Social Proof in Ecommerce: How Does It Work?

Justin Berg
Co-Founder at Simple Testimonial
September 5, 2023
In This Article

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Social proof in eCommerce is the driving factor behind why people make purchases.

When potential customers see others using your product on Instagram, in paid ads or even on your product page - they're going to be more comeplled to buy.

In this article, we'll dig into the interworking of social proof and how you can implement social proof in your overall marketing plan to drive more sales.

What is Social Proof in eCommerce?

Social proof in eCommerce refers to a psychological phenomenon in which potential customers are influenced by the actions, opinions, and experiences of others when making a purchase decision. It helps establish trust and credibility by using various elements such as testimonials, customer reviews, ratings, recommendations, and endorsements from influencers, industry experts, or celebrities. Social proof plays a significant role in marketing strategies, as it can increase conversions by reassuring potential customers that a product or service is high-quality, popular, and worth their investment.

Principles of Social Proof

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where individuals tend to adopt the behavior or opinions of others they trust. This concept is based on the idea of normative social influence, which suggests that people conform to perceived norms in order to be accepted by others or to avoid social disapproval.

There are various manifestations of social proof in practice, some of which include:

1. Uncertainty

New or unfamiliar situations tend to cause a level of uncertainty and doubt in people. When people are unsure of how to behave or which actions to take, they often feel the need to look to others for guidance.  

2. Similarity

People are usually more inclined to follow the actions of those they view as similar to themselves when making novel decisions in a group setting. They think: if the people who share my background, needs, beliefs, or circumstances are taking these actions, then I should too.

3. Expertise

When in unfamiliar situations, people often also seek guidance from people and organizations they view as experts in the space. Logic dictates that people with more knowledge make more informed — and therefore better — decisions.

Social proof can be influential in consumer decisions and plays an essential role in marketing strategies. Leveraging social proof helps businesses build trust and credibility with their target audience, ultimately influencing purchasing decisions.

Social Proof in Numbers

In today's competitive marketplace, businesses are increasingly leveraging the power of social proof to boost credibility and enhance consumer trust. Here are some key statistics that highlight the importance of social proof:

  • 91% of shoppers read at least one review before making a purchase decision, emphasizing the influence of user-generated content on buying choices.
  • A whopping 80% of US consumers actively seek recommendations when purchasing products or services of any kind, demonstrating the value of word-of-mouth marketing.
  • 54% of individuals purchased a consumer packaged good after encountering visual user-generated content, such as images or videos shared by other customers.

By showcasing endorsements from satisfied customers, using numeric social proof like user stats or subscriber counts, and featuring visual user-generated content, businesses can effectively tap into the potential of social proof to strengthen their brand and drive results.

Different Types of Social Proof

1. Expert Validation

Expert validation refers to social proof that is provided by industry leaders or professionals with deep knowledge in a specific field. These experts lend their credibility to a product or service by endorsing it, strengthening its trustworthiness.

2. Celebrity Endorsements

Celebrity endorsements are when well-known personalities promote a product or service to bring attention and trust to it. Their widespread popularity and public appeal can boost the reputation and credibility of the brand.

3. User-Generated Content (UGC)

User-generated content, or UGC, is when everyday users of a product or service create and share their own content showcasing the benefits of what they experienced. This grassroots form of social proof demonstrates the trust and satisfaction amongst the user base and can influence potential customers.

4. Customer Reviews

Customer reviews are written or verbal evaluations provided by users of a product or service. These reviews offer first-hand experiences and insights, which help build trust and credibility amongst potential customers.

5. Influencer Endorsements

Influencer endorsements occur when social media influencers, who have a broad reach and devoted following, endorse a product or service. Their followers often value their opinions, making their endorsement an effective form of social proof.

6. Video Testimonials

Video testimonials are short video clips featuring satisfied customers sharing their positive experiences with a product or service. These visual representations of success stories can help build credibility and trust, inspiring confidence in potential customers.

Examples of Social Proof in Ecommerce

1. Sponsored Social Media Advertisements

Paid social ads often incorporate social proof elements to enhance their credibility and effectiveness. These ads can display user-generated content, like customer reviews, star ratings, or influencer endorsements.

2. Social Proof on Homepages

Ecommerce websites often feature social proof on their homepages to establish trust with visitors. Some common examples include:

  • Testimonials from satisfied customers
  • Logos of well-known clients or partners
  • Industry awards or certifications
  • Media mentions or press coverage

3. Social Proof on Product Pages

Product pages use various forms of social proof to persuade potential customers to make a purchase. Some popular types include:

  • Customer reviews and ratings
  • Number of items sold or remaining stock
  • User endorsements, such as "Verified Purchase" badges
  • Product rankings like "bestseller," "most popular," or "editor's choice"

4. Social Proof in Transactional & Promotional Emails

Ecommerce businesses can use social proof in their transactional and promotional emails to reinforce trust and credibility. These emails might feature:

  • Reviews, ratings, and testimonials from previous buyers
  • Personalized product recommendations based on the user's browsing or purchase history
  • Social media sharing buttons, encouraging recipients to share their experiences or recommendations with their networks

How to Ask for Social Proof

1. Requesting Reviews Post-Purchase

After a customer has made a purchase, it is a good opportunity to ask for their feedback. You can achieve this by:

  • Sending an email shortly after the purchase, thanking them and requesting a review.
  • Providing incentives such as discounts or special offers for leaving a review.
  • Making the review process user-friendly and straightforward, for example, by using a rating system or a simple form.

2. Encouraging User-Generated Content via Email

Visual user-generated content (UGC) is a powerful form of social proof that can showcase your product in action. Some ways to obtain UGC are:

  • Asking customers to share photos or videos of them using the product through email campaigns.
  • Creating a specific hashtag and encouraging customers to use it when sharing content related to your product on social media.
  • Offering rewards such as featuring the best UGC on your marketing channels or offering gift cards as an incentive for sharing high-quality content.

3. Developing Customer Experience Case Studies

Case studies are an in-depth form of social proof that highlight the positive experiences of customers who have used your product or service. Here's how to create effective case studies:

  • Identify customers with interesting and relatable experiences that would resonate with your target audience.
  • Reach out to these customers and request their permission to create a case study, explaining the benefits and providing any necessary incentives.
  • Collect relevant information, visuals, and testimonials from the customers, and craft a compelling narrative showcasing the problem, solution, and outcome.
  • Promote and share your case studies on your website, social media accounts, and other marketing channels.

Final Thoughts

When considering social proof examples, it is essential to evaluate their effectiveness in building trust, credibility, and boosting conversion rates. A few common types of social proofs include testimonials, endorsements, mentions by influential figures, and certifications.

  • Testimonials: Client feedback displayed on a website or shared on social media can emphasize customer satisfaction and encourage potential clients to trust the product or service.
  • Endorsements: When influential figures or industry experts promote your product or service, it adds credibility and reaches a larger audience.
  • Mentions: Being featured in articles, rankings, or lists by reputable platforms increases your brand's visibility and recognition.
  • Certifications: Displaying certifications or badges from renowned organizations showcases your commitment to high-quality standards and professionalism.

Employing social proof strategically in marketing campaigns allows businesses to tap into the natural human tendency to trust and follow the opinions or actions of others. This can lead to increased conversions, improved customer engagement, and a stronger online presence.