What is social proof?

Social proof is a psychological and social phenomenon coined by author and psychologist Robert Cialdini in 1984, where people adopt the actions of others and reflect their behaviour for certain situations. In simpler terms, it means that individuals are more likely to make a particular decision if they see others doing the same. The decision-making aspect means that this concept is widely used in marketing and sales in an attempt to influence consumer behaviour.

But where did the concept of social proof come from? As touched on above, Robert Cialdini was the first to define social proof in his book Influence: Science and Practice. Here, Cialdini states:

“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

Drawing from research, he showcased how individuals tend to look to others for guidance in uncertain situations, illuminating its pervasive influence on decision-making processes across various contexts.

How can Social Proof be utilised by businesses?

For businesses, particularly in eCommerce, brands can utilise Social Proof to build trust with potential buyers and increase their credibility by showcasing real positive experiences and feedback from customers or influencers which, in turn, will encourage customers to convert. Social proof can come in many forms such as customer reviews, testimonials, case studies, social media likes and shares, celebrity endorsements, and trust badges.

Understanding the power of social proof is crucial for any business looking to drive conversions and engagement by influencing customer behaviour. By leveraging this psychological principle of persuasion effectively, companies can also help their customers in making informed buyer decisions, as well as enhancing brand reputation and loyalty.

Why is social proof important?

Social proof is extremely effective in marketing and eCommerce because it relies on the basic, yet powerful, psychological concept that people are more likely to take a certain action if other people are doing it. It is the same factor that motivates us to choose a crowded restaurant over an empty one. And in shopping, when we see other people buying and enjoying a product, we are more likely to think that we will enjoy the product as well.

Here’s why social proof is important:

  • Decision making: social proof helps consumers make decisions – especially when dealing with multiple choices or faced with uncertainty. Consumers typically think that if many have chosen a particular option, it is likely a good choice.
  • Trust and Confidence: social proof helps establish trust and instils consumer confidence that they are making the right decisions. When consumers see that others have positive experiences with a product, service or organisation, they are more likely to trust it and feel more confident in their choice.
  • Validation: social proof can also validate a consumer that she has made the right choice. When we see that other people have made the same choice or taken the same action, we are reassured that we are making the right decision, reducing feelings of regret or buyer’s remorse.
  • FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): the fear of missing out on something can be a strong motivator for many people. When people see that others are participating in something or buying a particular thing, they do not want to miss out.

By tapping into the “wisdom of the crowd” you will build trust, drive sales, and influence consumer behaviour. When leveraging social proof in eCommerce, retailers and brands often see significant benefits including:

  • Increases conversion rates – when shoppers see that other people are buying a product or service, they are more likely to invest in the product themselves.
  • Elevates customer experiences – when leveraging real-time social proof, it leads to more dynamic and engaging customer experiences.
  • Improves product discovery – highlighting social proof messages and content can help shoppers more easily find the product they are looking for.
  • Reduces cart abandonment – if a shopper is unsure about completing a purchase, social proof can help reduce uncertainty and cart abandonment. Tapping into the FOMO factor – only 3 left, or 122 others have bought this – can also add a sense of urgency and encourage the shopper to complete the transaction.

Why does social proof work?

Social proof works because consumers are more likely to be influenced by the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ and follow the actions of other people. This concept is also known as the bandwagon effect. We trust that we are making the right decision because other people are making the same decision.

When brands and retailers are able to build that trust with consumers, it significantly impacts the bottom line. Research from Edelman found that consumers who trust a brand are more than twice as likely to be the first to buy the brand’s new products and they are more than twice as likely to advocate for a brand they trust. However, on the whole, people trust each other – family and friends, and even influencers – more than they trust brands. According to Edelman, as few as one-third of consumers trust most of the brands they buy. Which means that however artfully crafted the images and words on the retailer’s website, customers remain sceptical.

By introducing social proof from various sources into your marketing mix and eCommerce site, you build trust, credibility and authority with your customers. Shoppers will feel more inspired, informed and confident that they are making the right purchase decisions, which will in turn boost conversion rates, reduce cart abandonment and return rates, and increase revenue.

Examples of social proof

Social proof is a powerful tool that companies can leverage to build trust and influence shopper behaviour. Here are some examples of how retailers and brands can use social proof:

  • Include customer ratings and reviews for products and services on the website to show shoppers that other customers have had positive experiences with the product or service.
  • Feature customer testimonials from customers on the website and in marketing materials to showcase overall satisfaction with the company.
  • Encourage customers to share their experiences through user-generated content and display customer photos and videos on the retail website to highlight how real customers are using the product
  • Collaborate with influencers or industry experts to endorse and feature products to promote and drive traffic to the business.
  • Leverage eCommerce browsing and shopping behaviour data to display Social Proof Messaging such as trending products, number of products sold, and highlight key product attributes through eXtended messaging.
  • Create relevant and dynamic Social Proof Recommendations based on social proof data to encourage up and cross-sell opportunities.

The above are just some of the examples of how companies can leverage social proof. Social proof can be used in many different ways depending on the type of products or services sold and it can also be highly effective across many industries. Most companies will use a mix of tactics and channels to fully tap into the benefits of social proof. B2B and professional services companies typically benefit more from customer testimonials whereas, social proof messaging in particular, has proven to be an extremely effective tool for retailers and brands to create more engaging and dynamic shopping experiences, boost conversion rates and increase sales.

By showcasing trending and best-selling products on product list and product detail pages with real-time quantifiable data (e.g., Best-seller – bought by 12 people in the last hour), fashion, beauty and luxury companies, for example, are able to significantly increase conversion rates and reduce return rates. In categories with a high volume of categories and SKUs, like retail and home, social proof that highlights the behaviours of other shoppers in quantifiable data (e.g., number 1 product in lighting or 200 people viewing now), improves product discovery and helps shoppers make more informed and confident purchase decisions. Regardless of the application, for retailers and brands, social proof is most effective when it is authentic, trustworthy and real-time.

Why choose social proof with Taggstar?

As the leading experts in enterprise social proof messaging, Taggstar helps retailers and brands deliver more dynamic and engaging shopping experiences, build customer trust and increase online conversions and sales.

Powered by machine learning, the Taggstar platform offers scalable real-time social proof solutions including social proof messaging and social proof recommendations. The Taggstar platform anonymously aggregates shopper behaviour and surfaces customisable and relevant social proof messaging, sharing what others are buying in real-time, across the digital shopping journey. With the widest range of customisable messages showing trends, bestsellers in category, product views, inventory availability and more, Taggstar ensures the right message at the right time to optimise the customer experience, boost conversions and drive more sales.

Join the growing list of leading global brands & retailers that trust Taggstar to elevate their shopping experiences and drive significant sales lift. Get started today.