Whether we realize it or not, social proof affects us all.
Imagine this: You’re invited to a fancy party. It’s the day of, what are you thinking about?
Most likely, you’re thinking through the party in your head. You’re wondering what to wear, when to show up, who is going to be there, etc.
You don’t want to be the first to show up, that would be awkward. But you don’t want to be the last to show up, you might miss people and the host might think you’re being rude.
You don’t want to be overdressed, then you’d stand out as “that girl or that guy”. You also don’t want to be underdressed - else everyone will look at you and wonder what you were thinking.
All these decisions have social implications, and although we’re unlikely to admit it, most of us want to fit in and be part of a group. We base decisions depending on others’ influences or perform actions based on commonly-accepted behavior.
This sort of human condition is very natural, and it applies to even consumer behavior for buying decisions. Simply put, we are influenced by what others do, and what others think. This also applies to making purchase decisions.
As a business owner, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “how can I harness this phenomenon to generate growth and boost my revenues?” Well, the answer is pretty simple: Social Proof.
The marketing landscape has changed dramatically over the last few years. From new, innovative technologies to increased customer skepticism, change is inevitable. It’s important to note that effective marketing strategies and customer buying habits are now much different than what they used to be.
In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into social proof and show you how you can use them on your site to help to increase conversions.
Social Proof: What Is It?
Social proof is the psychological and social phenomenon that human behavior is impacted by the influence of the attitudes, beliefs, and actions of other people, be it online or in-person.
While positive social proof can influence someone to buy a new product or trust a certain company, the negative proof has the opposite impact. For instance, an empty restaurant at 8 pm on a Friday night makes us think perhaps the food isn’t that great. Or, the line wrapping around a nightclub makes us assume it’s a cool place to hang out with friends.
In the context of online notifications - Social Proof Notifications are a quick way to show the visitors on your site real activity and build urgency to purchase your products or sign up for your service. For example, if you see a “this product purchased” number that’s quickly going up in the corner of your screen, displaying those who bought a product you’re considering - it may make you think, “Maybe I should buy as well!”
We often don’t realize how our decisions are impacted by social proof. It’s something we gloss over seemingly. However, that’s exactly why it can be a powerful conversion tool.
The 6 Major Categories of Social Proof
We take a slightly different approach in how we segment social proof - we think about how different types of entities (people or authority figures) might provide different types of social proof:
- Consumers — social proof from your existing users or customers (e.g., case studies or testimonials). Studies show that the more similar someone is to us, the more weight they have in influencing us.
- Celebrities — social proof from influencers or celebrities (e.g., influencers who have purchased from you or visited your establishment). Often times, we make aspirational purchases (purchases that reflect the life we want to live not the life we actually live, because of influence from celebrities.
- Experts — social proof from credible experts in your industry (e.g., esteemed experts who have authority on the industry or product/servie you’re selling).
- Crowds — large numbers of users who provide social proof (e.g., “100,000+ websites use the XYZ social proof app to increase conversions). Humans are conditioned o follow the wisdom of crowds - if 100k people do something, it must be good/right.
- Friends — those who are friends of your site visitors or users (e.g., “100 of your friends like the XYZ Social Proof Software”).
- Certifications — a credible, third-party entity that certifies a rating based on some sort of predefined standard or metric (e.g., “USDA Certified Organic”) that guarantees a minimum quality.
So, now that you know the major types of social proof let’s show you different examples of social proof that boost your website conversions.
Social Proof Examples: What Are the Benefits and How to Boost Conversions Using Social Proof In 2019?
The question isn’t whether social proof will help increase conversions or not, but rather which tactics will you choose to leverage?
Below are some of the best social proof examples you can follow to boost conversions and grow your sales. Without further ado, let’s get started!
1. Recent Activity Notifications
More and more websites are starting to see the value of tools that allow for verified, real-time conversion updates. What these tools do is alert your visitors that other users like them came to your website and actually followed through and bought something. This type of social proof is invaluable.
For instance, ProofFactor’s (that’s us! We use ourselves as an example for obvious reasons, but there are many other options out there!) client 402andBeyond saw a noticeable increase in conversions after installing their Recent Activity notification. You can see how they mention “Jenn from Ashland, NE” just bought a black hood top below.
You immediately start thinking who this Jenn person could be, and when the Notification reloads every few seconds, it includes a badge of popularity to the website.
This sort of social proof popup is very common nowadays—companies like McDonald’s deploy the same conversion increasing methods in the real world.
For years they’ve updated their marquees to display the number of people they’ve served. When the company passed “99 billion,” they quickly moved on to “Billions and Billions.” These consumer updates aren’t quite of the real-time variety. However, they achieve the same end—alerting potential clients that this is a trusted brand preferred by many people.
2. Live Visitor Count
Showing the real-time stats of how many users are currently viewing the web page, or how many consumers are purchasing isn’t only an effective form of social proof, but it also adds urgency into the mix.
You can use a social proof tool like us (ProofFactor) allow you to display live visitor counts in a small yet attention-grabbing popup - allowing you to trigger the power of crowds as social proof!
3. Ratings and Reviews
Did you know that 63% of customers indicate they’re more likely to buy from a website if it has product reviews and ratings?
You should be using reviews and ratings to boost conversions on your product pages, especially if you have an eCommerce shop.
Amazon has built this as a key feature of their shopping pages - and I don’t know anyone that doesn’t at first glance at the reviews before making a purchase? Amazon focuses on have tons of reviews for products they sell on their website and displays them in a way that features a breakdown of all the ratings.
User reviews are everywhere on the internet as they are a great form of social proof. The vast majority of customers check reviews before purchasing things online, and they trust the accuracy of the ratings overwhelmingly.
4. In-Line Urgency Notifications
Ever been in the process of booking a flight? If so, you might have noticed a subtle yet actionable tool that airlines use to encourage people to make a quick purchase. As you slowly progress through the checkout, the website will alert you if there are any limited number of seats available on the plane.
As you can see, United Airlines is using “3 seats left” and “1 seat left” as social proof notifications that the flight you are looking at is a popular one. This prompts action on behalf of the user.
Similarly, when you seek out an item, and the inventory is reducing on eBay, you will see an in-line social proof notification right above the number of users watching the item.
Customer testimonials are probably the most commonly used form of social proof. According to research, 92% of users will trust recommendations from a peer, and 70% of prospects will trust a reference from someone who they don’t even know.
This is the reason why most big brands display customer testimonials on their site.
Testimonials can be displayed in several different formats as long as they highlight your product value through the voices of satisfied consumers.
6. Celebrity Endorsements
Celebrities and popular industry experts are great resources in terms of establishing authority, as well as proving your value.
Depending on your business, celebrity approval can come in the form of natural or paid endorsements. The latter would refer to formal contracts where you pay a public figure to represent your brand. Big corporations like Apple and Beats by Dre have been doing this for years.
Natural celebrity endorsement refers to instances where an individual approves of your product or brand publicly on their own volition. For instance, WPBeginner videos highlight some of the best industry experts who recommend free WordPress video training.
7. Media Mentions
Has your brand or product ever been mentioned in the media?
This includes magazine features, TV segments, podcast interviews, or unsolicited reviews. If possible, consider taking excerpts from these media mentions and paste them on your site to build authority. This is exactly what Freshbooks does on their homepage.
Another great example of quoting press mentions could be seen by Markhor, a top-notch leather shoes maker.
8. Case Studies
Case studies might be formal in nature but are often used to provide high authority social proof. Further referred to as long-form social proof, case studies leverage the scheme that consumers perceive long, in-depth reviews as being more reputable compared to brief excerpts.
Shopify, a well-known eCommerce software on the internet, highlights its consumer success stories as long-form case studies.
9. Trust Seals
By incorporating trust seals on your site’s checkout page, you can drastically increase your sales. For example, Blue Fountain Media did a split-test, and the result was shocking! They found that including a Verisign trust seal increased their conversions by 42%.
There are many security seals you can add on your website like McAfee, Norton, Better Business Bureau, etc. A study conducted by the Baymard Institute showed which seals consumers trust more.
10. Consumer Base
One incredible pervasive and effective social proof method is the use of client logos to prove positive adoption.
By displaying your existing customer base to the visitors, you’re essentially telling them that your offering is good enough for successful brands to use; thus, it must be good for them as well.
Basecamp does an excellent job of this by displaying the number of brands that signed up last week, along with the big name brands that are using their platform.
11. Certifications and Badges
If your company has certain industry accreditations or certifications, you can proudly showcase these qualifications on your site.
Most certifying and accrediting businesses have logos or badges that can be displayed freely on your site. Some have even been proven to boost conversion rates by up to 30%.
Pagely is a leading managed WordPress hosting provider that showcases an Amazon Web Services Partner Badge in their site header.
12. Platform Integrations
If your product integrates with third-party services, an excellent social proof you can implement is the logos of your integration partners. Doing this will help you put your product or service in the company of credible and familiar businesses.
Baremetrics does it well in their header by stating they are an analytics and insights platform for the top-tier payment platform Stripe.
Including third-party platform integration logos is probably the easiest way to borrow social credibility.
13. User/Customer/Subscriber Count
Your user, customer, or subscriber count is another valuable stats that brings credibility to your business.
A perfect example would be Akismet. It’s a popular comment spam filter that highlights they block over 7.5 million spam comments per hour.
We do the same thing on our website - showing how many notifications we show on behalf of our clients and how many emails we helped them collect.
14. Test Scores
Test scores from a third-party, independent source can be very helpful for easing a consumer’s concerns.
For instance, Google’s “Trusted Store” card provides a score based on criteria which are crucial to shoppers in advance of making a purchase.
15. Social Media Proof
As social media continues to become more mainstream, companies are utilizing social media statuses as “social proof” by displaying what their consumers are saying about them.
It simply doesn’t get more authentic than this. A popular email marketing service called Campaign Monitor displays tweet testimonials in their website footer.
16. Best Seller
Simply displaying consumers which product is your “best seller” works to boost conversions on that specific product. A customer who’s thinking about buying may be on the fence. However, when they see that it’s a best seller item, they’ll be much more likely to make the buying decision.
This is why Amazon calls out its best seller products with an attractive “#1 Best Seller” banner.
17. Number of Orders
Sharing how many orders you have had, or how many times your products have been sold can make a significant difference in generating even more sales.
A great example would be GoodReads. A book written by Dale Carnegie has an eye-catchy product description where they share the fact that over 15 million copies of the book have been sold.
18. Customer Recommendations
A powerful way to leverage your existing consumers for social proof is by surveying them, and then showing the percentage of users who would purchase your product again.
NakedWines does this perfectly by asking consumers who bought a bottle of wine to smash a rating and state whether or not they’d buy it again, and then calculating the overall percentage.
Here’s a nice touch: The copy next to the product image says that 89% of those who have tried the product will buy it again, and the company doesn’t blame them for doing so.
19. “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought...”
Similar to “Best Seller,” you can also show users similar products that your consumers bought along with the ones they’re currently viewing.
This isn’t just a strategy for cross-selling your items—it’s a form of social proof that explicitly indicates that other people are also buying your products.
To leverage your customer reviews better, you can let them create a profile and become ambassadors of your business. This shows customers that your product is so authentic that people not only love it, but they also promote it.
Sweaty Betty is a fitness apparel brand that calls out its ambassadors on each of their product pages right under the “Product Review” section.
21. Popular Posts or Products
Showcasing your popular products or posts proves that other people are highly interested in them. So, why not place those products in a prominent place on your site?
John Lewis boasts a particular section for their top sellers on the website’s homepage.
This is great, especially for those who are looking to purchase a gift for a loved one but aren’t quite sure what to buy.
22. Customer Showcase
Customers love to be featured, so why not feature your loyal, happy customers as social proof?
With a consumer showcase, you can showcase your clients’ styles, creations, and whatever they have been able to do by purchasing your product.
For instance, Modcloth has an amazing style gallery where they allow users to post photos of themselves wearing their products.
This is, in fact, more powerful than hiring professional models. Why? Well, after all, if their clothes can make real customers look this stunning, then surely they’ll look great on pretty much anyone!
The future of Social Proof
Social proof has been around for centuries, and it’s not going anywhere. The use of social proof is on the horizon, and for a good reason. It just works!
On top of that, Nielsen studies show that recommendations from our friends and family are the most reliable source of advertising, and two-thirds of people take the reviews they read online seriously.
If your mission is to take your digital marketing to the next level, it’s crucial to establish customer trust by using social proof, and the examples mentioned above should provide you with plenty of inspiration.