Let’s put the big eCommerce questions to our team of expert consultants. This month – everything you ever wanted to #AskYieldify about using social proof for e-commerce, with Bruno Diogo, Consultant at Yieldify.
In last month’s edition of #AskYieldify we tackled the topic of customer reviews. This time we’re looking at how e-commerce brands can use the concept of social proof to improve the customer journey.
What is social proof?
When we’re unsure how to behave in a situation, we tend to follow the behavior of others, which psychologists have called social proof. Social proof for e-commerce means leveraging this behavior to build trust or urgency.
Here at Yieldify, when we talk about social proof, we’re usually referring to a feature in our platform, Dynamic Social Proof, that allows our clients to leverage this psychological concept, by showing visitors a the popularity of a particular product.
Does social proof work?
Research from Harvard University shows that up to 95% of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously. One of the most powerful ways to target the subconscious is via our tendency to use the wisdom of the crowd to influence our own decisions.
In a world full of choice, our subconscious looks for ways to take shortcuts in this decision-making process, and so we trust the decisions of our peers and networks.
That’s great, but again…does it work? Well, according to our data, yes. Yieldify’s benchmark data from over 200,000 customer journey campaigns showed that brands using Dynamic social proof can drive conversion rate uplifts from 6.6%, up to as high as 48.3% depending on the targeting criteria, with the average falling around an 8.5% increase.
Is social proof real?
There’s been some controversy around social proof recently, particularly within the travel industry where the CMA was concerned some brands were using the tactic to make hotel rooms seem more popular than they were in reality.
To avoid damaging trust with consumers (and indeed the whole premise that underlines the effectiveness of a tactic like social proof) brands need to ensure they are comparing like with like when using social proof. This means being clear about the availability of products within the context of the visitor’s situation. For example, if showing how many others are looking at a particular holiday, ensuring this is for the same dates.
How can I apply social proof to my e-commerce store?
There are a wide variety of ways to apply social proof to your e-commerce site. One use-case that might immediately come to mind is the use of social proof on travel sites, which have perishable inventory, and so are a natural fit for this tactic. But a word of caution – make sure the social proof tool you’re using is compliant with industry guidelines.
We carried out customer journey benchmarking for one of our travel clients and discovered that while it might seem simple at first glance, there’s actually a range of key moments in the customer journey that brands are targeting with social proof, each with different copy, designs and formats.
In terms of what we learned from this about best practice, social proof should be applied throughout the customer journey, both at the category level and on the product page to drive the best results.
This journey oriented approach, incorporating social proof, is something we’ve tested with Stansted Express, using social proof combined with USP and reassurance messaging throughout the booking funnel. Using multiple messages throughout the journey drove a 120% higher conversion rate than just showing one message.
What is the best point in the customer journey to use social proof?
It depends. For example, if it’s a high value, considered purchase, then inducing urgency to those users who are simply browsing won’t necessarily work as well as if it’s a lower value, impulse buy. This underlines the importance of testing campaigns, and iterating on them, a negative result from a test isn’t always a bad thing if it can help you refine your strategy.
We saw the importance of this with one of our clients, soak.com, where we noticed that social proof was not performing in line with our benchmarks. We performed some analysis to understand why. Looking at the time of day, and device revealed that the key period when social proof drove a positive impact was around lunchtime, when visitors had time to take in information and make a decision.
From this insight we were then able to launch a version two of the campaign, utilizing Yieldify’s time of day targeting feature. With bathrooms being a high-consideration product with a long purchase cycle, this moved a high-funnel browser further down the path of purchase. As a result, the campaign generated an 11.2% conversion rate uplift in the target group.