6 types of social proof and how to use trust to grow your sales
Think back to the last time you ordered something from an online store. What made you click the checkout button and complete a purchase? Whether you are aware of it or not, social proof probably had something to do with it.
Want to know how you can use the 6 types of social proof to boost your conversions?
What is social proof?
Social proof is one of the psychological triggers that lead people to make decisions that are not entirely rational, without realizing it. It is a common bias that makes us believe that when a lot of people say something, then it must be true.
This automatic psychological response is something that we can become aware of, but can’t avoid being affected by entirely.
How can social proof help your store?
In a nutshell, social proof helps you increase conversion rates by convincing visitors that other people have already made the decision to buy from you, and therefore they should do the same.
There are a lot of ways to use social proof, and in this post we will cover them all, including some practical tips on how you can take advantage of social proof in your own online store.
According to Buffer, there are 6 types of social proof:
How to use the 6 types of social proof to improve your conversion rate?
1. Wisdom of crowds
When we see that a lot of people are doing something, we automatically want to do it too. This type of social proof actually works thanks to the well-known psychological phenomenon called FOMO.
Well, ok, it might not be an official psychological term, but we all know the feeling of missing out- of not being a part of a secret that everyone else is in on. This is FOMO- fear of missing out. Plus, we tend to trust that if a lot of people did it, then it was probably a wise decision.
How to use the wisdom of crowds to your advantage?
Grow your social media following!
Why: one of the best ways to activate peer pressure on your customers is with the use of social media- how do you feel when you see a brand with thousands of followers, that you never heard about?
You feel like you must have missed something important, and it’s time to get onboard! This is the effect that having a large social media following has on people.
Where: all business social media profiles, display on your website.
How: there is no easy answer here- you’ll have put in the work of branding your business, giving value to your customers and engaging daily. Some ways to boost your progress are paid advertising, affiliated shoutouts, offering incentives to new followers, hosting giveaways to encourage sharing… But it does take some time and patience. This is the work you do today for the long-run.
Example: MVMT are the social following champions, with 1M Instagram followers at the moment of writing this post. They also display their impressive IG feed on their home page.
2. Users and Customers
This type of social proof is all about your customers sharing their experiences with your service and product. It works by giving potential customers the confidence to buy from you, because other people already did, and had a favourable experience. How to use this type of social proof?
Get product reviews
Why: This is maybe the first thing that comes to mind when you think about social proof. Product reviews, displayed on the product page, are very powerful in increasing conversion rates for a few main reasons:
- Proof that people have bought this product before- this also applies the wisdom of the crowds
- Showcasing images that were taken by past customers, to show what the product looks like in real life
- Displaying product ratings to increase potential customers’ trust
Studies show that product reviews increase conversions by about 4.6% for products with more than 50 reviews. So your goal with reviews on your products should be to get as many as possible, especially for your bestsellers.
Where: product pages and landing pages, display rating on collection pages.
How: Using Loox, you can not only display product reviews, but also automate the process of collecting new reviews with emails sent at just the right time in the delivery process.
Example: BlendJet displays a beautiful reviews gallery at the bottom of their product page- showcasing some of their best user-generated pictures and ratings.
Why: similarly to product reviews, testimonials allow potential customers to see that others have bought from you in the past, and read their opinions about your brand. But these are a little different than product-specific reviews, in that they give a broader idea about the general experience in your store and from your products. Testimonials are a good way to convey a story- how did your product and service help this customer? What was unique about you compared to the competition?
Where: In the home page, dedicated testimonials page and social media profiles.
How: When starting out, choose some of your best reviews to feature as testimonials. When you already have a loyal customer base, ask some of your most dedicated customers to share their experience with your brand.
Example: Luxy Hair displays some of their customers’ testimonials right on their homepage, including the names and pictures of the customers.
3. Circle of Friends
The last two social proof types make use of the masses- not people you necessarily know, but people you will trust by merit of experience (customers) or numbers (crowd).
But who do you trust the most? The people you do know- your friends. According to a survey conducted in 2015, 54% of people say they would try a product recommended by someone they know even if it had negative online reviews.
Encourage social media shares
Why: people sharing and recommending your brand on social media basically let all their friends know they purchased from you, and everyone else should, too. While social media shares are a little weaker than a friend personally sending you a link and enthusiastically talking about it, it is still stronger than any other form of branded advertising you might post.
Where: all pages of your store, each social media post.
How: offer easy social sharing links and call to action for each product, collection and post your write. Offer incentives for customers to share your brand on social media, including referral programs.
Example: Using ReConvert, you can catch customers that have just completed a purchase and offer them the opportunity to share a link containing a discount with their friends.
Leverage the word of mouth
Why: like social sharing, word of mouth comes from people you know and trust (at least to an extent). The powerful part of this technique is that customers are not just sharing a link to your store on social media for the world to see, they personally recommend your brand to a friend. The power of a personal recommendation and a personally crafted message cannot be underestimated- it is one of the strongest ways to get people to buy.
Where: a dedicated page, order status page.
How: use a referral program to encourage customers to not only share but go the extra mile by personally referring friends to you. Offer an incentive for the referrer (the customer) and a discount for the referred.
Example: BOMBAS offer an especially lucrative referral program, offering the referred 25% off, and the referring customer free products.
The power of celebrities has been understood and used in marketing for decades- seeing a celebrity using a product automatically makes his/her fans want to use this product in order to connect with and be like their idol.
We tend to view celebrities as special, unique in a way the rest of us normal humans are not. So feeling more like them makes us feel more glamorous.
Celebrities are trendsetters, so getting a celebrity to endorse your product or brand can make a huge difference in the way customers view your brand and in your sales.
Get Influencers & affiliates on your side
Why: influencers are the new brand of celebrities- they are more reachable and cheaper to work with then the classical TV celebrities, and they actually influence millennials more than traditional celebrities do. In fact, a study by Google shows that 70% of teenage subscribers relate more to YouTubers than to traditional celebrities.
Where: on your and the influencer’s social media, on your homepage or a dedicated page.
How: approach influencers in your niche- large and small- and offer them the option to join your affiliate program, free products or a flat rate to post your products on their social media. What exactly you offer depends on your budget, product, the influencer, etc…But your general goal should be to create a long-term relationship with each influencer that successfully brings in sales and awareness.
Example: Gymshark created their entire brand around influencers in the fitness industry- they have an army of fitness ambassadors sending their followers to the brand’s physical and digital stores.
We trust experts’ advice because they know what they are talking about, and if an expert recommends your products, we are likely to believe that they actually work.
Getting an expert’s recommendation is incredibly strong for building trust, and validates you as a legitimate business in your field.
Start a blog (show you know what you’re talking about)
Why: establishing yourself as the expert, or your brand as employing experts, is a way to take the power of experts validation to yourself. Once people trust your opinion and recommendations, they will trust you when you recommend your own products and explain how to use them. And they will trust that you put your vast knowledge in the subject when creating your products. Turn your blog into your customers’ go-to for tips in your niche.
Where: an in-store blog, social media.
How: write informative content in your niche- on your own blog, in groups and forums in your niche. Don’t talk about your products in each post- show your knowledge in the niche first.
Example: The hummingbird bakery establish themselves as baking experts with their blog full of tips, tricks, and recipes.
Amplify the external experts opinion
Why: external experts are not directly affiliated or associated with your brand, so when they recommend your products, customers have less of a reason to suspect an ulterior motive. Plus, they have already done the work of becoming an industry expert and getting acknowledgment for it, so you don’t have to start building it from scratch.
Where: your home page, a dedicated “featured on” page.
How: partner with brands and agencies that are known industry experts, feature them on your homepage, a dedicated page on your store and social media. Send free products to experts in the field and ask them to review the products. You can offer them an affiliate link to encourage sharing.
Example: Quad Lock proudly display the experts that have reviewed them on the thank you page.
A certification is a form of social proof in which you get the official stamp of approval from a trusted authority in your industry.
Similarly to the experts opinion social proof, this type builds on the fact that an authoritative figure or organization in your niche approves of your service or product.
It could be getting a professional degree or certificate in your field, or use social platforms as validation for your authenticity and authority.
Get verified by a trusted source
Why: seeing the little blue V next to a social media profile automatically lets us know that the owner of this profile is an official authority figure in a specific niche. Whatever it’s a brand or a public figure, audiences look at verified profiles on different social media as more trustworthy and representing a real brand. Plus, verified profiles usually get some extra benefits from the platform, in the form of actions that only they can take (like swipe up on IG stories).
Where: most social media platforms offer a form of verification.
How: getting verified on most social media requires you to have a large following on at least one other social media platform, so this goes hand in hand with the wisdom of the crowds social proof. Contact the social media platforms where you are strongest at, and check what actions you need to take to get verified.
Example: one of the platforms on which Gymshark is verified is Instagram- this also lets us know that this is the real Gymshark profile, and not a fan page or an imposter.
Display trust badges
Why: adding trust badges to your store can be a form of certification. By displaying trustworthy payment providers you work with, you assert that they certified you as a legitimate business. Similarly, trust badges displaying web security, or the stamp of approval from different social or legal organisations increase your trustworthiness in the eyes of customers. If you are selling vegan products, make sure you have a vegan stamp, if you are selling kosher food, make sure you have a kosher stamp, etc.
Where: on your footer, bottom corner of the page or the product page.
How: add relevant trust badges to your store using apps or code- make sure to only add trust badges that are actually real and can be verified.
Example: using McAfee’s app for Shopify, you can secure your customers’ details while shopping from you, and display a trust badge in different places in your store, letting the customers know they are secure.
Social proof comes in a variety of different forms, and each of them can be used to help you improve your store’s conversion rate and get more sales.
Some methods are definitely easier and quicker to implements than others, and some will have to be built over-time, so you should decide which ones to focus on first, and build a whole list of social proof assets as you go along.
Ruth Even Haim is the Co-Founder and the Head of Content Marketing at StilyoApps. She owned & ran multiple high-grossing Shopify stores Including Stilyo.com. StilyoApps is a company building apps for the Shopify ecosystem- built by merchants for merchants. Most noteworthy is ReConvert- an app that lets you optimize your thank you page for conversions.