Social proof is when people mirror the behavior, actions, and opinions of others. Originated by psychologist Muzafer Sherif and further adapted by psychologist Robert Cialdini, the term explains how we tend to use what others are doing as social evidence in determining what we should be doing in a situation that might be new to us. It’s the reason we order the same coffee as the person in front of us in the line, or go see that new film everyone keeps recommending.
It’s natural to want to push back against this theory. However, social proof doesn’t mean we’re all mindless robots. Mimicking people’s behavior to fit in or get ahead is part of living in a society. It’s normal to believe that if more people are doing it, it is more likely to be the correct way to go about things.
So, what does all this mean for ecommerce stores and how we promote them? As described by Cialdini, social proof is a convenient shortcut in harnessing the behavior of your consumers. “Yay, I don’t need to teach my consumers anything! One will buy and the rest will follow!” Not exactly. It is key to remember that Sherif was experimenting in 1935 and Cialdini was writing in 1984. Even though the initial theories of social proof remain true, consumers are a lot more active than passive in the modern day. Indeed, social proof forms the crux of any effective customer retention strategy, and its value remains today.
So how can you use the theory of social proof to your advantage? There are multiple formats of social evidence that you can provide to your potential consumers in order to display that the behavior of purchase and use of your product is correct. Luckily it’s not too complicated, and can be implemented as easily as implementing SEO strategies into producing content.
No good ecommerce website ever made it anywhere with bad imagery in the first place, but there are ways to give them an extra boost and ensure social proof in the images you provide to your customers.
Providing images of models wearing or using your products rather than bland shots of the product itself is a good way of giving it some life, a place in the world and showing the use of the product as normal behavior. It allows your customers to imagine themselves using the product and gives it a more tangible place in the real world.
When was the last time you visited a new restaurant or purchased a new piece of technology without doing some prior research? Whether money is short or not we tend to look around at others to make sure we’re doing the right thing with it, which involves subconsciously taking social evidence from complete strangers.
Reading the opinions of others allows your consumers to confide in someone other than the person asking them for their money. Encourage your consumers to share their experiences and include their name if they consent to it for a personal touch to make trusting their opinion more comfortable.
Similar to a review page, a question and answer section on a product page allow for potential consumers to overhear others’ thoughts. Here, potential consumers can communicate with others who are either in the process of making the same decision as them, or have made the decision and can provide some advice.
Ensure these sections are moderated so that correct information is being shared.
Influencer endorsements are a common form of social proof marketing in the modern day. Out of the depths of Instagram and YouTube came a swarm of individuals with digital styles that attracted mass followings. Although most communications between influencer and follower are solely digital, a basis of attraction and trust has been built.
If you’ve got it in your budget, reach out to those online who have genuine connections with large amounts of people in your target demographic. Do some research and/or speak to an agency that can help you invest in the right form of influencer marketing for your brand and product.
Another form of influence comes from experts. When you go traveling, it’s common to want to get a local opinion, they’re most likely to know the area best. This is because we are more likely to trust someone who has the most experience in a situation to ensure we are carrying out the correct behavior.
Providing your consumers with genuine information from an expert is a good way to help prove that your product is actually going to benefit them.
So you’ve provided a bank of opinions coming from a variety of directions, but what about those who are less trusting of others? Maybe your target demographic tends to be a bit more skeptical.
Encourage your consumers to share and discuss within their inner circle. Social media posts that mention “tag a friend” or blog posts with Share links can help you slide into those more influential conversations. Find out where your current customers are and where your target audience is and scamp ways that a connection can be made.
Social proof is something all ecommerce stores need to capture to a certain degree. It’s essential for showing the potential and positives of some products. Give some of the above tactics a go and see what works for you.