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Social proof is the idea that people follow from the actions of the masses. Know how social proof can manifest itself
Social proof is a great way to showcase the value of your brand and products to potential customers. When consumers see more people engaging with an online store, it is more likely that others will start to perceive the same store as more desirable than if they visited that store and saw no evidence of others buying from the store too.
We are social creatures and like to know that we are not alone in our decisions. Proving our desirability to prospective customers through a social proof is not as straightforward as a brick-and-mortar store, but there are multiple ways to do it. This article will go through some of your options as a digital entrepreneur.
Defining Social Proof and Its Importance
Social proof is the theory that the behaviors of others influence our decisions and behaviors. Social proof has long been used in traditional advertising and retail. If you can prove to people ‘off the street’ that your brand generates a lot of interest from others, it will either validate their existing interest or spark the initial interest of their own.
Social proof can activate a person's natural desire to be a part of something and it can also enable a level of trust to form between you and your prospects. Seeing that others have tried and tested your brand makes prospects feel more secure in their own purchases.
People may feel particularly insecure when shopping online for many reasons. They can’t visit your store in real life and get a ‘feel’ for it. They can’t physically touch the product they are interested in and they can’t speak face to face with a company representative to get immediate feedback on any questions.
Adding social proof along the user journey will help minimize doubts your user might have. Having access to reviews and ratings, knowing where to look for testimonials, and seeing your product in action by sharing user-generated content are all ways to reassure your customers that choosing your product or service is a safe choice.
Knowing this and relating it back to the digital retail space, you start to see the opportunity that lies within social proof for your website or business. Consider how to use social proof to your brand’s advantage on your social platforms, on your website, and even in your newsletters. Make sure all of these touchpoints are effective as they could be by including relevant social proof.
Types of Social Proof and Examples
1. Ratings and reviews
This is likely the most common type of social proof you will see across the e-commerce world. It is a great way for your potential customers to get an insight into the real-life results of purchasing a product with you. It could be a promise of great customer service or on-time delivery and thoughtful packaging.
Having positive reviews visible on your product page will showcase the value of your product. 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, according to a study by BrightLocal.
As well as the positive, keeping negative reviews visible will also present an opportunity for you to display humility and excellent customer service. So don’t be afraid of the negative review.
According to a study by Qreuz, ratings and reviews were the most common choice of social proof on top e-commerce product pages.
2. User-generated content
Why not link a community feels to your product and brand? Showcasing user-generated content is a great way to do this. Encourage your customers to send in pictures of them using or wearing your items and have a place on your website to display this. This is a great way to ignite the social-being in your users. They will want to be a part of this positive experience. Obviously, it is up to you to decide if this type of social proof matches your brand voice.
Custom Ink uses user-generated content to showcase their “T-shirts in action” with “customers like you”.
3. “People also viewed/bought”
You know the one I mean. When you click on a product, and near the bottom of the page you see other “related” products that other people have bought with this product or at least looked at both of them. Some may argue whether this is genuine social proof as the authenticity of the claim is hard to prove. However, the aim of the feature is to activate the social instinct in us.
We want to be a part of something. It also works to remind your users that they are not the only ones interested in your store. Others have shopped here, therefore it is tried, tested, and socially accepted for you to shop there too.
You can see variation of this on the clothing site, 6pm’s product page:
4. Website likes and shares
Some sites also choose to display how many likes and shares a product may get. Again, this can work well to show the level of engagement going on in your store, boosting its credibility and desirability.
It is also useful to add a “like” or “save” option to your product so that when your users come back to your website, they can see what they were looking at before. You can see 6 pm using the likes under their product images as well:
5. Social media comments, likes, followers, and shares
In general, social media is a great way to utilize the benefits of social proof. Keeping your social media up-to-date will reassure potential users that there is an active and dedicated team behind the brand. Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are all great platforms for sharing user-generated content as well. A lot of people also look to Facebook for reviews, so make sure to keep these up-to-date as well as your Google reviews and the reviews displayed on your website.
6. Influencer marketing
88% of people said that they trusted an influencer or someone online as much as they would trust a friend or family member. Micro-influencer marketing has proved itself to be very successful for brand trust and awareness.
When choosing an influencer to work with your brand it is important to look at the demographic of their following and make sure it matches your target audience. It is not so important to check how many followers an influencer has, rather you should pay close attention to their engagement rates.
An engaged audience is more likely to trust what the influencer is saying and therefore trust your brand by association. A great example of this was when Audible chose photographer Jesse Driftwood to share a sponsored post to his loyal following. He has less than 200k subscribers, but Audible recognized how engaged his followers were. Jesse then shared Audible through an anecdotal story, adding to the relatability.
7. Expert endorsement and testimonials
You might not be into influencers and no matter how personable and trustworthy they seem, you would never be “influenced” by them. Some of your audience might be the same. In this case, using an expert to endorse your products is a great way for users to be reassured of the value of your product or service.
Have a section on your website dedicated to testimonials so your users know where to go to learn just how much they would benefit by making that purchase decision.
How to Measure the Impact of your Social Proof
Just like anything else you do in e-commerce, you want to know what yields results. Social proof isn’t just decorative. The point is to build relationships with your customers and boost sales. It is important to track if the social proof you implement is successful in achieving that.
One of the ways to decipher this is to test different types of social proof and study any impact it has on engagement or conversions over that period of time. However, it is important not to change anything else, so you know you can attribute any varying results to the social proof you are testing.
Another way of assessing the impact of your social proof is to link conversion dates with the views on your social proof. Mark a view of your social proof as a trackable event and link that to your data. This way, you will know of those who saw your reviews, then went on to make a purchase.
Attribution of user behavior during the funnel until the moment of purchase is one of the core disciplines of a marketer in e-commerce. This way, you can even add value to your social proof content and understand how much revenue it accounts for.
Social proof is key in e-commerce and if done well can lead to a boost in engagement and conversions. Whether the proof is on social media or on your website, it is important for your customers to see how desirable your brand is and how they can not live without it.
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