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How Social Proof Can Boost Your E‑commerce Business

Explore what social proof is, why it's crucial in any marketing strategy, and how you can use it to increase conversions for your online business.

In our modern, connected world, opinions are often made as explicitly public as possible. From Google reviews to movie ratings to song rankings, people seem to want to know what others think about a product or service.

It is also increasingly common to hear phrases like “TikTok made me buy it” or “Instagram made me do it.” In other words, your actions can influence the actions of others, and vice versa, especially if people trust you. If you are looking to boost conversion rates for your business—whether to get more sales, drive donations, increase visits to certain landing pages, or improve sign-up numbers—social proof might be the key to success.

Social proof: Looking to others for cues on how to reflect correct behavior

Also known as informational social influence or herd mentality, social proof refers to the phenomenon whereby people assume the actions of others in order to demonstrate that they also know what is expected of them in a given situation. This is particularly prevalent in new or uncertain situations where we presume that others have more knowledge than we do.

Social proof was first introduced as a concept by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. He found that we are likely to perform the same actions as others before us if we can personally relate to them.

For example, Cialdini references an experiment using a door-to-door charity campaign. Researchers found that people were more likely to donate if they were shown a long list of prior donors. This effect was amplified if the solicited person recognized the names on the donor list—for example, the names of friends and neighbors.

In the realm of digital marketing and ecommerce sites, social proof is evidence that other users have had positive experiences with a business’s product or service. This opinion is reflected in things like product ratings. Would you be more inclined to buy a product that has a 5/5-star rating or a 3/5-star rating?

When it comes to online purchases where potential customers cannot physically see or touch the products they’re looking to buy, social proof is likely to become the deciding factor in the eventual buying decision.

Statistical evidence of social proof: A psychological phenomenon

The numbers don’t lie: Social proof is extremely important when it comes to purchasing decisions.

  • 95% of customers read online reviews before buying a product.
  • 77% of customers rate the advice of family and friends to be the most persuasive when looking for information on new products and services.
  • Micro-influencers (social media influencers with 5,000 to 100,000 followers) convinced 45% of their followers to try their recommended products or services.
  • 57% of customers visit a company’s website after reading a positive review.

Five types of social proof (with examples!)

Expert endorsement

An expert endorsement is when an industry specialist mentions your product or service, or they are openly associated to or linked with your brand. This could happen if an industry expert mentions your brand in an Instagram post or does a Twitter live stream with your business.

Getting a stamp of approval from an authoritative figure or an industry thought leader is an effective way to validate the quality of your product, build your credentials, and boost your brand’s popularity.

Example: Fitbit

Fitbit, a fitness tracking technology company, has an entire page on its website just for press mentions of its smartwatches. It includes big names in tech, business, and wellness, such as Mashable, Business Insider, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, and Men’s Health.

Showcasing the support from these trusted sources is a great form of social proof. Doesn’t it sound impressive that all these outlets recommended this brand?

If we were to criticize one thing, it would be that all reviews date from 2020. The company’s expert social proof might improve if they updated these reviews.

Fitbit website showing mentions of its products in the press

Celebrity/Influencer marketing

Celebrity social proof usually comes as public endorsement by a celebrity or influencer. These people normally have a big following on their various social media platforms, which means that anything they post or talk about will be seen and shared by thousands. If their followers are not yet current customers of your business, rest assured that this might very well change.

Of course, it’s crucial to identify who your target audience might be and then reach out to celebrities or influencers who would speak to your ideal customer base.

Example: Athletic Greens

A great example of this form of social proof comes from health supplement brand Athletic Greens. They have partnered with a number of YouTube fitness influencers, such as Canadian health guru Keltie O’Connor, who regularly features Athletic Greens in her videos.

Athletic Greens YouTube influencer

End users

User social proof is when many of your current, happy customers share their positive experiences with your brand, usually on a social media platform such as your brand’s Facebook page or directly on your website. If you have a high volume of “normal,” everyday endorsements (as opposed to influencer marketing-level), potential customers might be more likely to become current customers.

This type of social proof is reinforced by another social phenomenon: FOMO, otherwise known as the “fear of missing out.” It is a form of social anxiety where someone fears being excluded from a benefit or experience that others enjoy.

Example: Hellofresh

Meal delivery company HelloFresh created a branded hashtag (#HelloFreshPics) for real customers to share their positive feedback and experiences on social media. The brand also put some Instagram user-generated content with this hashtag on their website to better appeal to prospective customers. Using customer images adds a personal touch to their user social proof and creates a strong impression that their brand is popular and successful.

HelloFresh user-generated content


As previously mentioned, Cialdini noted that recommendations from people we know and trust—namely, our friends—is an extremely powerful force. If our friends approve of a product and have had a positive experience with it, we will be more inclined to become potential customers of the same brand.

Example: Dropbox

Cloud storage provider Dropbox saw great success with its friend referral program, growing 3,900% in just 15 months. Of course, the company had a great product and was always improving it, but referral marketing definitely gave its proposition more edge. Here are a couple of things we can learn from Dropbox’s referral program:

  • Make it a win-win situation: Dropbox offered more space for both parties if the referral was successful.
  • Have a reward that is linked to your business and is affordable for you: Although Dropbox replicated PayPal’s referral program, they could not afford to pay a cash amount for each successful referral (PayPal used a $10 cash incentive). Offering more storage space was a nod to Dropbox’s core service and at a minimal cost to the company.


Certification social proof comes from being recognized by trusted third-party organizations or people, which can help increase the credibility of your business. For instance, this can come from having verified accounts on social media, like having the blue tick next to your business’s Instagram or Facebook page. It can also come from winning an industry award.

Example: tentree

Ethical clothing enterprise Tentree showcases its sustainability certifications on its website, for example its B Corp status. By doing so, the company is reassuring its customers that their purchases are contributing to a more ethical and socially responsible world.

Tentree footer showing sustainability certifications

Six best social proof methods to attract a potential customer

Now that you’ve seen examples of social proof, start reaping its benefits with these simple-to-implement-yet-effective ideas. Depending on what type of business you have—if it’s B2B or B2C—some of these different tactics might be a better fit than others. This list is just the tip of the iceberg; our suggestions are meant to serve as sources of inspiration for you to better showcase social proof.

Put customer testimonials in a prominent position

Client referrals are one of the most powerful ways to continually bring in new customers, and putting customer endorsements on your website is fairly easy. The choice is yours if you want to publish all customer endorsements, or just a curated few—but make sure that they occupy prominent online real estate.

Example: zendesk

Zendesk has an entire page dedicated to its top customer case studies, some of which come from established brands such as Shopify, Agoda, and Uber. Not only does each case study detail how Zendesk helped each brand achieve its business objectives, but it also includes exclusive testimonials from important personalities within that brand. This helps make each case study all the more compelling.

Get a mix of social media brand ambassadors

Many, if not most, people get their decision-making information from social media these days. Many studies show that consumers were more likely to make buying decisions based on social media referrals.

Thus, having brand ambassadors to help build a modern word-of-mouth sales strategy is pretty common. These ambassadors typically highlight the partnership on their social media bios, have a unique discount code for their followers, and use a specific branded hashtag in relevant account posts. Compared to influencer marketing, engaging brand ambassadors is a more long-term project as brand ambassadors need to build a strong, authentic narrative to engage your target audience.

Depending on the people you reach out to about becoming your brand’s ambassador on social media, you could end up with a combination of expert, celebrity, and user social proof all at once. This can lend credibility without losing out on relatability.

Example: Gymshark

Activewear company Gymshark started off with influencer marketing as they partnered with fitness YouTubers to promote their line of workout gear. This soon grew into a family of long-term ambassadors who continue to use and endorse the brand year after year. Gymshark counts professional athletes, such as boxer Ryan Garcia, among their long-term brand ambassadors. Other brand ambassadors have been given the opportunity to design their own athletic-wear lines with Gymshark, with the most successful coming out with multiple collaborations.

Repurpose user-generated content

User-generated content has the advantage of feeling authentic, which can enhance your brand image. And best of all, you did not have to create it and it is free for you to reuse as you see fit!

Example: Slack

Business collaboration app Slack gives us a perfect example of how to effectively leverage user social proof. The company has a Twitter account @SlackLoveTweets for the exclusive purpose of retweeting shout-outs from Slack users. This gives the impression that people are benefiting from the app, and the recognition further encourages user shout-outs.

Incorporate social proof in ad copy

To better differentiate yourself in the advertising space, consider incorporating social proof—such as customer quotes—into ad copy. This turns an advertisement into something closer to a referral which, as we have already mentioned, can make all the difference in increasing customer conversions.

Example: UPLIFT Desk

This sponsored ad from ergonomic office accessories provider UPLIFT Desk includes a powerful social proof statistic—its standing desk has been chosen by product recommendation service Wirecutter for three years running.

Uplift desk ad with social proof statistic

Implement a customer referral program

Not only are referrals highly effective, but referred customers have a 30% higher conversion rate, a 16% higher lifetime value rate, and a 37% higher retention rate than leads generated through other marketing channels. We’ve already shared the example of Dropbox, but the following example further emphasizes just how powerful a referral program can be for business growth.

Example: Revolut

London-based challenger bank Revolut has had a customer referral program in place for several years. If a current customer successfully convinces their friends (who cannot be actual users) to sign up and make 3 card payments, they will receive a cash reward. As a result, Revolut reported a 700% increase in their customer acquisition numbers through their referral program from 2018 to 2019 alone.

Signpost best-selling products and services

Having “highlights” or “trending” product pages on your website will make new customers feel less overwhelmed by your available product choice and be more curious and motivated to try what other people are raving about. By drawing on user ratings and customer referrals, you can easily create a page that brings together items that are currently popular.

Respond to negative online reviews

Although it might sound counterintuitive, responding to negative reviews is an important factor in winning over skeptical customers and retaining current ones. One study showed that 79.9% of customers felt increased trust in a brand if the latter replied to negative reviews or comments. In another survey, 45% of consumers said they became more open to visiting a business if it responded to bad reviews.

As tempting as it is to dismiss or ignore negative reviews, responding to them in a positive, thoughtful, and helpful way is an instant source of social proof. It shows site visitors that you take all feedback seriously and are focused on providing the best experience possible. Don’t forget to also check and respond to reviews left on review sites too!

Constantly optimize your social proof

Now you know why social proof is important and how to integrate it into your business. But now it’s important to emphasize that social proof is by no means a one-and-done process. Here’s how you can optimize your social proof to ensure your business remains top of mind for your existing customer base while attracting new customers.

Update your social proof content

It is important to continuously add social proof as you collect more satisfied customers, kind words, and data. Make sure you routinely update your social proof to maintain credibility and keep abreast of current market trends. For the latter, it can be as simple as using a different branded hashtag or updating your brand’s ad style.

If you’ve just started your business, you might not yet have the funds to include expert social proof or celebrity social proof into your marketing strategy. Once your brand gets off the ground and you have the available means, try to include another type of social proof in your sales strategy and see if it makes a negligible, small, or huge impact after some time. With this data, you can carry on optimizing and so the cycle continues.

A/B test your social proof

It is impossible to know straightaway which form of social proof will work best for your business, so why not take the guesswork out of the equation with A/B testing? Keep trying out different types of social proof and even where you position social proof on your landing page. By doing so, you can find the option, or combination of options, that will give you more sales and the best conversion rates.

But as we have already discussed, when it comes to social proof, don’t just set it and forget it. A certain social proof configuration might work best for the time being, but this can always change, so schedule regular intervals to redo your A/B social proof testing.

The caveat of social proof

If wielded incorrectly, social proof can be a double-edged sword. You might have seen websites that include article share counts and social media share buttons on their landing pages. When these numbers are high, viewers will think that your brand has a wide reach. Conversely, if numbers are low or just not that impressive, viewers could think that your product is not popular, which is not the notion you want to cultivate.

One way would be to just get rid of your social sharing plugin until you have a larger audience. Another way out is to use a tool such as Social Warfare, which hides the share count and only publishes it once your set target has been reached.

Make social proof simple with off-the-shelf tools and applications

If you want to add social proof to your online store but are not sure how to, there are a plethora of tools to help you do just that.


Fomo is the world’s first social proof application. It displays the customer interactions on your site in real time, whether it’s a verified purchase or if you have a trending item in your store. This helps boost your store’s credibility, creating a sense of urgency that items could sell out or that users are missing out on a good deal. Although it is a paid extension, Fomo offers a 14-day trial period.


Like Fomo, Nudgify produces notifications for customers to see on your website (also known as “Nudges”). There are many premade Nudges you can choose from when you start, including recent sales, low stock, and free delivery. There is also the option to create custom Nudges such as customer tips or recommendations. You can tailor Nudges and choose which appears on each web page. Built-in analytics help keep track of your site visits, views, interactions, and assisted conversions.


ProveSource lets you display recent orders, positive reviews, and live visitor notifications on your site in real time to boost conversions. You can customize the notification appearances, such as how the pop-ups look and where they appear on-screen. Unlike Fomo and Nudgify, who only have a free trial, ProveSource offers a free plan option.

Don't underestimate the power of social proof

Now that you know what the different types of social proof are, chances are that you will start seeing them everywhere. Some brands will use just one form of social proof, whereas another might use multiple forms. And the reason for this is very simple: Social proof works. If you have yet to implement social proof into your business, it is never too late to start.

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