principle of Informational Social Influence. In essence, the principle states that when people are unsure of how to act, they tend to imitate the behavior of others.

Thus, if you can demonstrate that people like, trust, and purchase from your site, it will make future customers more likely to do so. Simple right?

Social proof demonstrates the legitimacy of your site, builds consumer trust, and encourages new customers to “hop on the bandwagon.”

Is Social Proof a New Idea?

Although the term “social proof” wasn’t coined until 1984, the use of past customer experiences to drive purchases is as old as sales itself. Testimonial campaigns featuring stories from real customers have been a staple of television advertisements for decades.

A recent example comes from Tillamook, a large Oregon-based cheese company with a cult-following. The brand recently launched an ad campaign featuring die-hard fans of the company – from a professional chef to a couple who had a Tillamook-themed wedding. In short, social proof isn’t new. But it is becoming more important in the age of ecommerce.

Applications in Ecommerce

There are a number of ways to create social proof in an ecommerce context. These cost-effective forms of marketing enhance your brand and create a sense of trust between your current and prospective customers. Let’s take a look.

Social Proof Through Product Reviews

Buying from an unfamiliar site can feel like a gamble. Your customers have never physically seen or held the product they’re buying. Allowing customers to leave reviews lets potential purchasers to see how great your products are in an unbiased way.

Another benefit of product reviews? Customers trust them. In fact, 93% of online customers partially base purchasing decisions on user-created reviews.

Building a Base of Product Reviews

While reviews are extremely helpful for generating sales, getting people to leave a review can sometimes be a challenge. Unfortunately, studies show that people are more likely to leave a review about a negative experience than a positive one. So how can you balance this out and generate excellent reviews?

One way to accomplish this is through a LifeCycle campaign. This type of email remarketing centers around messaging customers after they make a purchase; it tends to focus on building lifetime value. Another use of LifeCycle marketing is generating social proof.

For instance, one week after purchase, you can simply send a follow-up email asking the customer to leave a review. If they fail to respond, a second follow-up can include an incentive, whether this is a discount, free gift, or a small gift-card to be used towards a future purchase.

Simple strategies of this kind can quickly build your base of reviews and make shoppers feel more comfortable ordering from you.

Social Proof Through Highlighting Recent Purchases

As we discussed before, when people consider taking an action, they tend to look to others first. People want to do what other people are doing.

One entrepreneur who understood this well was McDonalds’ mastermind Ray Kroc. In 1955, he began posting the number of customers the chain had served on signs outside the restaurants. His thinking was “people want to eat where other people are eating.”

As it turns out, he was right. Eventually, as the chain hit the 99 billion customer mark, it was essentially impossible to keep an exact count – hence why today’s restaurants display a sign reading “billions and billions served”

This example from history shows why this kind of social proof is so powerful. If you want people to buy your products, it helps to show that other people are doing it, too.

How does this work in an ecommerce context?

Try adding real time purchase notifications to your website. This can take many forms, whether it’s showing the name and location of recent purchasers, or keeping a count of the number of products sold (this month, this year, ever, etc.)

You can simplify this concept even further by marking certain products as “popular”. Some restaurants do this by marking particular items as a “crowd favorite.” Regardless of how you implement this technique, demonstrating the popularity of your site and products makes people want to “join the crowd” and follow suit.

Social Proof Through Social Media Engagement

Social media offers an excellent opportunity for brands to connect with their customer base in exciting ways. Keep an eye on social media for mentions of your brand, and do your best to connect with customers.

If the comment praises your brand, reach and thank them for the positive mention. If it’s more on the critical side, reach and offer to make it right.

Personal Anecdote Alert:

When I was a college student, I ate a lot of Hot Pockets. Probably too many. One day, I got one that was truly disformed – it had a strange mis-colored edge on it that terrified me.

Naturally, I posted it on Twitter to ask my friends what they thought it might be, while also @-ing Hot Pockets. Within the hour, a Hot Pockets rep had reached out, apologized, explained it was simply a burnt edge, and sent me coupons for 5 free boxes.

Hot Pockets kept a customer for life that day. By responding publicly to my concern, they demonstrated a commitment to their customer in a way that others would see – making me happy, and generating positive social proof.

The Value of Social Proof

Social Proof is a dynamic tool that increases conversions while enhancing trust in your brand. By highlighting past purchases and engaging with past customers, you increase customer lifetime value and set your brand up for long term success.

Looking for More Ways to Increase Your Conversions?

Check out UpSellit’s 27 Attributes of an Effective Email. This in-depth guide covers the ins-and-outs of crafting the perfect remarketing email. It’s a great resource and it’s totally free! Download it today and start writing awesome emails that convert.