4 Social Proof Experiments That Use Psychology To Boost eCommerce Sales
Social proof is a crazy effective marketing strategy that can help drive sales and convert new customers who may be on the fence about trying your product.
But the question is, what makes it so effective?
The answer is actually quite simple: it’s backed by psychological principles that subtly encourage people to take action when they may not have done so otherwise.
If you haven’t considered using social proof to boost your conversion rate optimization, we’ll be diving into all the reasons you should in this guide.
We’ll even share four social proof experiments you can try in your eCommerce business to harness the power of this marketing strategy the easy way.
Before we do, let’s make sure you’re on board with the basics:
What is Social Proof?
We discussed the concept of social proof in a previous guide (which you should definitely check out!), so we won’t spend too much time explaining it here. Instead, we’ll focus on the psychology of social proof today.
Put simply, social proof is the phenomenon that shows people are more likely to take action if they see that others have already done so.
An easy example of social proof in action is reading Google Reviews before visiting a new restaurant. You want to see whether others were happy with the food and service before going through a bad experience yourself.
For eCommerce businesses, having social proof is essential for new customers to trust your brand and its products. In this case, social proof and authority go hand-in-hand.
Since people can’t physically see or touch a product online before buying it, they want to hear other people describe the experience of purchasing and using it first. Once they see customers confirm your product descriptions and images are legit, they’ll build trust in your brand and be more likely to make a purchase.
Check out our guide on 10 examples of social proof to learn how eCommerce brands use this strategy successfully.
How Social Proof Works From a Psychological Perspective
Dr. Robert Cialdini, a Regents Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and best-selling author of the books Influence and Pre-Suasion, is known as “The Godfather of Influence” for a good reason.
He spent his career studying the science of persuasion and how it affects the way people take action. According to Cialdini, the following six psychological principles explain why social proof is so motivating:
1. Uncertainty. When people are unsure of something, they look to others for guidance on how to act. People naturally want to do the right thing and make the right choices. As a result, they believe that following the cues of others helps them do so.
2. Similarity. Many people also look to others to see how they do things, even if they’re sure of how to do something on their own. They want to follow people who are similar to how they see themselves. So if someone is doing something admirable or smart, it must also be worth them doing too.
3. Expertise. It’s common for people to follow anyone they consider an expert in their field. If they’re knowledgeable on a topic, then they must be the right person to follow.
4. Number. If people notice several people taking the same action, they’re more likely to consider it the correct one. This then makes others more likely to follow and take the same action. This principle is sometimes referred to as “the multiple source effect,” and it works really well for eCommerce businesses.
5. Attraction. The principle of attraction in social proof is closely related to similarity. Basically, people will follow individuals they’re attracted to or consider important, glamorous, well-liked, etc.
Attraction is often referred to as “the halo effect,” which is essentially a ripple effect that takes place. If you see someone you admire doing something, then whatever they’re doing must also be positive and attractive.
6. Authority. Authority can also be compared to expertise. Here, people will follow others who appear to be an authority in their space. So if a person with enough authority recommends a product, other people are more likely to take their word that it’s worth using.
4 Types of Social Proof Experiments to Run in Your eCommerce Business
Now that you understand the six psychological principles involved, let’s explore a few social proof experiments to try in your eCommerce business:
1. Create Informative Videos for People to See Your Product in Action
As a quick refresher, the principle of uncertainty explains that people look to others when they’re unsure of something to determine how to act. This makes sense and holds true for new customers trying your product for the first time.
Since it’s new for them, they’re more likely to rely on other people who have already tried your product to see how they feel about it before forking over their money.
That’s why user-generated content (UGC) makes a great social proof experiment to try.
With UGC, you can have some of your existing customers create product review videos, so new customers can see it in action and hear positive testimonials about it.
This will help ease their minds and solidify that they’re making the right decision, which will make them more likely to do so.
Once you launch these videos, track their success and add more as you see your sales improve.
You may need to incentivize your existing customers with a discount to do this, which will still make it worth doing since it will likely lead to more sales.
Since this social proof experiment will take some time to get going, consider using the next one at the same time:
2. Add Customer Reviews Throughout Your Website and Social Media Channels
On top of creating product review videos, it also pays to have customer reviews weaved throughout your website and social media posts.
Again, these can help ease the minds of potential new customers and show them your brand can be trusted.
Customer reviews also hit a few of the psychological principles mentioned earlier, such as uncertainty, numbers, and similarity.
When people see how many customers have tried your product (numbers), they’ll feel more comfortable moving forward (which also plays on uncertainty). If your existing customers are in a similar situation as your potential customers, they’ll feel even better about trying your product after seeing them have such great luck.
As you create videos, consider adding customer reviews to your website and social media, and you’ll likely find that this social proof experiment yields excellent results.
You should also allow customers to post images in your product reviews, which is not only more visually appealing but also seen as more trustworthy. This falls under that user-generated content category mentioned in the first social proof experiment.
3. Use Influencers and Authority Figures to Promote Your Brand
Next, consider teaming up with influencers and experts in your space so they can help explain more about your product and promote it.
This social proof strategy is similar to creating videos in that it will take a bit more time to do, but the end result will be worth it.
Have these influencers or experts take over your social media channels to answer questions or share their product knowledge. Then, have them promote your product directly on their social media pages to expand your reach further.
Once they do, you can save these videos to your Instagram Story Highlights and your website, so they’re always available for new customers to view.
This experiment hits on similarity, expertise, attraction, and the authority principles, packing a quadruple dose of reassurance. This one move could easily lead people to trust your brand and want to make a purchase ASAP.
4. Add Trust Symbols Throughout Your Website
Finally, but just as important, make sure your website contains trust symbols throughout and especially during the checkout process.
Trust symbols include endorsements from major organizations or experts, secure checkout symbols, and full disclosure privacy policies that are both easily accessible and easy to understand.
All of these will help people combat uncertainty and build trust in your brand.
Final Thoughts on Using These Social Proof Experiments
Whether we’re talking about marketing or psychology, a good experiment setup only tests one variable at a time. This allows you to measure and track progress based on one change instead of wondering which variable was responsible.
So as you try these social proof experiments in your eCommerce business, try not to implement all of them at once (we know, it can be exciting and hard not to). Then you’ll know exactly which strategy was the most effective with your audience.
Once you know what wins over new customers, you can then build on and scale it to magnify your efforts. Do this, and you’ll have no trouble driving sales and creating a larger tribe of happy customers. They may even leave more reviews and user-generated content to further the ripple effect.
That’s all possible when you utilize the psychological principles you learned here today. So now it’s time to put these strategies to good use and give your first social proof experiment a try.