Reward Psychology

How to Harness the Power of Social Proof (Consensus) in eCommerce

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If there is one thing that challenges my love for ecommerce it is consumer psychology! I minored in psychology while I was taking my marketing degree and found that the two go hand in hand. There is a lot one can learn from psychology that they can apply to their marketing efforts. My favorite area of psychology is that of persuasion. My desk is full of books that cover persuasion and most of them are by Robert Cialdini, author of Influence and Yes. He states that there are 6 principles of persuasion at our disposal.

While Cialdini does not talk about ecommerce, he does provide the basics we need to adapt his principles to the online world. In this post I will go over how to use consensus, or more commonly know as social proof in ecommerce. Before I get into the tactics let me first explain what social proof is and give a video example.

 

What is Social Proof?

Social proof or consensus is one of the 6 psychological principles of persuasion. The theory is based on the idea that someone is more likely to perform an action when they know it is aligned with what others have done or will do.

Essentially we like what others similar to us like and we don’t like to feel like we are different from the majority. We also assume that others have more knowledge than ourselves in ambiguous situations, and will use the group to draw conclusions rather than formulate our own.

Someone’s normal behavior is easily manipulated by what others are doing. This is also known as the Asch Paradigm. People will conform when the majority of people act in a certain way. We have a psychological desire to be like others we identify as similar to us, like the others in an elevator with us.

Savvy ecommerce merchants can get the power of social proof working on their site. When you help your potential shoppers see that they are part of a bigger group they are much more likely to become a customer.

 

Tactics to Increase Social Proof

Social proof is essentially validating to someone that what they are about to do is common in the community or has been done before. You want shoppers to see that others have shopped with you in the past so they can view you as a credible place to shop.

Here are some tactics to get social proof working on your site:

Customer Reviews

When I described social proof the first thing that came to mind was likely customer reviews. These are the most obvious fit to gain more social proof on your site. Reviews show your potential customers a few key things:

  1. People have shopped with you before
  2. People like the products you sell
  3. More reviews appear to shoppers as a more popular store

Reviews act as a marker of your store’s success and actually play a role in facilitating a purchase. In fact, 90% of consumers say that reviews impact their purchase decision. The reason they have such a strong impact is because of the social proof they provide to your customer.

Besides a in person referral, a review is the most trusted way to validate a product and store. 79% of shoppers trust a review as much as an in-person referral. Reviews are great for creating social proof, and reviews also increase your conversion rates!

Key Aspects of Reviews:

social proof customer reviews

Encourage them: Be sure to actually ask your customers to leave reviews, many are willing but are never asked. It also helps if you incentivize reviews with loyalty points or special offers.

Make them visible: Reviews are very powerful, don’t leave them hiding on your product pages. Many sites have you click on the rating to see reviews, but you should have them in the open where shoppers can see them. An example of this is Philip Kingsley!

Act on them: If you got a negative review you can reach out and see if there is anything you can do. If someone has submitted multiple reviews you can reach out and thank them. There are a ton of things you can do with the reviews you get, and tools like Yotpo can help you out!

Social Media Sharing

Social media is another great opportunity to establish credibility and boost social proof.There are two ways this can work. The first is in a similar way that reviews work to provide credibility. When a shopper sees that a product has been shared on social channels it shows that the product is well received by others. Here is an example from Strivectin, they show how many social shares each of their products have.

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Once again, it helps if you provide some sort of incentive to get shoppers to share over social media. This example is using Smile.io for Magento to encourage social shares.

The added benefit of social shares is that expands far beyond your site. A social share is exposed to that person’s social network and gives you exposure to new audiences. When someone shares a product they are publically endorsing your product. If enough people are sharing your products it establishes social proof on that channel.

Social media allows you to boost your sites social proof while simultaneously boosting your marketing reach. It is truly a win win!

Key Aspects of Social Sharing:

social proof media sharing

Use the right channels: Not every social channel is effective for every store. Pinterest and Instagram work great for clothing but will not be the same for office supplies. Do some research to find which is best for your store, and encourage people to share on those channels.

Share purchases: Even more effective than sharing products is allowing shoppers to share purchases. This creates even stronger social proof. It proves to potential shoppers that others are shopping with you, not just liking products.

Make shares visible: Like in the Strivectin example above you want shoppers to see how many people have shared. Many stores eliminate the added on site social proof when they don’t show the share totals.

User Submitted Content

The king of generating social proof has to be user submitted content. It is very hard for a retailer to fake a fan base that continually shares products and stories. That is why shoppers see user submitted content as so credible.

You can add user submitted photos to your product pages to show new shoppers just how much existing ones love your products. Another way is to have a section of your site where customers can share their own products. Like this example from Sanuk.

social proof photo library

User submitted photo walls are possible with tools like Pixlee that allow you to curate a library of user submitted content. There tools also allow you to identify influencers and discover who your best contributors are so you can engage with them further.

Key Aspects of User Created Content:

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Identify contributors: People who are uploading content regularly can be even more valuable if you reach out. They may be able to perform even more valuable actions like providing a video review, or mentioning you in forums and blogs.

Monitor content: User submitted content is not a set it and forget it! You should be monitoring what people are submitting to ensure a few things. You want to make sure nothing offensive or off brand is being posted to your site.

Cross-Selling

This one may be more of a surprise than some of the others on this list but social proof can help you push more cross-sells. Remember that shoppers are more likely to perform an action when others similar to them have already done it or are currently doing it.

Therefore you can use social proof to boost your cross-sell offers! What sounds better: Related items, or customers that bought this also bought X? The second is much more compelling. This is because it is using social proof to persuade us to check out the other products.

social proof customers also bought

If others bought these items I might need them too!

Amazon is the king of this, as you can see in the example above. They have tons of data to make recommendations based on what you are currently looking at. However smaller retailers can “fake it to make it.”

You can simply have static cross-sells with products that work well together, but you change the language to make it seem customized. You can use language like:

  • Others like you also bought …
  • Also popular are …
  • Member also enjoy …

Key Aspects of Cross-Selling:

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Draw attention to what others have done: Make sure you showcase what others in a similar situation have bought. If a shopper thinks that the average person in this situation would also purchase X they are much more likely to themselves.

Related cross-sells: Make sure you are not just recommending random products as cross-sells. The product you offer have to be related in some way. If they are unrelated no amount of social proof will save you.

 

Persuading in eCommerce

There are 6 principles of persuasion according to doctor Robert Cialdini, and each of them can impact the success of your ecommerce store. The 6 principles are listed in the image below.

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