Social proof is one of the most powerful psychological heuristics, it links the persuasiveness of a behavior or idea with how other people respond to it. Your brain reduces the perception of risk associated with an idea, or activity, when you see other people engaging in it. That’s why we’re all drawn to movies with high IMDb scores, best-selling books, and crowded restaurants.
Marketers use social proof as a tactic to ease the mind of reticent customers and consequently increase conversions. One example might be showing visitors how many others have viewed, or purchased, a particular product, another example might be what the hot product trends of the moment are. Both these, and similar approaches, have proven to be powerful in driving conversions for many businesses.
Social proof creates FOMO (a fear of missing out). It can give shoppers the confidence to make a decision, particularly when buying gifts for someone else in the run up to Christmas. Fashion retailer, Stuart Weitzman used this concept by tracking their most popular products and updating them regularly on a ‘hot list’ on their homepage. Visitors received the social reassurance from fellow shoppers, and converted.
Multi-channel retailer Express Gifts, has seen £1m in annualized revenue from implementing social proof across their sites ace.co.uk and studio.co.uk.
By grouping customers into valuable segments, they served personalized messaging throughout the complex visitor journey, significantly increasing new customer acquisition.
Companies who are really getting this right are those using historical customer data to create customer cohorts, and then building specific social proof experiences to influence that group. Blanket social proof across a website can be done, however, the most compelling results are when businesses segment their customers before deploying an experience. Not only does this increase conversion rates, but it also gets organizations closer to the one-to-one customer experience many are striving for.