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Social Proof: The Definitive Guide for eCommerce Merchants

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As an eCommerce merchant, one of your most important tasks would be convincing visitors to buy from you. But it can be hard to convert some random people into customers when they just come across your business; you need to earn their trust first. Even when they are impressed by what you have to offer, they almost always look for other buyers' actions - social proof to guide their decisions.

Customers try restaurants based on how many people are inside, book vacations based on friends' recommendations, and buy products based on the testimonials on the website. Social proof is a powerful tool that you can use to influence buyers and drive sales, which is why you should read this article.

In this, I'm going to give you the ultimate guide to utilize social proof for your eCommerce business. You will understand what social proof is, how you can use it, and some examples to learn from. With that in mind, let's get started!

social proof can help boost your conversion rate

I. What is Social Proof?

Social proof example

A crowded restaurant like this must have good food, right?

Social proof is a psychological theory invented by Dr. Robert Cialdini in 1984, which suggests that we humans tend to rely on other people's actions or opinions to adapt our own behaviors. This often happens when we encounter unfamiliar social situations and can't determine the appropriate response, so we are driven by the assumption that others have more knowledge and experience.

This is also called "wisdom of the crowd." And reading about it, have you noticed how it affects your daily life? Did you watch that terrible last season of Game of Thrones just because everyone was talking about it? Did you buy something spontaneously because your favorite celebrity recommended it? We've all been there.

In fact, 91% of buyers admit that positive reviews make them more likely to buy from a business, according to research from BrightLocal in 2019.

Next up, let's see why social proof is so important to eCommerce merchants.

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II. Why is Social Proof Important to eCommerce Merchants?

I have mentioned that social proof can influence consumers' behaviors and drive sales, but did you know that it can increase your brand's popularity and customer loyalty as well? Such a powerful tool social proof is, and we have stats to back it up. Here is some of what BrightLocal found through their research:

  • The average buyer reads about 10 online reviews before really making a purchase decision.
  • 97% of buyers read businesses' responses to reviews.
  • 82% of buyers read online reviews to know about businesses and 52% of 18-54-year-olds admit they "always" read reviews.
  • 57% of buyers claim to only buy or use a business service if it earns at least a 4-star rating.
  • For 50% of buyers, their next step after reading a positive review of a brand is to visit its website.
  • 72% of people who have written reviews received responses from other buyers.

By tapping into the psychological reaction of consumers, social proof builds trust between buyers and sellers, opening the gate to making purchases online. And, since traditional advertising is less effective nowadays, social proof is even more important for eCommerce businesses today.

Read more: Types of eCommerce Business Models You Might Not Know

III. How to Use Social Proof As An eCommerce Merchant

For a brick and mortar store, social proof can be evidenced simply by the number of people that are inside. But for eCommerce stores, how can they visually show the love they get from customers? Luckily, there are many ways to do this and on many different channels; I’ve divided them into the five following groups. 

3.1. User social proof

User Social Proof

User social proof

First and foremost, an eCommerce company can use testimonials from users who have already used its products. This shows that people have bought from your store and are so satisfied that they feel compelled to share positive feedback.

There are some ways to incorporate customer social proof into your business immediately:

Use a social proof app (such as Proofo) to display buyers’ activities and reviews on your online store. Right at the front page, you can add a little notification popup to show that people are buying and saying good words about your business. This helps reassure first-time shoppers about purchasing your products and can build trust throughout the customer’s journey.

Automate lifecycle emails to show product ratings and reviews to shoppers. A high star rating and positive testimonials can be the final push to nudge a customer towards completing a purchase.

Recommend products with ratings and reviews for customers looking for trending products or personalized items. Showing the right testimonials at the right time makes products even more desirable. This also works very well with ads.

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3.2. Acquaintance social proof

 acquaintance social proof

Acquaintance social proof

When faced with a new situation, consumers naturally look for sources of information from the people closest to them - their family and friends. You can proactively promote acquaintance social proof for your business by using user-generated content:

Inspire your customers to create content that features your product. An incentive, such as discounts or prizes in exchange can be effective.

Promote your social media accounts by telling customers to include your social profiles and branded hashtags. Remember to include social sharing buttons in your product content and emails.

Maximize the reach of user-generated content by uploading real-time content on your social media or website. The story feature in both Facebook and Instagram can help this.

3.3. KOL social proof

KOL social proof

KOL social proof

This is simple to understand: if consumers see their favorite celebrities using your products, they are more likely to buy from you to imitate the look. You can use both paid endorsements or unpaid endorsements created by these KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Micro-influencers with less of a social media following (10,000 - 100,000) are on the rise, too.

To add KOL social proof to your online store, you can:

Gift products to celebrities in exchange for photos or reviews. Carefully choose the ones that suit your customers’ interests and your brand's values.

Create a partnership program with celebrities to inspire customers. Invite your followers to join by recreating a celeb's look while using your products.

3.4. Expert social proof

Expert Social Proof

Expert social proof

When an expert endorses your brand, it lets consumers know that you have authority. This works well if you are in industries that require deep knowledge of a subject before purchasing. You can emulate the effect of social proof by displaying reviews, testimonials, and trust badges from other companies or people.

The most common form of this is media mentions in the news or in newspapers. Additionally, you can show testimonials and accolades on your 'About Us' page, or include reviews from well-respected sources in your emails to reassure shoppers.

3.5. Business Credentials

Business Credentials social proof

Business credential

While other people's experiences are valuable, your own business credentials can create trust just as effectively. This type of social proof is presented as the number of customers, the number of items sold, received certifications or awards, well-known frequent buyers, etc.

This is what your business has achieved, so display these credentials proudly on the most visible parts of your website.

IV. Social Proof: Success Stories

Proactive businesses are always using social proof to increase sales. Here are some examples of companies in different industries that implemented social proof successfully.

4.1. Basecamp

Social Proof example: Basecamp


Basecamp is a web-based application for teams to work together online. Their site is heavily influenced by social proof, with a dedicated page for testimonials from esteemed institutions like Shopify, NASA, University of Miami, and more. These great reviews show off the product's quality and highlight customer satisfaction from well-known websites with serious traffic. There is also a simple chart that shows how many accounts Basecamp has gained over the years; from just 45 in 2004 to 3.3 million in 2020, that’s an admirable journey.

4.2. Allbirds

Social Proof example: Allbirds


If you are thinking of selling footwear, then the Allbirds website is worth learning from. They proudly display the logos and reviews of famous media outlets on their homepage, and If you click on the quote, you are taken to the original article’s address. On the product page, Allbirds keeps it simple with a star rating and a small slider that customers can use to quickly leave feedback. The simplicity matches the website design and provides a seamless review experience.

4.3. Fitbit

Social proof example: Fitbit


As a sports watch company, Fitbit knows how to show that their products promote a healthy lifestyle. On the Buzz page, they include some great testimonials from health and tech industry experts and media. Scrolling down, you’ll find plenty of photos of celebrities using their products, which adds credibility to Fitbit's sports watch and allows the brand to stand out amongst other top fitness tracker companies in the market.

Final advice

I hope that after reading, you can understand how to use social proof to increase sales and acquire loyal customers. If you want to have an automated social proof process that sees sales rolling in without lifting a finger, implementing some apps can help, such as PROOFO - A Social Proof App by Avada Commerce.

As an eCommerce merchant, there will be many challenges ahead, but social proof is a powerful tool that you can use in a hugely effective way. Try experimenting with it on your website now and let me know the results in the comments section below. Best of luck!

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