What Is Social Proof? Why It Matters and How To Boost It
E-commerce experienced a boom during the pandemic, and according to a recent study, it shows no signs of slowing down, with an estimated 218.8 million online shoppers in the US in 2023 spending an average of $5,381 per person.
However, given economic headwinds, consumers make buying decisions more carefully than ever. In lieu of seeing a product or trying a service prior to completing a purchase, online shoppers look to past purchasers–and their social proof–to help validate their purchasing decisions.
For brands, social proof represents a massive opportunity to sway indecisive shoppers and reward loyal ones simultaneously. Keep reading to discover why social proof is important and how brands can leverage it to boost both new customer acquisitions and retention.
Social proof is a modern-day term for a fundamental psychological phenomenon: As social creatures, people depend on each other for perspective, reassurance, and advice. Social proof is a digital manifestation of that concept.
In the world of e-commerce, social proof capitalizes on the proven fact that savvy shoppers are just as, if not more likely to trust the purchasing opinions and actions of fellow shoppers than they are of sales-y claims from brands.
Brands can build social proof through customer reviews, video testimonials, star ratings, or other forms of user-generated content. Social proof can be a powerful way to build trust and credibility with prospective customers, especially in competitive shopping verticals.
For brands, social proof can mean the difference between an abandoned shopping cart and a loyal customer. This is especially true for new customers deciding between your product and that of a competitor–a shopper who can be easily swayed by flashy messaging and promotional offers.
If your competitor features star ratings, celebrity endorsements, and customer testimonials and you do not, a new customer could very likely choose to do business with them, even if you have more competitive pricing or a higher-quality product.
The power of social proof has been studied extensively. Over 99.9% of online shoppers read reviews before purchasing, often looking for negative reviews first.
What’s more, 84% of millennial consumers naturally distrust advertising. Your digital marketing strategy thus needs to compete against that bias, which is where social proof can be beneficial when helping to push a consumer down the sales funnel.
Social proof comes in many forms. Here are seven examples of social proof to experiment with.
Reviews from celebrities, influencers, and content creators have become a popular form of social proof for e-commerce brands looking to reach a wider consumer base across social media platforms.
Since their followings tend to align with their tastes, opinions, and even values, content creators build robust, trusting relationships with their social network followings, meaning there’s an opportunity for e-commerce brands to tap into these audiences and convert them into customers.
Such endorsements involve having respected social media users with engaged followings create content that promotes a product or brand.
Given their high levels of engagement with the people they follow, this social influence carries weight for many consumers, especially for millennials and Gen Z.
Certification is a type of expert social proof that can be used to build credibility and trust. Certifications serve as stamps of approval from authoritative sources, authenticating that a product or service meets industry-established standards and requirements.
In the world of e-commerce, certifications can come from brands like industry associations, testing labs, or governmental agencies. These certifications provide peace of mind for consumers, demonstrating the brand’s commitment to safety and quality.
This type of social proof can be particularly effective with Health and Wellness products, where health-conscientious shoppers prefer expert opinions over those of online strangers.
Relatedly, there are different types of social proof in the credential area, like expert proof. In this case, industry experts are asked to review a product or service and provide unbiased opinions.
This type of social proof is especially effective in situations where customers are looking for guidance and recommendations when making complex or high-value purchases. Expert proof typically has a more formal air to it and can come in the form of a blog post or YouTube video.
Ratings and reviews are another common form of social proof used in e-commerce. They provide potential customers with real-life feedback from other shoppers who have used a product or service, allowing them to make informed decisions.
Happy customers who have had positive experiences with a product or service are often eager to share positive reviews, though negative reviewers are sometimes even more eager.
Ratings and reviews can drive conversions by boosting a company’s credibility and building trust with potential customers. In fact, studies have shown that the presence of ratings and reviews on a website can increase conversion rates by up to 270%.
User testimonials serve as a powerful form of social proof by highlighting the experiences of satisfied customers and showcasing the impact a product or service has had on their lives in a believable manner.
Testimonials can take many forms, including written reviews, direct-to-camera videos, or testimonial pages featured on a brand’s website.
Testimonials are a win-win for customers and brands alike. Very often brands incentivize shoppers to create UGC testimonials by rewarding them with points. And for brands, such video testimonials can be boosted as advertisements.
By encouraging customers to share their experiences and opinions, brands can tap into the power of social share, which allows them to leverage the influence of their own customers to drive new business and boost loyalty.
Wisdom of the Crowd refers to the notion that the collective judgment is often more accurate than the opinion of a single individual. In the world of e-commerce, this can be seen as social proof, as the popularity of a product or service among a large group of shoppers can serve as a testament to its quality.
Effectively, this is the psychology that informs trend cycles and hashtags.
In general, people are more likely to trust recommendations from shoppers who they know and trust, like their friends and family. In the context of e-commerce, customers are more likely to trust a product or service if they have heard about it from someone they know. That’s why encouraging customers to share their experiences is so important.
By leveraging the power of social networks, e-commerce brands can reach the direct and wider networks of existing customers.
Now that you understand the value of social proof, your brand can boost its social proof — and number of customers — by implementing various social proof-building strategies.
With ratings and review platforms, brands can solicit more reviews from shoppers, working directly with them at scale to build a collection of positive reviews. These reviews can be showcased on your website homepage, Google search results, social media pages, and other online marketing channels.
For example, brands who work with Okendo see as much as a four-time increase in their onsite conversions.
If you want to cast an even wider net, seek out influencers and content creators who are brand-aligned and post content relevant to your product. The key, though, is looking at their following and ensuring it consists of engaged followers who resemble your target audience.
This can take the form of product mentions, sponsored posts, or TikTok and Instagram Reels short-form videos, where the celebrity, influencer, or content creator posts engaging videos spotlighting your products.
Remember, though, that it is important to find the right partners, with not just the biggest followings, but the most brand-aligned, engaged, and authentic.
Shopper testimonials are low-cost for shoppers yet priceless for brands. Encourage existing customers to post UGC and reviews by incentivizing them with points and other customer loyalty perks.
The use of social proof can be extremely beneficial. Just ask Buttercloth, a MuteSix client who saw a 50% increase in revenue and 62% bump in conversions thanks to star ratings via Okendo.
Buttercloth’s products have always been high-quality; they just needed more shoppers talking about them.
By highlighting their five-star reviews across Google Ads and their social media channels, MuteSix helped Buttercloth triple their ROAS.
Given its low price tag and high ROI, incorporating social proof into your marketing strategy is crucial to building trust and credibility with your target audience.
Here at MuteSix, we always aim to build social proof via our creative and paid media strategies.
Leveraging data-backed, omnichannel media buying, growth marketing, and creative strategies, our team of forward-thinking experts scale brands to success faster and more efficiently than any agency can. And we help them nurture relationships with existing customers so as to acquire new ones at record-breaking scale.
Ready to grow your brand? Reach out today for a marketing consultation to see if you qualify for a free omnichannel audit and to learn how we can help your brand build social proof today.
18 Online Review Statistics Every Marketer Should Know | Search Engine Journal
How Revenue Can Increase Through Reviews | Forbes
Okendo Reviews | OkendoNew Study Finds Majority of Millennials Distrust All Forms of Advertising, But Close Friends, Digital Channels, Even Online News Sources Rank As Most Trustworthy | PR Web