8 Types of Social Proof for Your E-commerce Store and How to Use Them
As humans evolved, so have their needs and habits and their desire to have proof that they’re making the right decisions. And one of the ways they’re able to get this proof, this confirmation that they’re on the right track is through social proof.
Social proof is inherent in the field of psychology. But it’s generated significant interest over the past few years in the field of e-commerce.
Used correctly, social proof can help businesses build loyal customers and generate more revenues and profits.
With its many benefits and applications, social proof is a fundamental characteristic of people's behavior. And it’s why we’re taking a closer look at how social proof works, its benefits, and how you can use in your e-commerce business.
What is social proof?
With the presence of hundreds and thousands of products and services online, customers can easily get confused. But social proof comes in to clear the fog and offer a confirmation that a product or service is good – or bad.
Social proof can be defined as a means to get confirmation about an opinion or intention. People find safety in confirmation and imitating others.
Imagine this scenario: You want to buy a product or service but don’t know if this is the correct decision or not. So what do you do? You look to others and ask them what they think.
If you get many positive confirmations and recommendations, then you can go ahead and make your purchase.
But if friends, family, even random people online say that a brand is not to be trusted, you’ll retreat. This is getting social proof to confirm your ideas and intentions.
When in doubt, we give credit to other people’s behavior and opinions.
Social proof has many benefits and can be helpful in various situations. From a party in which you feel lost and want to fit in, to a product you’re considering and want to know what others think of it.
Here’s another definition about social proof from Buffer
“Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.”
A Simon-Kucher & Partners consumer survey has found that 76% of shoppers rated a product at least once. In addition, many online shoppers considered ratings to be the third key factor when making purchasing decisions.
Moreover, 33% of respondents noted that consumer ratings caused them to change brands, while 71% reported that ratings convinced them that they get better value for their money.
So how does social proof affect people's behavior? And why?
How social proof works
The single fact that should demonstrate that social proof is not a topic to be taken lightly, is the existence of mirror neurons.
Mirror neurons are located in many areas of the human brains. And they are responsible for our imitative behavior. These mirror neurons are the biological mechanism that makes us want social proof.
When we see an action being taken, mirror neurons give us the impression that we are doing the action ourselves, prompting us to imitate others and be affected by the environment around us.
In that way, social proof is not just a psychological thing. It is deep-seated in our biology, in our brains.
Though it’s not a new concept, since social proof has been a concept in psychology for decades, it offers many benefits in e-commerce.
Let's explore these benefits then the types of social proof.
Benefits of social proof
Before we delve into the different types of social proof for e-commerce businesses, let’s explore the benefits of social.
You’ve probably heard that social proof is important. By why is it really? Here are 4 reasons to consider adding social proof to your marketing efforts.
1- Social proof shows a success story
social proof is about giving people – and your customers – confirmation that something is good. When your customers see others using your products, they’re more inclined to trust and imitate them.
In other words, social proof is like a storyteller. It offers customers glimpses of your success story. Social proof comes in the form of reviews of satisfied customers and in testimonials of experts in the field.
Not only does social proof put your image in a positive light, but also shows customers that it’s other people who are giving you these positive reviews and that you’re not talking about yourself.
2- Social proof attracts more prospects
With more people seeing positive reviews about your brand and more sharing your content, the snowball effect of social proof will be set in motion, giving your brand name a strong boost.
The more people rely on social proof and imitate others, the more your content and products will be shared. In turn, you may see more positive reviews, which, in turn, can translate to more prospects and customers buying your products.
3 - Use social proof to rank higher
As an e-commerce business, you’re probably aware that your website needs to be optimized to rank on Google. It needs search engine optimization (SEO). What you don’t know is that in e-commerce, a higher rank on Google is a type of social proof.
When customers search for a product and see your products on the first page of Google, they are instantly drawn in to explore. They also see this as quality content (assuming you’re not just jumbling up keywords to rank) and are eager to see what this brand has to offer.
A successful e-commerce SEO strategy boosts your brand’s social proof.
Now, your future campaigns are more likely to achieve their targets with a lower budget. Because your SEO efforts have sowed good seeds for you.
4- Get more traffic with social proof
Social proof can translate into more shares for your online content, giving your e-commerce landing pages a boost.
More customers will land on your page from social media and your SEO efforts on Google, giving your website and accordingly your products a boost.
Adding positive reviews and testimonials on the main page of your website, along with any awards, can enrich your traffic, and build more trust and hype.
Types of social proof
As an e-commerce business, you want to stand out from your competition. Offering social proof is a great way to do that.
Let’s look at this list of 8 types of social proof and the best strategies to put them to good use.
1- Customer reviews
Customer reviews are the main area where the phenomenon of social proof is used. Many customers look for reviews and testimonials before making a purchase decision.
That’s why, as an e-commerce business, you want to encourage customers to give their opinions about your product. They can leave their reviews on your website, mobile app, or elsewhere.
Social proof is all about following others. And once many of those ‘others’ trust your products or services, many will follow suit.
2- Case studies
Case studies are among the most important ways to offer and benefit from social proof. They give your brand the credibility it needs and deserves. However, not all brands will need case studies.
Case studies are used by B2B brands more than B2C brands. That said, if you’re a brand that creates your own products like a beauty brand that makes all their soaps, lotions, and shampoos, you may use case studies or information that gives a boost to your brand and products.
A good case study will tell the story of your brand and tell your potential customers how your brands cater to their needs.
3- Celebrity endorsements
Social proof is fundamentally about emulation. People tend to copy how others act and react.
So, who will come at the top of this imitation game? It’s celebrities.
Many celebrities, including influencers and bloggers, have already established respect and trust among fans. If a celebrity or an influencer (especially when considering Gen Z customers) endorses your brand, it’s like they’re giving their fans and followers a green light to trust you.
That’s why many e-commerce brands today use influencer marketing as part of their broader e-commerce marketing strategy.
However, to play this game well, you have to be fully aware of your different buying personas and their interests and preferences. With this information, you’ll be able to decide which celebrities and influencers they look up to and who you can reach out to.
4- Social engagement
Saying we’re in the era of social media is a bit too obvious. People, your customers among them, spend a big chunk of their day scrolling, liking, and sharing on social media.
This is a rich social proof mine. Launching a creative campaign that shows how useful your products or services are will grasp their attention.
While many will like and share your content because they liked it, many more will do so because they can see their friends and connections engaging with your content.
Adding testimonials or 5-star reviews of your products and services on social media will combine the benefits of social proof, increase engagement, and grow your sales. It’s various forms of social proof acting harmoniously.
5- Certifications or awards
Just as a job candidate with many certificates and awards will be seen in a different light, so will your brand.
People are more inclined to trust a brand that is certified and recognized by industry authorities and quality watchdogs.
However, getting the award is just the first step. You need to spread the word on your website, social media, and your landing pages to inform people and build trust with your customers.
6- Experts' recommendations
You must be familiar with the “recommended by dentists” toothpaste commercials. Here the advertiser uses the type of social proof that appeals to the authority, that is the ‘experts.’
Experts can boost brand trust and get customers to believe in your promise. Their endorsement of your brand will also help you attract new leads and increase conversions.
7- Social proof from referrals and closed networks
Imagine if all your employees used your products and advocated for your brand. What if their networks and family members were affected by their opinions and in turn began using your products and spread the word?
Referrals are great for social proof and attracting new business.
You’ve probably done it yourself. Maybe you found a shampoo brand that was amazing you had to tell people about it. Or maybe it was a new coffee place that gave you a new and enjoyable experience that you want to share with others.
Or maybe it was a customer segmentation and advertising software like Convertedin that save you money and you thought your brother’s e-commerce business could benefit from it too.
People are more likely to trust a referral or review from friends and family members over any other source of information.
8- Media coverage
Media coverage isn’t just ads on small screens and the internet. People are becoming more resistant to the effect of ads and direct calls-to-action (CTA).
But consider how the media talks about your brand as a type of social proof because it helps you reach more people in wider circles. To get the full benefits of social proof from the media, you work on getting mentioned in popular programs, including radio shows and podcasts.
If you can get 5 or 10 minutes with a popular influencer or podcast show host, you can build more brand authority and reuse this talk within your broader e-commerce content marketing strategy.
Just be sure your appearance is on programs or platforms that are relevant to your buyer persona.
Social proof can be used in a plethora of industries and e-commerce sectors.
Now that we’ve covered the benefits and types of social proof, let’s see how social proof can be applied in e-commerce.
How to use social proof in e-commerce
E-commerce businesses rely heavily on social proof to boost their sales. There are a handful of social proof techniques that can help e-commerce websites like yours.
1- Testimonials in social ads
For more effective and impactful ads, e-commerce websites can use pictures featuring reviews of some products in their social media ads.
You can also use experts’ endorsements as social proof. You can do so in the form of a static or dynamic ad, a statement, or a testimonial on your website.
2- Social proofing your product pages
One of the most commonly-used ways to show social proof in e-commerce today is adding ratings and reviews to product pages.
Data from the Simon-Kucher & Partners survey shows that customers connect higher product ratings to the quality of that product. When customers see positive ratings by others, they’re more inclined to buy that product and proceed to the checkout.
Customers are more likely to opt for the product with the highest rating as it represents a confirmation from other shoppers like them.
3- Social proof via email
In 2021, Statista estimates that nearly 319.6 billion emails were sent and received every day around the world. That’s a ton of email! Statista forecasts this figure will rise to “376.4 billion daily emails by 2025.”
This means there’s a massive opportunity for email marketing, which e-commerce businesses can use to not only connect with customers but also offer social proof.
To use social proof via email, you can add testimonials, recent 5-star reviews, mention your top-rated products and more.
However, your email marketing won’t be effective if you don’t follow email marketing segmentation best practices.
4- Checkout cart social proof
Statistics by the Baymard Institute show that nearly 70% of online shoppers don’t finish their purchases after adding items to their carts. This is a waste of your marketing efforts.
How? Don’t limit social proof to ratings and reviews on your product pages. You can combine social proof with FOMO (fear of missing out) by telling people how many other customers have that same product in their carts as well.
You can also remind them of the number of 5-star ratings their shopping cart items have received, giving them the added confirmation that they’re on the right track with their purchase.
Social proof is crucial to marketing. There’s no doubt about it. It’s inherent in our psychology and biology and our lives.
And the good news is that there many types of social proof and many ways to incorporate it in your business and marketing activities.
Whether you choose customer reviews, case studies, ratings, or endorsements or a combination of those, there are lots of opportunities. All equally important.
As an e-commerce marketing method, social proof offers confirmation and can raise brand awareness and boost your revenues.
In a way, using the different types of social proof will help you create a great bridge of trust that will be gradually grow as more customers trust you.
Got questions about social proof? Leave them in the comments below.