Sure, you’ve heard of social proof a million times, but are you clear on how it works, or how you can apply it to your eCommerce marketing efforts?
Here’s an introduction to social proof, and we’ll explain what it is, why it works, and how Trustpilot partner Best Response Media can help your eCommerce business grow exponentially with social proof.
What is social proof?
Wikipedia describes social proof (also known as informational social influence) as a psychological and social phenomenon in which people rely on the feedback and actions of others to determine what is right and what is wrong.
As old as marketing itself (just think about testimonials on old ads), social proof has become more accessible and effective as a result of social media and the internet as a whole.
A good example of how social proof was used initially can be seen in this old advertisement. Throughout the advertisement, testimonials are featured to boost consumers’ confidence earlier in the customer journey, and encourage those who are not familiar with Barbasol to purchase it.
How does social proof look today?
Positive comments about you, your business, or even your product function as social proof. Online sentiments are endorsements of the quality of this person, company, service, or product, and the overall customer experience.
In the current advertising climate, when trust in traditional advertising is declining, the voices of customers tend to carry more weight than branded messages about the company. Thus, social proof makes a business more trustworthy because, by definition, social proof comes from customers.
The purpose of social proof is to influence potential customers by leveraging external validation and customer advocacy.
The customer reviews below are a great example of modern social proof. Nowadays, brands make customer reviews readily available on their websites to highlight their customers’ positive shopping experiences.
Reviews can also be added to ad campaigns, email signatures, product pages, and even the checkout page.
Social proof works because it empowers real customers to tell your story. When you can tell a story about making your customers happy and satisfied, that’s pretty compelling.
In today’s world, companies have a variety of options when it comes to integrating social proof into their customer journeys.
The following are just a few examples, but there are many more
- Shares and likes on social media
- Testimonials in the long form
- Testimonials from customers
- If you have a paid ad in SERPs with a Trustpilot logo and star rating, or even review snippets from product reviews, or Google Seller Ratings from your paid ad in SERPs, this is a sign of trust.
- Study of Cases
- Endorsements from celebrities or influencers
- Media earned
What makes social proof so important for eCommerce businesses?
Marketers benefit from it.
What makes social proof so effective for eCommerce marketing?
Boosting consumer confidence and building trust earlier in the sales funnel with social proof is one of today’s best marketing tools (and we have the data to back it up).
The degree to which social proof affects customers depends on the number of trust signals or the number of people who promote a business or product.
More trust signals are better when it comes to building trust.
eBay includes social proof on all of its product pages, as shown in the screenshot above:
- Views over the last 24 hours for this product
- In how many orders has that item been sold so far?
- Viewers of the product on the page
- Customer reviews of the seller
- Based on customer reviews, the seller’s rating
Why highlight a variety of social proofs?
The customer journey and decision-making process are profoundly affected by growing competition and lack of trust in advertising.
Online retailers face a serious marketing challenge as a result.
With just a few clicks, shoppers can compare brands by price, quality, and customer experience, making it difficult for retailers to stand out. There is just no comparison between traditional marketing tactics and social media marketing.
Furthermore, social proof allows businesses to incorporate ‘the voice of the customer’ into their marketing messages – which could very well be the most effective tactic today.
Brands can build trust with customers by placing social proof at every stage of the customer journey, whether it’s testimonials, positive reviews, likes, or shares.
What role does social proof play in reviews?
As of today, 92% of consumers read online reviews, and 80% of shoppers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.
On the basis of this statement alone, companies should invest more in reviews as social proof channels. Social proof and customer feedback are essential for any eCommerce business that wants to remain relevant and trustworthy in today’s ever-evolving shopping environment.
54% of respondents will visit a website after reading positive reviews, and most people will read ten reviews before making a purchase decision. In order to drive sales and refer people to brands they will like based on the buying decisions of people like them, recommendation and review engines use other people’s feedback.
Social proof is stronger when reviews are posted on third-party platforms
Since these reviews haven’t been edited, curated, or even deleted by the retailer, third-party review platforms like Trustpilot are more trusted by consumers.
Through Trustpilot’s new transparent flagging feature, online shoppers can see how many reviews the company has flagged. By preventing companies from abusing the review flagging feature on Trustpilot, the platform gains even more credibility.
Rather than relying on native solutions, which are typically less open and transparent, we strongly recommend collecting social proof on an open third-party platform.
Peter Mühlmann, CEO of Trustpilot, said it best:
“Using a closed platform is like asking your mother if you’re handsome.”
Let’s leave it at that.
Next, we’ll take a look at some insights from David Wain-Heapy, director of Best Response Media, about why social proof is so important for eCommerce businesses.
What are the benefits of social proof marketing for eCommerce businesses?
From Best Response Media’s offices in Central London, David Wain-Heapy contributes to our Social Proof 101 guide as the Director of Magento eCommerce and digital marketing.
Social proof applies to all industries, but eCommerce is particularly relevant. The pressure on website managers to attract and retain customers is increasing as eCommerce grows more competitive.
Consumers are becoming savvier about online purchases, and they consider more than just price when deciding whether to make a purchase.
Nowadays, they’re also looking for evidence of an awesome customer experience, which is often best reflected by customer reviews.
A business can differentiate itself from the competition by focusing on many aspects of online customer experience. A company’s reputation often improves when it provides glowing social proof.
Offering excellent delivery options, for example, not only simplifies the buying decision for your customers but also increases the likelihood that they will share their experience with your online store.
Providing a stellar customer experience leads directly to positive social proof, which in turn leads to more new customers.
eCommerce social proof revolves around reviews
We discussed at the beginning of this guide how social proof is constantly evolving, but the original concept dates back a long way.
The origins of social proof can be traced to a book written in 1984 by Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, which has become a cult classic in the marketing field.
When it comes to buying, people like safety in numbers because of social proof, which Cialdini discussed. It is easier for them to make a confident purchasing decision if they see that others have purchased and trusted (or not) a product.
As reviews have become the norm for eCommerce, it’s not a good idea to differentiate yourself by not having a review strategy in place.
There are many ways for online stores of all shapes and sizes to collect reviews on third-party platforms – also known as building a review acquisition strategy.
Why aren’t native reviews enough on eCommerce platforms?
It is evident from this guide that reviews play a significant role in eCommerce conversion rates.
Native review functionality is built into major ecommerce platforms like Magento. The store owner has complete control over the review process, which makes this an appealing option.
The best way to rely on Cialdini’s social proof model is to use third-party review platforms.
The past has seen unscrupulous business owners edit bad reviews, remove them altogether, or even create fake reviews in order to gain an advantage over their competitors.
The average consumer is aware of this phenomenon and can identify an authentic review from an arm’s length away. Even seeing a negative review (especially one that your company graciously responded to) can make your online store seem open, helpful, and transparent.
A powerful combination of associations and trust
If you’re a brand new to eCommerce, a trustworthy first impression is even more important. But how do you build that up?
It’s not as hard as it sounds, and it can be done by associating your brand with trusted review platforms, which are far more recognised by consumers than any native eCommerce review solution.
Why is that? Trust signals like a distinctive logo and recognisable branding on each review instantly boosts their credibility.
Because online shoppers know these third-party reviews can’t be gamed by the seller, they present themselves in a much more authentic way than reviews collected through native solutions that offer minimal transparency.
Final thoughts: becoming a better business with learnings from social proof
Last but certainly not least, any learnings you glean from what’s said via social proof can help your business go from your standard online seller to a trusted, and even beloved, eCommerce brand.
When eCommerce brands implement social proof strategies, particularly in the form of reviews, they’re inclined to raise the standards of their customer experience to ensure they don’t receive any negative feedback related to things within their control.
But they also have an opportunity to open a direct line of communication with their customers, and tap into any valuable consumer insights being shared via reviews. This benefits both the consumer and the business, as the consumer receives a better experience and future consumers will leave more positive reviews.
There are still many online stores that are harming their conversion rate by only using native review solutions or worse — not collecting reviews at all. This opens an opportunity for those online retailers willing to invest in a third-party review platform.
And if any online stores out there are nervous about handing a megaphone over to their customers, they ought to ask themselves why.
If you’re delivering an excellent customer experience and keeping your customers happy then there should be nothing to worry about.
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