5 Ways Merchants are Using Social Proof to Increase Sales Conversions

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The top 1% of eCommerce companies receive 50%+ of all of online revenue. The bottom 50% of merchants make less than 1% of all online revenue. It is becoming increasingly difficult to compete against the Amazons of the world not just because Amazon is growing but because the market is becoming oversaturated with small merchants.

That combined with fake data being presented everywhere in media today creates a society of skeptical buyers. If you can’t tell me why I should purchase from you versus Amazon, I’m going to purchase from Amazon (sorry, its the truth). How do you do that? How can you ensure your customer base is comfortable becoming a repeat customer and purchasing more? Social Proof is one of the best tools to improve conversions and increase sales.

Anyone that has read my blog posts or seen me speak will know I have an obsession with the Law of Diffusion of Innovation. I won’t get too much into it, but here is a link where I do. Basically as a merchant, you want to impress early adopters so that you appeal to the early majority. How do customers know your online store has other customers? It’s not the same as a brick and mortar environment where Social Proof is out in the open.

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Let’s talk a little bit about how merchants are currently utilizing Social Proof. I will preface this by saying Social Proof may not work for your store, I’ve noticed it increases conversion for most industries, but every store is different. It’s always best to A/B test any new feature in your store to ensure its providing value for you and your customers.

Reviews

Reviews are the cornerstone of any good online store. It increased sales massively for Amazon and they continue to make reviews a highlight for their offering. (find data source) They know most online consumers will look at reviews prior to making a purchase. This number gets higher and higher year over year. I will look at a review 100% of the time if I have never purchased that type of product before. If you’re a new store, encourage people to review your products, and make them a focus on all forms of media. Experiment with locations - place them on your Product Page, Index Page, About, and find what converts.

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Influencers

Reviews and influencers go hand in hand. Find influential early adopters to review your product on social media. There are a wide range of influencer networks and agencies that will help you find people that can influence within your niche. When someone with a big following gives you a review, highlight that on your home page or on your social media.

The influencer market is becoming oversaturated as well. This creates an opportunity to work / partner with people that aren’t going to charge you 100% of your advertising budget. There is no need to overspend, and you can diversify with more than one influencer.

Detail Counters

These are my favorite. Personally, sometimes I don’t have the time to look through every review and decide whether or not to purchase a particular product. Detail Counters provide a summary of how many people have purchased, viewed, added to cart, for a particular product, collection, or store. There are so many great examples of this, but the idea behind this isn’t just to show Social Proof. It is to make the customer feel like they are a part of a community by adding to that counter. We see this a lot with socially driven merchants.

Tentree has a counter on their main page. When you purchase their products they plant trees on your behalf. People love knowing that because of their purchase something good is happening— It can be quite addictive.

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Social proof popups & feeds

Another way merchants are leveraging Social Proof to make their online store feel like it's more like a retail environment is through Social Proof Feeds or Popups. When a customer purchases a particular product other users are able to see that someone bought that product with a popup. This gives the customer the feeling of activity and generally increases conversions by giving the customer socially driven data. It also creates a level of urgency if the customer wants to buy that particular product they may worry that the product has limited stock.

Some things to note, popups don’t work for all merchants. Larger merchants tend not to want to inundate their customers and create distractions. Which as we know will decrease conversions. Instead, you can leverage a social proof feed on a product detail page or on another page. Also, if your customers are privacy centric, then it could have a negative affect if you’re presenting customer information.

Scarcity

Scarcity is a different type Social Proof that is quite a bit easier to fake. Basically you create urgency and social proof by having a limited stock of a particular product. If you have less of a product the assumption is that other people have been purchasing your collection.

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A few reminders..

Location is everything. Don’t just present these things on your website—talk about it on social media, within your email marketing, and in your conversational marketing. Imagine a situation where you’re noticing people drop off, and you send them an Instant Message saying X people just bought this product and only X are left. Understand that Social Proof is a tool that you can leverage to improve conversions at any stage in your funnel.

USE REAL DATA — I can’t stress this enough. I get so many questions asking should I present fake viewing data or fake purchasing data. There are themes and apps that will do this (Shopify will likely ban them if they haven’t already) so don’t do it. Your customers will find out and stop buying from you. In addition, as I said previously, consumers are becoming more skeptical. Do not contribute to that.

A/B or Multivariate Test — How do you know if anything is working? Leverage testing so you know scientifically if a particular feature is increasing value. As I mentioned, don’t look at Social Proof as your silver bullet. It may not be. So test!

There are so many different routes a merchant can take when using something like Social Proof. Make it personalized for your store and the customer. Don’t do exactly what everyone else is doing. Find your edge and be proud of all of your customers.

About the author

My name is Ben Walker, I am a Professor of eCommerce and work as the Head of Sales for eCommerce application company called Fera.ai. I work with over 17,000 Shopify and BigCommerce customers at Fera.ai. We have an application that utilizes Social Proof and Urgency in order to increase conversions. I highly recommend checking out a 30 day trial and see if Social Proof is right for you.


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