Social proof is phenomenally powerful in the ecommerce world in particular. Robbed of the in-person information provided by a brick-and-mortar store, the online buyer needs more convincing to be sure that the item they’re looking at is going to suit their needs. And what’s more convincing than feedback from those who’ve previously bought it?
Now, it isn’t always quick or easy to pick up great social proof material (though you’ll be able to achieve it if you follow this method), but it’s absolutely worth all that time investment, because it’ll help you majorly increase your conversion rate. And if you’re wondering how you should use it once you have it, well, we can help with that. Let’s look at 7 ways in which pieces of social proof can boost your conversions:
1: By overcoming objections
As a prospective customer is navigating your sales funnel, trying to decide whether they want to place an order, they’re likely to run up against some snags. Perhaps they don’t like the look of the material and worry about its long-term resiliency, or they wonder if the vibrant colors of an item might look too gaudy in a real setting — or maybe they have concerns about the seller’s shipping, guarantees, or even customer support.
Through social proof, you can directly address those possible objections, making it clear throughout your funnel that there’s nothing to be concerned about. You can have a review from someone saying that they’ve used the item for months with no issues whatever, and a glowing testimonial about the speedy shipping and superb warranty policy. This will leave the reader more likely to convert. Pick up some tips from Amazon’s Q&A content strategy.
2: By showing use possibilities
Particularly if someone is looking at some kind of practical product (like a DIY or furniture item), they may not be sure about how they intend to use it. They might simply have seen it used before and vaguely feel that it’s something they could benefit from, but not actually have anything specific in mind. That’s the kind of uncertainty that leads to people deciding that they don’t need to order anything after all.
Through social proof (especially when it features images or even videos) you can show some possible uses in real-world scenarios. You can feature all the mocked-up photos you want, but they don’t seem real and people won’t really believe they can achieve those arrangements. If you offer a testimonial from a busy family that managed to do something creative and useful in very little time, you’ll inspire the reader to give the product a try.
3: By leaning on experts
We all rely on expert opinion to guide our decisions. We listen to experts when it comes to what we eat, how we live, how we work, and just about anything important in our lives — so we’ll just as readily listen to experts when we’re considering what to buy. You can see how Fitbit uses this so well, for instance, listing research studies carried out using Fitbits.
If you can secure a strong testimonial from someone with expertise in the product area and some influence in their community, you can catch the eye of shoppers who’ll have their views of the product altered by that endorsement. “If they think it’s good, then it must be good”, they’ll quite sensibly reason.
4: By proving positive perception
We’re tribal animals by nature, which means we like to stick together and operate in groups. That’s something that even today’s increasingly-isolated digital lifestyles can’t change. While we ultimately form our own opinions, most people are far more likely to view something favorably if they know that other people view it favorably as well.
Whenever you see an ecommerce site clearly boast about a specific number of 5-star reviews, it’s taking advantage of our eagerness to fit in with those around us. The more popular a product is, the more someone will feel part of wider society by buying it, and the less foolish they’ll feel if it turns out to have been a mistake, because it won’t simply have been their mistake.
5: By including related items
Imagine that you were selling an entire range of related products — perhaps consumer gadgets and accessories that readily interact. On a specific product page, you could just focus on that product, or you could allude to some crossover functionality and possibly manage to sell some other products in the process. It’s extremely effective when done well.
Here’s what this could involve: on the page for a particular gadget, you could feature a video testimonial from a customer using that gadget with several other products from your range. That would not only show that gadget in a great light (“just look at what you can do with it!”) but also encourage the shopper to think about how they might have a better experience if they also bought one or more of the other features items.
6: By including negativity
It always seems suspicious when an ecommerce site has nothing but top-notch reviews, because no business makes every customer maximally happy. Every product has flaws, every shipping process has off days, every transaction system can go wrong, and every employee can make mistakes from time to time. No business is perfect.
As such, you need to be realistic and transparent about every element of your brand, from your website to your entire business. Imagine that you were going to buy a business wholesale: wouldn’t a perfect track record seem way too good to be true? Maybe get inspired by starter stores on Exchange, a website flipping marketplace — you can see all the flaws up front, which actually makes them seem more valuable. If you give the impression that a business is flawless, people will assume the opposite.
By allowing a full selection of reviews on your site (good, bad, and neutral), and even displaying some less-than-perfect reviews to appear in your highlighted social proof sections, you can show to your prospective customers that you don’t believe your business is perfect, that the positive reviews are most likely legitimate, and that you don’t seek to cover up your mistakes.
7: By telling stories
There’s an old adage in the retail world that speaks of selling benefits instead of features, and there’s a reason for that: we don’t really care about product features outside of context. We only care about how they’re going to make our lives better. And if you want to convince people that a product is going to make their life better, what better way than to detail to them how it made someone else’s life better? Try emulating the way Optinmonster displays customer stories.
You can simply state that product X “makes life easier”, but that’s vague and unconvincing. Featuring a video from a happy customer telling their story — why they purchased the product, how it helped them, and why they’d recommend it to others — will prove massively more persuasive and drive many more conversions.
Conclusion-Social Proof Boosts Conversions
Using social proof effectively is about more than just leaving a few good reviews on every product page. It’s something you can get very detailed with to carefully craft a social proof strategy that hugely drives up your conversions. Give it a try!
Image credit: Jurgen Appelo
Patrick Foster covers everything ecommerce for the appropriately-named Ecommerce Tips blog. It’s all about actionable tips for turning your business dreams into realities. Stop by when you can, and be sure to follow all the latest updates on Twitter @myecommercetips.