Social Proof: What is it and how to use it in marketing in 2024

Alison Wiltshire

22 Oct 2023

What is social proof in marketing?

Social proof refers to the action of making informed decisions based on the behaviours of others. In the context of marketing – and particularly in eCommerce – social proof can be used to increase conversion rates by showcasing behaviours of other consumers and their sentiments. In marketing, social proof is typically customer reviews and ratings, customer testimonials, celebrity and influencer endorsements, and more.

In eCommerce, social proof is extremely important, leading to better-engaged customer experiences, higher online conversion rates and reduced returns.

In this article, we delve deeper into why social proof works and how to use it effectively within your marketing mix to boost ROI.

The psychology of social proof

The theory of social proof is simple: we are influenced by the actions of others. Psychologist Robert Cialdini first articulated the idea in 1984 that people are likely to do what they see or hear others doing.

“In general, when we are unsure of ourselves, when the situation is unclear or ambiguous, when uncertainty reigns, we are most likely to look to and accept the actions of others as correct.”

– Dr Robert Cialdini

In marketing, and eCommerce marketing in particular, social proof takes many different shapes including: reviews, real-time shopper behaviour, expert opinions and third-party credentials. These can be used across the digital marketing mix, including your website, app, social media, display ads, email and even digital Out-of-Home (OOH). Used correctly, social proof can deliver consistent and significant ROI uplifts. 

How to use social proof in marketing

There are several ways to incorporate social proof into your marketing activities to deliver more trustworthy and engaging customer experiences. By leveraging social proof to showcase what other people are buying from a site and highlighting that customers are happy with the products and services sold, most retailers and brands see immediate results, including higher online conversions, more engagement, fewer returns, increased AOV (average order value) and more.

Social Proof in marketing examples

1. The Wisdom of the Crowd

Social proof messaging pools the wisdom of the crowd to help customers with product discovery and making purchasing decisions with confidence.

  • Key Tips: 

    • Social proof messaging should always be based on real-time data – without this, you expose your brand to risk.

    • Use simple, factual messages tailored to suit your brand tone of voice

    • Ensure you can implement this technology across Product Listing Pages (PLPs), Product Description Pages (PDPs), Checkout Pages, Display Ads, Native App, Emails, Social Media, and Digital OOH

    • Deploy A/B testing to rigorously test statistically significant uplifts

    • Ensure Machine Learning is built in as standard

Social proof messages example on Argos website

“Taggstar acts like an online virtual assistant, helping to make purchasing decisions easier for our millions of customers, and supports the growth of our online sales”.

James Kinnear – eCommerce Retail Director. Aldi

2. User Generated Content / Shared Content

UGC or Shared Content is often referred to as ‘earned’ content. This may happen naturally, but there are very effective tactics you can employ to maximise UGC for your brand:

  • Key Tips:

    • Encourage customers to share photos of their recent purchase in return for discounts on their future purchase, prizes for the best content or even simply increased exposure. Using emails and leaflets with the items when delivered, are two easy ways to communicate this whilst encouraging customers to tag you and use your preferred hashtags for maximum exposure

    • Reshare their content (with their permission!) on your main channel, ensuring you reciprocate the @. This shows your followers that if they share great content, they may get additional exposure for their own handle

    • Share in your stories and link through to the product(s) being shown

EXAMPLE: This example from Fatface perfectly showcases how they’ve both encouraged UGC and woven it into their social media strategy.

FatFace example of social proof using User Generated Content (UGC) on Instagram

3. Reviews, case studies, customer comments and testimonials:

Bazaarvoice says “through user-generated content (UGC) like customer reviews, photos and Q&A, consumers are conversing with one another to learn more about products or to (often unknowingly) be brand advocates”

  • Key Tips

    • Go deeper than ‘comments’ alone. Layer this with fit, quality, value, and which size and/or colour variant the customer chose

    • Reviews can be pulled in to social proof messaging and deliver even greater ROI uplifts as seen in the example below from FatFace

FatFace use of reviews incorporated into Taggstar's social proof messaging solution on their website and app

4. Influencer/celebrity endorsement:

Influencer marketing has become a fundamental channel for many eCommerce brands. Not only can this help your brand reach new audiences, but it also helps align your brand and its values with those of their followers

  • Key Tips:

    • The influencer or celebrity’s own style and tone of voice should lead the content, rather than be led by your brand, to retain authenticity 

    • Developing new product lines in collaboration with influencers will deliver even greater authority

EXAMPLE: Revolution Beauty has a network of influencers that they collaborate with and promote their content across Instagram, Tik Tok, their website and app.

Influencer led social proof on Revolution's Instagram handle

5. Expert opinion, accreditations and third-party endorsement:

Independent third-party accreditation provides consumers with a verified ‘stamp of approval’. This can be particularly powerful for items requiring a high investment

  • Key Tips:

    • Leverage existing partnerships and industry relationships. This could be in the form of awards you may have won, industry standards you’ve achieved and industry body reviews

    • On social platforms, this can be as simple as having the verification symbol on your handle

EXAMPLE: have woven in Which?’s Best Buy accreditation for their range of LG washing machines using Which? reviews on their website to provide additional social proof

6. Credentials

Almost all companies will have their own credentials that can be used to showcase authority and credibility, such as: 

  • the number of customers they have

  • how many years they’ve been operating

  • which countries they operate in

  • how many items have been sold

  • the number of reviews given

EXAMPLE: This example from Crew Clothing demonstrates this perfectly by aligning the years they’ve been established with timeless British style.

Crew Clothing using their years of experience as a form of social proof to increase credibility

7. Combining social proof techniques

These social proof tactics do not need to be used in isolation. By understanding which will be most important to your customers at each point of the buying journey, they can be combined to great effect.

EXAMPLES: This example from Matalan shows how social proof messaging can show complimentary messages to customers. In this example, ratings with trending messages are used in tandem.

Matalan combining different sources of social proof data into their social proof messages with Taggstar's solution

How to boost ROI and conversions with social proof

Taggstar’s social proof messaging solution integrates these tactics across the digital buying journey to deliver consistent and significant ROI uplifts. As a result, the technology used can pay for itself very quickly through an uplift in online conversion rates (some retailers have reported a conversion rate increase of 20%+) and increased sales. Indeed, Taggstar social proof deployments have consistently delivered 100% ROI and, in some instances 1000%+.  Explore some of our recent case studies to find out more.

Getting started with social proof in marketing

Social proof can be woven into your eCommerce, digital and overall marketing strategy with almost immediate effect and deliver statistically significant ROI uplifts in a matter of weeks. Taggstar’s social proof solutions can help you take your real-time purchasing behaviour to deliver consistent and measurable conversion rate uplifts from day 1. 

Calculate the impact social proof can have on your conversion rate and revenue with our ROI calculator.

What to look for when selecting social proof messaging solutions for your business

  • Social proof based on real-time data taken directly from the retail/brand’s own systems
  • Simple, factual messages tailored to suit your brand tone of voice
  • Platform-agnostic implementation that works across any eCommerce platform
  • Multiple channel integration (e.g. website, social, display ads, native app,  email, OOH)
  • A/B testing to rigorously test statistically significant uplifts
  • The ability to integrate different types of social proof to increase conversion rates

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