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The importance of social proof for conversion rate

Published May 23, 2017 by PLATFORM

Social proof has been termed the new marketing and is becoming increasingly more important for conversions on the web. In his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini describes social proof as “the tendency to see an action as more appropriate when others are doing it.” Additionally, Dr. Cialdini claims social proof is more powerful when we’re uncertain what to do, which can be an especially powerful tool for new startups, as their offering is largely untested.

People tend to believe they are making the right choice, when others who are similar to them have made that same choice.

Social proof is essentially a tool that lets your customers build trust in your offerings. You do not spend a lot of time on gimmicks and campaigns many customers see through, rather you let them believe what others have to say about you.


Creating social proof on the web


So how do you create social proof? The following are some of the most common ways to create social proof that can help your customers trust your offering more and ultimately turn into conversions, whether it is purchases or app downloads.


1. Testimonials


Testimonials are very powerful, as their value is in their objectivity. People tend to believe them because someone outside of the company is talking about the product or service, which gives this opinion higher assumed credibility. If you want to make the testimonials even more impactful, include real attributions (name, location, job position, company name/logotype) and photos (avoid using stock images) so that the person can actually imagine the one making the testimonial. 


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Example of testimonials, used in answerforce.com redesign by PLATFORM


Recently, we have seen an increased use of video testimonials and there is a great reason for their use as they feel even more authentic.


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Video testimonials, BigScoots website redesigned by PLATFORM.


2. List of people/companies similar to your target group


Including a list of other companies using your product or service or other people who use your service answers another question for the customers, which is - "Is this something I can identify with?". The answer is “Yes”. Showing a list of companies or number of individuals who have chosen YOU is very powerful, especially the moment some widely recognized brands or celebrities endorse you.


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List of companies using wunderflats.com to find temporary housing for employees.


3. Ratings and reviews


Ratings and reviews are often combined with testimonials, but it is important to recognize them as another source of social proof. Especially for products, one is buying online and for the first time, ratings are very powerful at signaling quality. The same way, ratings can signal quality for services, such as restaurants or places to vacation.

When was the last time you chose to go to a restaurant with a two-star rating over one with a 4.5 average star rating? Chances are never!

Some studies support the notion of the importance of including reviews, indicating that up to 70% of customers look at product reviews before making a purchase and product reviews have been shown to be 12x more trusted than product descriptions from manufacturers.


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An example of Google Maps ratings for restaurants.


4. Influencer Endorsements


If available, an endorsement from an influential endorser can turn your customers into believers overnight. The more widely known the endorser, the more powerful the social proof will be at converting your customers. If your business has ever received a compliment from a well-known person who is respected by your audience, go find it, and add it to your page. There is real science behind this practice, as we judge someone’s opinion based on our overall impression of them, also known as the halo effect. Since the influencers generally already have established their reputation and we see them in a positive light, we also see anything they do or buy in a positive light.


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Rafael Nadal endorsing Bacardi and showcasing values of drinking responsibly.


The only caveat here is that the person should still be palatable to your target audience. People are becoming more polarized in their views and the last thing you want is an endorsement from a famous personality that actively opposes the values important to your company and target market. This could actually send mixed signals to the potential customers.


5. Media logos


The “as seen in” media section is another classic example of social proof. A good idea is to display a quote from a particular media coverage, a short video or a link to the article when you click on the logo of the outlet. Sometimes, it is appropriate to create a section - “In the Media” in the main menu to directly draw the attention of the user to this media coverage.


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Industry Buzz section on the Chloe and Isabel fashion jewelry website effectively showcases media coverage of their products.


6. Trust and security badges


Especially for websites and services where you require the collection of sensitive, personal information, you want to communicate that the user can trust you to handle this information with care. According to Statista.com, in 2014, 783 data breaches were reported, with at least 85.61 million total records exposed, which represents a 500 percent increase over 2005. With data breaches on the rise and constantly in the headlines, consumers are becoming more aware of the risks. You want to take their worries away and signal to them they can trust your website using these “trust” badges.


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Example of security and trust badges and certificates on hack18.com


7. Wisdom of the crowds, friends and social connections


Last but not least, social media proliferation has created in us a fear of missing out, as we see what all of our friends and others are doing on a daily basis. It may sound a bit exaggerated, however, this fear is an actual form of social anxiety that creates a compulsive behavior to deal with the fear of missing an opportunity. Just like wanting to travel to new destinations when we see our friends on a fun vacation, we want to buy the items they buy or sign up for services, they use. The influence is that much stronger when those we see purchasing something or recommending something is a friend because we inherently trust their judgment. In fact, one study found, that customers based on referrals has a 16% higher lifetime value than those who came from other acquisition sources and they were also more loyal to the company. Professional services can greatly benefit from letting potential customers know, how many other professionals in their field are already using a particular product. 


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CodeTasty showcasing that 20,000 developers are already on board.


You don’t have to trust us ;), but everyone trusts Nielsen and one of their recent studies found that the most meaningful form of advertising is recommendations from friends and family, in fact, 83% of consumers in 60 countries said they trust these recommendations over any other form of advertising. A final thought to consider, as with anything else we do, as much as these reviews can help you, bad reviews can be very damaging, in fact, they can result in a loss of as many as 70% of your potential customers.

Make sure you start with a high-quality offering, the good reviews will come followed by new enthusiasts believing in your product.

Optimizing your website for conversions is a very important concept to keep in mind. You have come a long way to launching your business, now you need to convert all of the visitors into customers. A well thought out design that incorporates several of the aforementioned social proof principles will certainly help you accomplish these goals.

Anna McNab is a product strategist at PLATFORM and an associate professor at Niagara University

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