The Power of Social Proof

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Your product or service is amazing, your website is gorgeous, your sales copy is solid and for some reason nobody is buying. Does this sound familiar?

If you are looking to make an impact in your market, one easy way to do so is by adding features of social proof to your website.  In case you aren’t familiar with the term “social proof,” it is the phenomenon where people do things that they see others doing.  They often assume that other people understand more about the situation then they do. As a result, they consider that other people are better informed.

Website owners have found that integrating customer reviews, feedback and testimonials can consistently take sales to the next level.  In fact, various studies have shown that adding this element of social behavior to your site can not only increase sales, but also increase the average transaction amount, and even lower product returns.

When it comes to your website, of course, you want to take advantage of this psychological phenomenon and use it for your benefit. The fact of the matter is that adding customer ratings and reviews to your website will accomplish this goal.  Social influence can cause large groups of people to conform to a certain decision. In this case, when people read reviews they tend to point in the same direction. Often this is called “herd behavior.”

If you think back, you probably have experienced social proof yourself.  For example, if you have ever seen a line outside a nightclub and assumed that the club was popular?  Your belief in this situation was due to this   phenomenon.  Of course, in reality, the night club may be empty. The fact of the matter is that nightclub bouncers are often told to let in people at a slow rate to intentionally create a line outside the door and create the illusion of popularity. Another example of this is how cafes or bars often place a sample dollar or two in a tip jar to encourage tips.

Yahoo first introduced the term “social commerce” as a description for online shopping tools that include user ratings and feedback.  Social commerce allows users to get advice before making a purchase through the use of social media tools.  In fact, even when people hear a recommendation of a product or service from a complete stranger, they are more likely to buy.

There are also some persuasive statistics on this subject. For example:

– according to CompUSA and an iPerceptions study, “63% of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews.”

– as a result of PETCO’s decision to add customer ratings, PETCO VP of e-commerce John Lazarchic, stated, “Adding customer ratings increased our sales and decreased our costs.”  PETCO surveyed their customers after their order and asked, “What online tool most influenced your purchase decision?” The #1 answer was product ratings and reviews, with site search coming in a distant second.

The good news is that integrating product reviews and feedback doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to build a new website or pay for complex software.  Services like Shopper Approved are inexpensive, and allow website owners to simply insert a simple line of code that instantly enables product feedback and reviews.

The bottom line is that when new potential customers have the ability to read actual, verified feedback and reviews of your existing customers, the true power of social proof comes into play, and they’re able to make a more informed, educated decision, which leads to increased sales for you, and a more satisfying purchase for them.

Garrett Pierson

Garrett Pierson

Garrett Pierson is Founder and President of New Generation Consulting, a consulting firm specializing in search engine optimization, social media, website conversion, and success. He is the creator of Building Social Equity 2.0 a “SEO Meets Social Media” training course.
Garrett Pierson

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  • psherland

    It's easy to add online reviews as social proof to your website by linking directly to your Google Places listing. Google provides a perma link to make it easy! Also link to your business Facbook page and encourage your customers to leave reviews there. Remember, that it's very important to acknowledge and respond to the feedback you receive online — positive and negative.

  • Jamie Hibbert

    I find the whole social space interesting. They physiology of humans, they way they like to be lead to make a purchase, acting like sheep. However it is a fantastic and powerful sales technique that needs to be employed by every serious marketer. Large numbers make people keen, interested and show acceptable trust, therefore a purchase or giving of an email address.