Social Proof: What it is, Why It Works and How To Use It to Boost Your ROI

Social Proof: What it is, Why It Works and How To Use It to Boost Your ROI


Alison Wiltshire

27 Jul 2022

What is social proof?

In simple terms, social proof refers to the action of making informed decisions based on the behaviours of others. In this article we delve deeper into why it works and how to use it effectively within your marketing to boost ROI.

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. 

Why does social proof work?

On the whole, people trust each other – family and friends – more than they trust brands. According to research from Edelman, as few as one third of consumers trust most of the brands they buy. Which means however artfully crafted the images and words on the retailer’s website, customers remain sceptical.

By introducing social proof, from a variety of sources, into your marketing mix, you build trust, credibility and authority with your customers. However, knowing what types to use for your own business and how to use them across the buying journey can be challenging. Below we dive into some great examples of social proof, what to look out for and how these can be integrated into your marketing.

Types of Social Proof with 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

“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 maximize 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 in to 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 color 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, it 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 have a network of influencers that they collaborate with and promote their content across Instagram, TikTok, 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

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

ROI uplift examples

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 customer stories to find out more.

Getting Started

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 behavior 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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