With millions of eCommerce sites and endless products available, it’s easy to become paralyzed. How can consumers be sure they’re making the best choice?
This decision dilemma leads to purchase hesitation, and even lost sales. In some cases, customers purchase several items, with the intention of returning most of them. This is a costly problem.
Retailers can minimize purchase hesitation in two ways. First, by giving consumers as much information as possible. Second, by making product content more compelling.
Social proof helps marketers meet both of these goals.
Social proof, also known as social influence, is the phenomenon where we imitate the actions of others in order to behave correctly. In short, decisions are easier when we can follow the crowd or rely on an expert.
Celebrity and expert endorsements are great ways to build social proof. But they aren’t always achievable at scale.
Here we’ll explore two ways to leverage the social proof effect using content at your fingertips: user generated reviews, and real-time eCommerce data.
1. Build trust with peer social proof
Online shopping adds a new level of uncertainty to the buying process. Will the product look like it does in the photos? Will it arrive intact? Can I trust this website with my credit card?
To answer these questions, shoppers look for unbiased feedback from other customers. Research from Trustpilot suggests that 93% of consumers read reviews before buying online from an unfamiliar company.
Similarly, Fresh Relevance found that 61 percent of customers look for product reviews when shopping online, while more than half find star ratings helpful. Only product details and shipping information proved to be more useful.
Building trust throughout the customer journey
Trustpilot’s research shows that customers are more likely to make a purchase when they see positive reviews on the homepage and product pages.
But reviews are also powerful in emails, Facebook ads, and checkout pages. This makes customer feedback more impactful than influencer endorsements, celebrity endorsements, or the company’s social media channels.
It goes without saying that customer feedback should be authentic. A trusted social proof provider will help you collect genuine ratings and reviews from verified purchasers. Marketers can then leverage this user generated content across channels.
Reassure visitors on the homepage
Your homepage is often the first thing people see when they reach your online store. For many, this will be the first interaction they have with your brand.
Social proof reassures first-time shoppers from the moment they arrive, so they can go on to make a purchase in confidence.
Where you’re offering trending product recommendations, you might consider adding star ratings. These show shoppers that your products are worth buying.
The homepage is also an ideal place to highlight customer service reviews. These let shoppers know that they’re in safe hands.
Here’s a homepage example from electronics retailer Maplin, combining product recommendations with rating stars.
Encourage conversions on product pages
Online shoppers can’t touch or try on items as they can in store. That makes social proof especially powerful on product level pages.
At this stage in the buying journey, some visitors have found their dream product, while others are researching alternatives. Either way, social proof helps shoppers make a confident decision.
Incorporating star ratings within the product details is a great way to build trust at a glance. For more cautious shoppers, detailed reviews could make the difference between a conversion and a bounce.
Here, Maplin seamlessly combines customer ratings with product specifications. This reinforces the trust signals we saw on the homepage.
When customers find this valuable information on your website, they’re less likely to start searching elsewhere.
Seal the deal in triggered emails
Our research has found that more than half of online shopping carts are abandoned. In many cases, shoppers don’t make it to the checkout because they need reassurance.
Cart and browse abandonment emails are golden opportunities to hammer home that your products can be trusted. A well-timed shopping recovery email, combined social proof, could be enough to spark a conversion.
In an extensive A/B-test, one retailer found that star ratings significantly improved the performance of browse abandonment emails. The monthly AOV generated by emails with star ratings was on average 59% more than that of browse abandonment emails without star ratings.
Average Order Value from Browse Abandonment Email A/B Test
Boost the power of bulk emails
Bulk marketing emails tend to have lower conversion rates than triggered messages, as they aren’t a direct response to customers’ actions. You have to work harder to persuade customers to make a purchase.
Providing brief customer reviews in marketing emails can spark the interest of customers who weren’t actively shopping for your products.
In this promotional email, Feel Good Contacts boosts product recommendations with rating stars.
2. Build excitement with wisdom of the crowd
When a product is perceived as popular, it becomes more appealing.
That’s because we assume that a group of people collectively makes better decisions than an individual. We also have a powerful fear of missing out (FOMO).
Marketers can harness this phenomenon by deploying popularity messaging throughout the customer journey.
This merchandising tactic uses real-time browse and purchase data to highlight trending products. The effect is two-pronged: Consumers are reassured that other shoppers trust your products, and also feel a sense urgency.
To incorporate popularity messaging into email and web content, you’ll need a system that collects eCommerce data in real time.
Boost on-site product content
Shoppers who get as far your product pages are already interested in what you have to offer. Popularity messaging converts this interest into excitement.
The idea is to show how often a product has been purchased, carted or browsed in a certain timeframe. For example, a message such as “83 purchased in the last 24 hours” can be added to product recommendations, on product detail pages, or on the cart page.
Here, Glasses Direct combines rating stars and popularity messaging to simultaneously build trust and increase urgency.
This is a great example of a company leveraging available data to make product pages more compelling.
Drive email click throughs
Discounts have long been used to drive conversions from cart abandonment emails. But our research has shown that incentives are often unnecessary, and can even be counterproductive.
So what if there were a way to make triggered emails more engaging, without changing anything about the product or the price?
Popularity messaging appeals to consumers’ FOMO, and activates our desire to follow a consensus. This provides a compelling nudge to click through and convert.
Here, Cottages.com combines FOMO-based language (“Don’t miss out!”) with real-time popularity messaging.
The same logic can be applied to bulk marketing emails. Here, consumers may be familiar with your brand, but haven’t shown a clear purchase intent. Popularity messaging helps these shoppers engage with your products, and get a feel for what peers are buying.
Kleertjes.com uses this tactic to spark curiosity around product recommendations in promotional emails.
Increasing conversions with social proof
People buy from people. Yet many eCommerce businesses struggle to harness this principal to drive sales online.
Social proof content mimics the person-to-person experience by showing shoppers which products are resonating with their peers. Where discounts make products more appealing by reducing the price, social proof works by emphasizing the value and quality that you provide.
And social proof doesn’t need to mean expensive influencer campaigns. Marketers can get started using readily available content, such as purchase data and customer reviews.
For more ways to make content more compelling using real-time data, check out the Dynamic Content Playbook: