It might not come as a surprise that the world of marketing is inextricably linked to the world of psychology. In fact, there’s a whole world of clever marketing psychology approaches that have profound effects on the ways we live our everyday lives – even if we might not consciously realise it when exposed to them.

And when it comes to the world of eCommerce, there’s no trick in the book quite like social proof marketing.

What is social proof in digital marketing?

In a nutshell, social proof is evidence that other consumers have made a choice or to either buy a product or have taken part in services — such as reviews, testimonials, or social shares, that ultimately encourages others to do the same. Social proofs make online customers feel more at ease when it comes to spending their money, making it an integral part of conversion optimisation.

It makes sense, after all, that online shoppers feel much more comfortable purchasing from a store if they know the products are tried and tested by other people just like them. It kind of feels like when a trusted friend recommends a good plumber or electrician that they’ve already used for a home repair. Social proof methods range from blog posts to social media followers to product reviews – all of which are forms of validation that give the branding and merchandising of your businesses extra credence in the eyes of their customers.

In his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, author Robert B. Cialdini took a deep dive into the concept of social proof in retail marketing, ultimately finding: “We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it”. It’s no wonder then that in situations where we’re unsure about what to do, we might look to the people around us for advice.

And not just the experts that show us how important social proof is. The statistics speak for themselves. According to Repuso, research by BrightLocal shows consumers are influenced significantly by these types of marketing approaches. For example:

  • 31% of consumers reported that they read more online reviews in 2020 than ever due to Covid-19. (BrightLocal)
  • 67% of consumers say that they’ll not buy from a business if reviews say that it doesn’t follow Covid-19 safety SOPs. (BrightLocal)
  • 80% of Americans seek recommendations from family and friends before making a purchase. (Business2Community)
  • 87% of consumers read online reviews to find local businesses in 2020. (BrightLocal)
  • 97% of consumers say that online reviews impact their buying decisions. (Podium)

So when it comes to leveraging social proof in eCommerce, here are 10 surefire ways to harness its powers for your business.

1. Add customer reviews to product pages

A survey by the Spiegel Research Centre found that 95% of customers claim to check out reviews before making a purchase, so it makes perfect logic to have these included on your product pages. This will create a sense of trust and transparency between you and your customers.

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2. Include testimonials on your homepage

Testimonials are a really important and effective way to show potential customers just how revered, reliable, and popular your products are. There’s nothing better for a consumer than reading real endorsements, so make them easy to find by including one or two of the best ones on your homepage, as opposed to tucking them away on a separate part of the website.

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3. Display expert reviews

It’s not just customer endorsements that consumers want to see – they also love to read what the experts are saying about your products too. Sites such as Which? are a great example of the type of expert reviews that you should be pointing to if they have said something brilliant about your products or services.

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4. Highlight when a service or product is in demand  

Adding in a simple ‘Selling fast!’ or ‘Best seller’ prompt to your page will create an instant sense of urgency for your customers and encourage them to make a quick purchase. You’ll often see this tactic used on travel websites such as to motivate users to make a booking on the spot. The same tactics can be deployed for your retail site too.

5. Provide a star rating for quick comparisons

Not all retail consumers have time to read reviews or trawl through lengthy product descriptions. In order to sell your product or services in haste to a buyer who’s in a hurry, include a simple star rating system to promote the effectiveness of your product or service. This way users can see in an instant that they’re choosing something that’s of great quality.

Provide a star rating for quick comparisons
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6. Provide further recommendations

One sure way that social proof marketing can bolster both your conversion rate and your average order value is by including a “people also viewed” element on your pages. These will inspire customers to make further purchases and also gives them a feeling that you’re providing a service that’s bespoke to them, and that you understand their wants and needs.

7. Include ‘recently sold’ notifications
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Also known as “Sales Pops” – these notifications turn dormant pages into active spaces on your website, giving customers a sense that they’re shopping in real-time, almost as if they were having the shopping experience of an actual store.

8. Expert takeovers on social media

By allowing industry experts to commandeer your social media platforms for the day, you can quickly tap into their influence and strengthen your own brand. This will create a positive association between your brand and their followers, also known as the “Halo effect”.

9. Off-site customer reviews

Many retailers are often focused on the reviews on their own sites, with one thing going largely unnoticed: off-site reviews. These include sites like Trustpilot and Yelp. As you obviously don’t own these platforms, it can be easy to overlook external customer reviews. But they’re as important as your on-site testimonials, so make sure you’re linking to them where you can. This will give your brand a sense of transparency and trust.

10. Abandoned cart emails

These are notifications that prompt customers who have not followed through to purchase, but have selected items in their online shopping cart from your website. Abandoned cart prompts are a great way to ensure that you manage to convert lost business and turn a forgotten prospect into a brand enthusiast. They’re also genuinely helpful for those of us who simply get distracted easily and forget to order the food shop we need!

In conclusion

As you can see, social proof can be a hugely powerful tool when it comes to encouraging consumers to act with urgency. That’s why it’s important to select the right kind of tactic to use for your retail site. Not all of these approaches may be appropriate for every kind of product or retailer – but deploying at least a couple of them is absolutely sure to see your conversions and brand strength improving at an exponential rate.



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