eg. Facebook or Google Analytics
Three different review platforms

Gavin Hirst - Saturday 25th April 2020


5 ways to use social proof to increase online sales

In competitive sectors, social proof can make all the difference when it comes to conversions.

It’s no surprise to see some of the biggest brands in the world leveraging social proof in order to help drive more sales online. Amazon, Coca-Cola, Apple and more utilise the power of social proof to help customers to make that crucial purchase decision.

But what is social proof?

Social Proof – explained

Social proof is a tactic used by digital marketers as part of an overall Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) strategy.

The goal is to convince more people about the validity of your product or service by presenting content from customers, celebrities, experts, crowds, friends and certification.

A study by Bizrate Insights revealed that 92% of online shoppers look at a product/service review before making a purchase.

According to Wikipedia:

“Social proof, a term coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book, Influence, is also known as informational social influence. It describes a psychological and social phenomenon wherein people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behaviour in a given situation.”

In the case of online shopping, our behaviour in making a purchase is justified by the proof of other people also making the same purchase, or of celebrities endorsing the product or your friends talking about it.

Reviews tend to be more trusted than product descriptions. Anyone can write a glowing product description, however showcasing the reviews of actual customers means that you, as a brand, are happy for your customers to talk openly about your product in an unbiased way which is not done as a way of selling the product.

So now we know more about what social proof is, how can your business leverage different forms of social proof to drive more conversions? Here are 5 ways to use social proof to increase online sales:

1.      Get more online reviews and do more with them

We’ve already talked about the power of reviews.  A study by eConsultancy found that reviews are 12x more trusted than product descriptions.

The challenge with reviews is two-fold.

The first part is about getting more reviews. There are lots of tactics for getting more reviews. Here are some of the tactics we use with our clients:

  • Create different spaces for customers to leave reviews. Whilst the default for many businesses is Google (with good reason), not everyone likes to use Google for reviews. Consider other platforms such as Facebook, Yelp, Trustpilot and Rankers.

Three different review platforms

  • Create incentives – running a monthly online draw which you can promote on the back of your receipts or through online emails is a great way to get people to leave reviews.
  • Respond to every review – whether they are positive or negative, you should respond to every review you get and show your customers and prospective customers that you engage.
  • Talk to customers direct – there is nothing better than face to face feedback so talking to your customers first can often lead to a follow-up review online

The second part of the challenge is doing more with the reviews once you get them. Whilst many people will actively seek out reviews before making a purchase, are they looking at all your different platforms? What if your most glowing reviews are on Yelp but people are mainly looking on Google?

You need to showcase all of your reviews wherever you can. On product/service pages, create a space where people can see your review scores across all platforms and give them the option to click through to read more on the platform.

Use your social media platforms to push out the latest positive reviews as a weekly post to showcase the positive feedback you are getting.

Make sure you use schema markup on your product pages to aggregate the reviews scores for your product as these will then be shown in the Google Search Results and help to drive more clicks to your site from organic search.

2.      Use experts

You will usually find an expert in every niche, no matter how small. Sometime this might be a university professor and other times, it might be someone who has dedicated thousands of hours to the particular area.

Getting experts to review your product/service is a great way to provide social proof. Typically, experts in a field are known to others and if not, their credentials can be displayed for everyone to see.

We have seen some great examples of companies using experts to take over their social media profiles or write guest blog posts.

People viewing your content will automatically associate the expert with your brand and create a sense of trust in your products and services, helping to drive more online sales (as well as helping your overall brand reputation).

3.      User-generated content

In the same way as word-of-mouth is one of the best ways of promoting your brand, utilising user-generated content is a proven way of generating more sales through social proof.

User-generated content can take a wide range of formats. In its most simple format, this can be as easy as adding customer photos of your products to your social media profiles, case studies or testimonials.

Just as people are more likely to trust the recommendation of a friend talking about your product or service, they are also more likely to be swayed by a photo from a genuine customer using your product or service.

We have seen some great examples of brands using social media hashtags to curate all the great images of their products and then display this back on the product page. This creates a very powerful story for prospective customers looking at your product and will often showcase your product being used by a wide range of people.

4.      Certifications and Badges

If your business has certain industry certifications or accreditations, you could and should proudly display these on your website.

Most certifying and accrediting organisations have badges or logos that can be freely displayed on your website. Some have even been shown to increase conversion rates by as much as 30%.

Accreditation platforms

Accreditations and certifications are readily available across a wide range of sectors. Where possible, only include accreditations from sources that are likely to be known by your audience. In our sector for example, keeping up to date with our Google Partner accreditation is extremely important to us as a business.

It not only shows that we understand the products we are selling, it also ensures we keep up to date with all the latest developments on Google as we have to take annual exams in order to maintain our partner status.

5.      Case Studies

Our final tip is to make sure you use case studies to showcase the awesome work you are doing.

Whilst these are more formal in nature, case studies can be extremely powerful and provide high authority social proof.

Case studies leverage the idea that customers perceive long, in-depth user reviews as being more reputable and trustworthy than short snippets.

We have a dedicated case studies section on our own website where we showcase the work we have done with existing and former clients. Within these case studies, we always work with the client to ensure they are happy with the content we are producing and we always ask them to contribute to that case study to provide real depth and genuine customer input.

Summary

There are lots of ways to use social proof as part of your CRO strategy and above we have covered off just a handful of these. These five are the ones we think will have the biggest impact for you and your business but we are always happy to talk to you about specific opportunities in your sector. Give us a call today and we would love to have a chat over a coffee and see how you could be doing more business online.

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