Social proof is the phenomenon where people look to their environment to guide their own behaviour. Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, describes it best: “We view a behaviour as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it”.
It’s a powerful concept that some of the largest brands utilise to drive more sales, and it’s not just limited to traditional advertising channels.
Priceline was one of the first web startups to use a celebrity endorser. The lucrative partnership with William Shatner helped the company stand out in the incredibly competitive travel industry. An endorsement from Jessica Simpson helped one startup in Los Angeles attract over 500,000 visitors to its new online store BeautyMint in the first 24 hours.
There’s no doubt just how effective endorsements can be. It’s why some of the largest brands are willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to work with popular names. You may not have the budget to bring on a celebrity to endorse your brand but you can still make your marketing efforts online more effective.
And that starts with social proof.
Here we look at several ways you can incorporate social proof into your web design to build your brand’s credibility online and drive more sales.
1. Customer Reviews
Customer reviews are a powerful influencer. If one product you were considering has mostly negative reviews, you may think twice about it. But seeing positive feedback would make you much more confident in your purchase. What you’re doing then is looking for confirmation from others to justify your purchase.
You’re not alone either as an estimated 70% of consumers seek online reviews for purchasing decisions. The data is a perfect example of social proof and its impact on how consumers shop.
The number of user reviews a product has also affects conversions sales. Data from Reevoo found a a positive correlation between these two figures:
The more reviews a product had, the better it converted. It’s easier to get a better idea of a product’s quality when it has 100 reviews compared to 5. Online retailers like Amazon know this of course which is why star ratings and the number of customer reviews are prominently displayed for each product:
Users can easily view feedback from actual customers to help with their purchasing decisions.
Reviews are also incredibly important for local businesses. According to data from BrightLocal, 68% of consumers indicated that positive reviews made them more likely to use a business. Meanwhile, negative reviews made 40% of consumers not want to use a local business.
Both charts make two things clear—Whether you sell products online or provide services locally, acquiring customer reviews needs to be a part of your marketing strategy. It can mean the difference between lackluster sales and great ROI.
If you have an ecommerce store, you’ll want to enable reviews and actively encourage customers to leave feedback on their purchases. This could be as simple as sending a follow up email or offering a small incentive (e.g. a coupon). Another important point is that the star ratings and actual reviews should be clearly visible on the page.
2. Customer Testimonials
Research from Nielsen found that 92% of people trust recommendations from their peers.
Consumers are more likely to pay attention to a product especially if it’s received glowing reviews from someone they trust. But if no such recommendations are readily available, they rely on the word of others to make a purchasing decision. Even opinions from complete strangers are incredibly persuasive. The same report from Nielsen found that 70% of consumers trust product opinions posted online.
Customer testimonials then are the next best form of social proof to incorporate into your web design and have been shown to increase conversions by as much as 34%. Leveraging the word of others is an incredibly effective way to build credibility for your brand. Because testimonials provide potential prospects with more insight about your products or services.
The most basic form of testimonials are short blurbs from actual customers. But to really make them credible, be sure to also add a picture of the individual. Research has found that pictures increased trust among all participants.
Testimonials can be displayed in a number of formats as long as they convey the value of your products or services. Here are examples of testimonials that Freshbooks showcases on its homepage:
Each one is from an actual business owner that uses Freshbooks to successfully manage the accounting aspect of their businesses. Using recognised industry figures will help to make the testimonials on your landing pages far more effective but it’s not a must.
One way to take your testimonials even further is with video testimonials. Xero has a separate section that showcases testimonials using video:
Testimonials help to alleviate any doubts that prospects might have and can go either on your landing pages or even on pages devoted exclusively to customer feedback. Be sure to track new changes to your design to measure the impact that testimonials have on your conversions.
3. Brand Mentions
It’s no secret that web design has a major impact on trustworthiness.
Data from the Nielsen Norman Group found that the average page visit lasts less than a minute. If your site doesn’t establish trust or communicate a clear value proposition, visitors will not hesitate to bounce out. This is why including social proof is a must as it can be leveraged to lend credibility to your own brand and even make your site appear more legitimate.
Including the logos of brands your business works with on your landing pages is another classic example of social proof. It shows that your products or services are used by other brands which essentially acts as an endorsement. Brand mentions then can greatly influence how prospects perceive your offer.
Here’s an example from Crazy Egg’s homepage which displays some major brand names it works with:
Crazy Egg leverages existing relationships to leave a positive first impression with its visitors. This kind of social proof is an incredibly effective way to establish credibility and authority. If your brand has been featured in any major publications, you can also include those media mentions on your landing pages.
Here’s an example of media mentions that Animoto includes on its homepage:
If your business has worked with well known brands or been featured in a major publication like Forbes, then consider adding those mentions to your site.
4. Number of Users
Yet another proven form of social proof is to highlight your user or customer count. One classic example comes McDonalds which prominently advertised the number of hamburgers sold:
Displaying this figure accomplishes two things—It establishes credibility and eases any doubts that prospects have. McDonalds no longer displays the number of burgers sold but this marketing tactic certainly helped to make the brand more appealing over its competitors.
One way this can be implemented on your site is to highlight your user or customer count. It shows that your products or services are trusted by many other customers, and builds more credibility into your brand.
Basecamp—a popular project management software—shows the number of users on its platform right on the homepage:
The company also highlights the number of teams that have made the switch this week and even includes a testimonial to make its offer more enticing.
Social Media Examiner uses subscriber numbers to get visitors to subscribe to its newsletter:
Visitors to the blog are sure to take notice that over 400,000 people have subscribed and are more likely to follow suit. This form of social proof can be leveraged on your own site to drive visitors to take action whether that means filling out a lead form or subscribing to a newsletter. But if your base only has a small number of users, you may want to hold off on displaying those numbers until you have more impressive figures.
5. Trust Seals
Trust is a major determining factor on whether users proceed with a purchase.
A checkout usability test found that the reason why 18% of users abandoned a checkout process was simply because they “didn’t trust the site with their credit card information”. Companies like Amazon and Apple don’t have this problem as they’ve poured billions of dollars building their credibility. Users trust these brands and don’t hesitate to return.
Reviews and testimonials are proven ways to boost your brand’s credibility. But users also want to know that their sensitive information is safe and secure. Adding trust seals to your pages increases visitors’ level of confidence with their purchases.
Here are trust seals that Newegg adds to the bottom of its pages as a clear indication to visitors that it’s a trusted company:
Of course, certain seals are more trusted than others. Baymard Institute showed a number of trust badges to participants and asked which ones gave them the best sense of trust:
It’s possible to leverage the recognisability of these brands to boost your own. Note that you can’t simply copy and paste these badges onto your site. For example, you’ll need to purchase an SSL certificate from Symantec and go through an authentication process before you can add the Norton Secured Seal to your site.
This simple change can have a huge impact to your bottom line. Blue Fountain Media was able to increase their conversions by 42% by adding a Verisign trust seal:
Your own results will vary which is why it’s important to run A/B tests to measure the impact that new changes have on your conversions.
6. Industry Certifications
If you operate a service business or in a regulated area, display any relevant certifications to prove your practices meet industry requirements and demonstrate strong proficiency in your craft. Doing so is yet another way to leverage social proof to communicate to prospects that they’re dealing with a legitimate business.
The Australian Housing Group (AHG) displays the following certifications on the footer section of its site:
Prospects can see that the company has earned the necessary certifications to practice in their field. In contrast, some visitors may think twice about reaching out if these certifications are nowhere to be found.
Research the most relevant certifications you can earn in your industry to showcase your specialisation. Some certifications have a network attached to them. Becoming a member signals to prospects that your organisation meets certain requirements. Then display those badges on your site where it’s clearly visible to prove to prospects that you offer legitimate and reliable services.