The power of social proof: Elevating your ecommerce business

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Tap into the powerful world of social proof. Rooted in social psychology, social proof can help you lead customers down a preferred purchasing path by building their trust and showing evidence that your products are worth buying.

What is social proof?

Social proof is a psychological concept that was first coined by American social psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini in 1984. It's based on the idea of social influence, where people tend to "follow the crowd." Social influence theories were also published by Professor Sherif in 1935 and Dr. Asch in 1952.

The theory is that humans are highly influenced by others around them, and this can affect their behaviours. In uncertain or ambiguous situations, humans will copy the actions of others around them if it is what the majority of people are doing. According to Cialdini, social proof is one of the six key principles behind the power of persuasion, which is useful when applied to marketing.

Why is social proof important for ecommerce?

Buying behaviours can be shaped to a degree with social proof. There are psychological marketing techniques that can be applied that can persuade and sway online shoppers to make a purchase.

This works particularly well when a customer has no clear preference for which product to purchase, so they are more easily influenced by social proof nudges. Nudges such as product reviews, customer testimonials, case studies, and user-generated content can alter and affect a customer's choice when making a decision.

Learning about and implementing social proof nudges for an ecommerce website could increase customer trust and the number of sales.

Social proof findings and statistics

  • 77% of US shoppers seek out websites with ratings and reviews. (Power Reviews, 2023)
  • 76% of consumers have purchased a product because of someone else’s recommendation before. (Future of Marketing, 2022)
  • Negative ratings have a much stronger effect than positive ones on a buyer’s trust level. (International Journal of Crowd Science, 2020)
  • 87% of US and UK consumers said that real-life customer reviews have a greater impact on purchasing decisions compared to influencer or celebrity reviews. (Emplifi, 2023)
  • 70% of online shoppers use rating filters to find businesses with at least 4-star reviews. (ReviewTrackers, 2022)
  • There are no distinct differences between Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z consumers. All ages prefer to see customer reviews before making a purchase. (Emplifi, 2023)

9 ways to boost social proof for your dropshipping store

1. Display customer reviews beneath products

The classic five-star rating scale is prevalent everywhere on ecommerce stores, and there's a good reason why. Customers are used to this rating system - it's trusted, useful, and offers information quickly to help them make a purchasing decision. Show the average rating score next to product images while customers are browsing a category page. It saves customers time, so they don't have to click on each product just to see the average review rating.

2. Link customer reviews from a trusted review site

To boost the confidence of customers in your products, choose to link your ecommerce store with a review website. Google My Business, Feefo, and Trustpilot are just a few of the major review platforms that customers know and trust.

The key benefit here is piggybacking on the credibility of these review websites. This is especially useful for a new ecommerce store that doesn't have an established brand in the market. Customers appreciate the high reputation of review websites as they know the reviews are authentic and not fake as part of a false marketing strategy.

3. Add customer location to reviews

Increase customer trust by adding more detail to customer reviews. Displaying the location of a reviewing customer can help potential buyers believe the reviews are genuine and credible. It has also been shown in studies that people trust the actions and opinions of someone from their country, city, or town. This depends on the context. In the case of travel, hotels, and flights, this might not be an important factor for buyers.

Some ecommerce stores also ask reviewing customers to add other details such as their age or clothing size. This can help potential customers compare and match themselves with a reviewer to see if an item would fit or work for them.

4. Allow customers to add their product photos to reviews

Customers will feel more secure in their purchase when they can browse images of products uploaded by previous buyers. This can allow them to compare the user-generated content with the website images to see how accurate they are, the quality of the product, and how it looks in the appropriate setting (clothing on a person, furniture in a home, bicycle accessories outside on a bicycle trip).

5. Manage negative customer reviews

Replying to upset customers is important for other buyers to see. Not only are you helping the person with a complaint, but you are impressing potential buyers with your ability to handle the situation professionally and with a solution to their problem. This shows buyers that you are an ecommerce company that cares about good customer service and not just sales.

6. Highlight your best-selling products

Marking which of your products are best sellers makes it easier for unsure customers. It steers them in their decision-making, which leads to a higher chance of a sale. Customers trust a product that is labelled as "popular," "selling fast," or "trending" as they believe that it must be a good product if many others have already bought it.

7. Show how many people bought a product

Customers are influenced by the crowd. When showing the number of other customers that have purchased a product, this invokes trust that the product is of good quality and that it is worth buying.

8. Show recommendations with "customers also bought"

The classic "customers also bought" makes it simple for browsing shoppers when choosing what to buy. Shoppers like to see what other related items they might need or want in addition to the ones they put in their online basket. It gains trust that other shoppers bought these products, and it helps to increase the value of their basket.

9. Have a high number of social media followers

People naturally trust brands that have a high following count on their social media channels. Of course, you might not reach over a million followers within your first or second year of business (but it's not impossible) however, it's good to try and increase the following as much as you can.

Having a high number of followers suggests that you are a well-known brand, trustworthy, reputable, and have a large customer base.

10. A high number of social media likes, shares, and comments

High numbers of likes, shares, and comments are influential for online shoppers. It shows that you have an established brand, that other customers like you and your content, that you have good marketing, and that you are worth following and purchasing from if so many others are interacting with you.

To summarise

Social proof has the power to lead customers into the purchasing choices you want them to make. These social proof nudging techniques help to prompt a customer to choose your brand over a competitor, choose whichever products you prefer they buy on your website, and increase the sales value of their basket in your dropshipping store.

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