Why do people on boats always wave? And why do strangers on the shore always wave back happily? The answer lies, as it does so often, in psychology and is called herd mentality or social proof. Humans are primarily emotional and social beings, which is why a variety of behaviors are not rational, but based on an established consensus or the adaption of how others are behaving in a situation. Especially when people feel uncertain, the behavior of peers provides guidance.  This does not only apply to boats and waving but, more importantly, also to purchasing decisions.

How can Social Proof be expressed?

Product Reviews
Others who have already purchased a product or used a service obviously know more about it than new customers. Consequently they can provide insights on aspects such as quality and value for money. According to surveys, more than two in three people claim to be inspired by customer reviews online when buying a product for the first time.

Experts
As soon as someone is labelled an expert, we automatically ascribe them great proficiency and authenticity - no matter if the person actually is an expert, or simply an actor squeezing toothbrushes on tomatoes in a TV ad. A study by the American psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini shows that solely a secretary's reference to the many years of experience of her colleagues to whom she forwarded callers led to 20% more customer appointments and 15% more signed contracts.

Celebrities 
In the 1960s it was the Beatles’ mop-top cut, in the late 00s Justin Bieber’s sideswept bangs. Time and time again, celebrities set trends that people decide to adapt - apparently without putting much thought to it. This also applies to product recommendations made by famous people. In those cases the so-called halo effect comes to work, which is described as the tendency for an impression created in one area to influence opinion in another area. This means, when Beyoncé in her role as a pop icon advertises a shampoo she claims to swear on, it signals to us that this shampoo must be a very good and special product.

Certifications
Further studies by Cialdini show that customers trust doctors significantly more when certificates are clearly visible in their office. This observation can be transferred to online shops as well. If well-known symbols such as Trusted eShops for example are prominently placed in an online shop, visitors are more likely to make a purchase.

Friends and Peers
According to studies, 84% of participants indicate that their buying behavior is influenced by recommendations from friends and acquaintances. This mainly lies in the fact that people generally consider recommendations by people close to them to be honest. In contrast to product recommendations by influencers, for example, since boundaries between their own opinions and paid advertising are becoming increasingly blurred.

Wisdom of the Crowd
If many people approve of something, then it must be good - at least that’s what we tend to assume. For his bestselling book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (1984), American psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini conducted a series of experiments in the 1980s that proved this behavior. For example, restaurants that advertised a particular dish as their most popular one, saw a 20-30% increase in the sales of it.

How is Social Proof relevant for eCommerce?

Numerous studies show that Social Proof influences decisions. The impression that many people approve of something has a positive effect on the behavior of others. The same mechanism also applies to purchasing behavior. Seven out of ten buyers say opinions of other customers have an influence on them. More than 80% trust recommendations of friends and acquaintances when buying products for the first time. Only a 48% of buyers, on the other hand, consider classic forms of advertising to be trustworthy. 

Digital Social Proof helps counteract this loss of trust and helps brands to create an appealing and personal brand image. Especially the integration of user-generated content (UGC) pays off in this regard. UGC comes directly from customers and thus provides authentic and versatile impressions of products and services.

More than 500 million users are active on Instagram daily. This number gives a small insight on the sheer mass of postings that are continuously being generated and interacted with on the social media plattform. UGC management tools such as squarelovin enable brands to use this large number of posts to their advantage and precisely filter for relevant content. Through using this customer created content, brands are able to present products in a wide variety of settings with little to no effort, while also conveying more authenticity and trustworthiness than regular advertisements would.

Many of our customer's experiences show that professional UGC integrations on a website or online shop lead to significant improvements in performance. On average, the conversion rate in online shops increases by 210% when user-generated content is featured. The length of stay on the website extends by an average of 29%, while the average shopping cart rises 13.7%. Moreover, the clickthrough rate improves significantly with an average increase of 59.25%.

Find out what you need to be aware of when integrating UGC to your website or online shop here.