How Social Proof Drives Ecommerce Conversions
How Social Proof Drives Ecommerce Conversions

How Social Proof Drives Ecommerce Conversions


Olivia Hull

Nov 15 2022

How can a digitally-run business earn credibility in the eyes of new customers? Every ecommerce brand looking to introduce itself to new audiences will eventually grapple with this universal marketing challenge — persuading users to trust their brand despite never setting foot in a physical store, speaking face-to-face with an employee, or perhaps even hearing about the brand or its products until mere minutes before a potential purchase.

Therein lies the power of social proof; the sum total of online testimonials, reviews, comments, and interactions of previous users with your brand vouching for the company’s reliability and product quality. Here’s why marketers must harness the power of social proof to improve digital ad performance and encourage future customers’ confidence in their branded efforts.

Defining Social Proof in the Digital Space

In the realm of marketing, social proof is the tendency for new customers to seek out and observe comments and reviews from an objective third party (previous customers) for indications of product and brand reliability. It can be as simple as a high seller rating or an impressive volume of orders — anything that tells a customer a product or service will arrive as advertised and do what it’s expected to do.

Of course, marketers’ own brand messaging aims to convey similar messages, but the numbers say users tend to trust a third-party more than ads from the brand itself.

Data on Social Proof

Let’s start with your next customer’s inner circle. Data from a 2016 nationwide study shows that 82% of American consumers seek out product recommendations from friends and family first before making a purchase. That figure dips when the search for online recommendations and reviews expands beyond personal acquaintances, but not as much as you might think: 70% of your future customers either completely trust or somewhat trust consumer reviews posted online — even from total strangers. That’s more than twice the number of users willing to trust your brand based on branded banner ads or mobile display ads.

As mentioned in our previous blog on the topic, reviews are a powerful resource for users when evaluating their purchasing decisions. Further studies show that 84% of shoppers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and 91% of potential customers occasionally or regularly read between 1-6 online reviews before checkout. 

Examples of Social Proof in Ecommerce

Look no further than your own Amazon shopping cart for evidence of social proof’s significant influence on buying decisions. For every increase in a product’s Amazon star rating by 1, ecommerce brands enjoy a 4-5% bump in conversion rate — the more customers see others enjoying your products through positive reviews, or even negative reviews clarifying what a product can and can’t do, the more likely they are to take the chance on a newly-discovered brand.

This is far from a recently-discovered phenomenon. We see social proof at work on a daily basis in the form of everything from Jordan brand footwear to recommendations from “4 out of 5 dentists” — anything from a source seemingly separate from the brand itself that tells us a product is worth the investment. In the digital media space, social proof often appears as a sponsored influencer post, customer review, or even a simple “like & share” across various social platforms.

Why Social Proof Is Vital for Ecommerce Business

In a now-famous quote often treated as truth within ecommerce circles, Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson once stated “Your brand is what Google says your brand is, not what you say your brand is.” Similarly, ecommerce brands are viewed online as the sum of their users’ combined experiences, a picture formed by the testimonials and social interactions generated by individuals outside the company’s payroll.

Earning customer trust and loyalty has as much to do with prior users’ reports of their experience as it does with your finely-tuned ad messaging — maybe more. Providing a great customer experience fuels positive buzz around your brand, inevitably drawing the attention of additional users to the genuine value you offer.

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