There are now an increasing number of messages on websites highlighting areas such as customer satisfaction, the number of products purchased and how popular particular pieces of content are. This is called social proof.
Social proof is an essential lever in your digital strategy because it enables you to highlight the real experience of consumers and use this to help win future customers.
When used strategically, social proof can increase visitor engagement, conversions and customer loyalty.
1 What is social proof?
Social proof is a marketing lever, but first and foremost it is a powerful sociological phenomenon, whereby individuals are strongly influenced by the behavior and choices of a larger group of people.
As consumers, we experience this every day. For example, our brain is more inclined to take up an idea if it is supported by many other people. That is why we are generally attracted to films and books that are praised by critics or to bars and restaurants that are full to overflowing with customers.
Marketers now use social proof as a strategic way of increasing conversion rates and sales by creating a sense of urgency in visitors.
THE 3 PRINCIPLES OF SOCIAL PROOF
Social proof is underpinned by three different factors:
The number or variety of sources: the “multiple source” effect is when an individual gives greater weight to an idea, product or service that is recommended by several people or sources. In an e-commerce context this is evident on product pages, where the number of customer reviews, whether positive or negative, can help or even accelerate a potential buyer’s decision making.
The uncertainty effect: uncertainty is one of the main fuels of social proof. The more a potential customer is hesitating about converting, the higher the chance of social proof bias playing an important role in their final decision. For example, we find a busy restaurant reassuring and the fact that it is crowded helps us to make a decision.
The sense of belonging to a group: when an individual identifies with other people who share the same characteristics (whether around geography, preferences or shared history, for example), it is likely that they will adopt the same behavior. This theory was confirmed by the use of “canned laughter”, which shows that we laugh longer and with more intensity when we perceive that other people with similar interests are also laughing.
2 Why use social proof on your website?
Social proof can help you achieve two main goals on your website:
- Increase conversions: according to the Word of Mouth Report by ChatterMatters, 83% of consumers said that recommendations from other buyers convince them to buy products or services. What this shows is that recommendations are the most important asset to highlight in order to build trust with your customers.
- Retain visitors and improve engagement: Sharing social proof messages contributes to creating a community on your website. Visitors are offered a high-quality experience when they can rely on the expertise of other buyers.
3 So how do you activate social proof on your website?
1. Identify the best use cases for your website
Social proof is a great way to increase visitor conversions, engagement and retention. However, these messages should be part of a well-defined strategy or they risk marring the visitor experience.
Here are a few examples of use cases which help you find the right experience for your visitors.
Show which products are the most popular in the visitor’s geographical area
To encourage your visitors to browse more product pages and add items to their cart, you can display item suggestions based on their tastes and current trends.
As an example, here is what we could display on a retail website where we have identified that our visitor is interested in women’s clothing and is located in Paris.
Dynamically rearrange your carousels according to product popularity
Our clients often have trouble deciding on the order of a menu or of the different slides in a carousel. With Kameleoon’s Product & Price Targeting functionality, you can track the popularity of certain products, product categories or services in real-time, re-arrange your carousels and menus according to their popularity and, as a result, better contextualize your visitors’ experience.
In this example, the positioning of the “bags” tab varies depending on the popularity of the associated product pages (number of clicks, add-to-carts, purchases). The more engagement this product category generates, the more the tab in question moves “up” in the carousel.
Show the number of visitors currently on a product page
Another way to use social proof to attract visitors to product pages and encourage them to convert is to display the number of visitors that are on the page in real-time.
In an e-commerce context, you could also opt for a counter that shows how many add-to-carts or sales there have been over the course of a day. This creates a sense of urgency among your visitors based on the group effect.
Indicate stock volumes in real-time
Show the stock volume in real-time by connecting Kameleoon’s API to your inventory management solution.
To successfully create urgency, it is best to only show stock amounts when it is running low.
Show the number of purchases made in real-time on your product pages
Your visitors have no way of knowing how much stock you have. By showing them how many times a particular product was purchased by your other customers, you can create a sense of urgency in a visitor.
Display the most popular categories
Placing the most popular content in the forefront is a strategy frequently used by major media websites.
Netflix is a textbook case when it comes to social proof. It highlights its variety of content according to several criteria, including:
- Current trends: what are other Netflix users watching?
- Critically acclaimed and “most popular” content: the safe bets you won’t want to miss.
While the recommendations based on each individual’s viewing can be questionable at times, the content highlighted based on social proof is always pertinent, because it depends on the viewing habits of the entire Netflix community.
Use your numbers as proof to convince visitors of the quality of your service
To get visitors to engage with your brand, it’s in your best interest to draw on your community.
The newsletter subscription pop-in is a classic that is now used everywhere, but often it lacks appeal (and personalization).
A great counterexample can be found at Hubspot, which is very successful at capturing its blog readers’ attention by using social proof and by personalizing the messages displayed based on the content read by the visitor.
If you read a “Marketing” article on the Hubspot blog, you will be invited to join a community of over 215,000 marketers. On the other hand, if you read a “Sales” article you will be asked to join a community of almost 50,000 sales professionals. And finally, if you read content related to “Consulting”, you will be invited to join a community of several thousand consultants.
2. Get the right tools
Regardless of what use cases you choose to put in place, you will need to find the right technology partner to implement them.
There are several essential criteria to consider:
- whether your solution is able to take real-time into account so that factors such as reviews and stock counts are always up to date
- the possibility of updating your product pages based on stock numbers or customer reviews
- the possibility of placing popular products that are of interest to visitors in a prominent position (Product and Price Targeting)
Kameleoon makes it very easy to use social proof:
- We draw on our sound knowledge of open-source technologies (Hadoop, Kafka, Spark, ElasticSearch, etc.) to offer a stable Big Data architecture and feed data to your back-office in real-time. Using our solutions it is therefore possible to update your social proof messages in real-time, based on your inventory levels, new customer reviews, or other criteria that you can decide on beforehand.
- Our Product & Price Targeting functionality enables you to cross-reference the popularity of your offerings against your visitors’ particular tastes (in terms of products, product categories and price ranges, for instance) and build them fully personalized customer journeys
4 Pushing the right social proof messages to the right visitors using AI-driven personalization
Social proof can be a major ally when it comes to engaging and converting your visitors. However, not all visitors will be influenced by it and their experience can quickly be marred if it is poorly managed.
What impression do you get when you visit a website that bombards you with social proof and urgency-inducing messages throughout your journey? When a visitor receives too much marketing pressure, their experience can become unpleasant to the point where they might even abandon their visit.
AI-driven personalization enables you to identify whether a visitor prefers one message over another and to only display the most pertinent message for each visitor.
Our machine learning algorithms calculate visitors’ likes and dislikes in real time by studying their behavior on your website. Based on this real-time intention scoring (KCS™ - Kameleoon Conversion Score), a personalization is automatically triggered to individualize the messages presented to each visitor.
Several Kameleoon clients use this functionality to display the right social proof message to the right person at the right time.
Cdiscount, for example, uses Kameleoon to prioritize the messages to which their visitors are exposed: social proof (Over 82% of customers are satisfied, 50 orders already placed…), urgency (78% chance that the price will rise, Only 7 hours left for delivery the day after tomorrow), or informative (In stock, payment plan available).
This AI-driven targeting has increased Cdiscount’s conversion rate by 5%.
Vertbaudet is another of our clients that decided to use our predictive targeting solution to trigger individually targeted social proof messages that therefore have the biggest impact on conversion.
Basically, visitors to its website are categorized according to their susceptibility to different urgency messages, and only the message that is the most relevant for that visitor is displayed.
How does it work?
5 Don’t miss out on the opportunities social proof offers
There are a thousand and one ways to take advantage of social proof biases on your website to boost visitor engagement and increase sales.
Whatever your core business (B2B, B2C, e-commerce, media website, banking and insurance, etc.), you can activate different social proof levers. And by combining your social proof strategies with the real-time personalization capabilities that a solution like Kameleoon offers, you can go even further by building relevant experiences for your different visitor segments.