Why do people buy in the first place?
Let’s start at the beginning: why do people buy something? Most purchases are right-brain driven and then rationalized with the left brain. In simple terms, most purchases are more emotional than logical.
In this world of ultra-consumerism (topic for some other day), we need to make an emotional connection with someone before selling them on the logical need.
To build an emotional connection, you need a compelling story, massaging the user’s desires, fulfilling an itch, and many more. But for everything you need them to trust you before they start listening to you.
You need them to believe you before they start listening to your story and eventually buy your story in the long run.
Now coming to trust, you can establish trust in many ways. Honesty, being true to your commitment, and treating your customers well.
The challenge is you are just starting your interaction with the user. You haven’t reached the stage where the user is even listening to you. May be user is just browsing. 🙂
Social proof is an essential tool for this initial trust-building. Be it online or offline.
Introducing Social Proof
Social proofs have existed for many ages. We are psychologically wired to be influenced by them. Without going into deep psychology in simple English, they work.
Let’s start with types of social proof –
- Customer Reviews / Testimonials
- Expert Reviews / Approval
- Wisdom of Crowd
- Wisdom of Friends
- Certification / Accreditation
- Celebrity Endorsement
These are best used in a subtle manner and implementation varies from case to case. A/B testing is critical to know which kind of social proof works for you.
Wisdom Of Crowd
When the wisdom of the crowd matters more than the wisdom of the individual. Real-life examples are –
The line outside a famous restaurant at 7 pm on Monday and you believe if you many people are going into it, then the food must be good.
When you see more cars parked outside a stop on a highway, you believe food must be good.
Movies running with houseful board.
Any political rally/protest you see and get influenced by how many people are involved in that cause?
Why does it work?
People believe in herd mentality. If lots of people are doing it, then it might be right.
You might not know the other person. Might not be talking to them to learn about their experience.
The wisdom of the crowd works when there is lots of mud in the water. You have thin leverage and if it’s good enough for some then it’s good enough for me.
Works Best in fashion, food, and impulsive buying.
Wisdom of Friends
We get influenced by our peers, friends, and social acquaintances. The closer the bond, the higher the influence.
Wisdom of friends is a type of influence that is tough to crack for a company, but you can always use it on social platforms.
Like ads running on Facebook, which shows as your friends like it.
Trip Advisor shows reviews of your friends.
Mostly this is going too far, even regular reviews or the wisdom of the crowd will work. This is the gold standard of any recommendation but very tough to get it out in brands.
Certification / Accreditation
Sometimes for complicated items, you are not sure about the nitty-gritty of the process. Like for an FDA approval for food and drugs. Even heavy equipment has multiple certifications or accreditations.
This works best when you need to have something to clear the benchmark for the consumer like part of some group to be eligible to do the business. Most B2B companies have a requirement.
From ISO certification to Adobe marketing certifications are useful to showcase your expertise in a section.
I think they are good to flaunt but work best where things are complicated. They are not easily comprehendible to end-users, so you need certification of skills to be sure about the minimum benchmark.
Celebrity / Influencer Endorsement
I think there is little doubt about this one. Earlier it used to be big celebrities and now it’s social media influencers.
It’s different from the expert in some ways and sometimes overlaps with expert reviews.
Kim Kardashian talking about fashion can be considered as an expert (some might disagree :)) but endorsing cars is just a simple endorsement.
Endorsement works as the rented audience from the celebrity to get exposure and trust.
Coming from someone you celebrate and follow is more memorable and relatable then 20-second media slot.
Works for most of the brands in the B2C space. New brands need more celebrity endorsements than old brands. Also, if you can get the brand image and celebrity image mixed, then it makes more sense. Otherwise, go with expert endorsement.
Expert Reviews / Approval
Expert reviews work in mainly two areas –
- You are not that knowledgeable in broad segments like electronics, and cars, or even in pure business segments like analytics tools, productivity tools, or any other business tool.
- You have taste aligned with that person, and you are willing to do with their recommendation. Like in movies, books, and food.
In the second type getting the taste aligned is more crucial as even a great expert can’t give you good food recommendations if your taste is not aligned.
So for businesses, expert reviews make sense in the vertical categories where people have little understanding. Like insurance, mutual funds, etc.
Customer Reviews / Testimonials
This is the simplest form of social proof. People rely on these for less for the product and more for the service. Product usage might be dependent on individual tastes, but overall use can be gauged by reading reviews.
For trying a new product where the stakes are not very high, and you are just looking for decent service.
Let’s take fashion for example, how a dress fits might not be relevant to you as it might differ from person to person, but how the material feels and colors’ brightness might be useful for you to judge from reviews.
Most effective, but everyone doesn’t need too many reviews like Amazon, or IMDb even simple ratings like Uber will work for most businesses.
Testimonials/reviews/logos/case studies / PR mentions/numbers/trust seals/certifications & awards/graphs are some of the most popular and trusted forms of social proof which our audiences mostly rely on depending on the type of products.
To conclude, trust is paramount in both online and offline sales, and social proof is the key to establishing it.
Most buying decisions are emotionally driven, making it essential to build trust before making your pitch.
As discussed above social proof comes in various forms, such as customer reviews, expert endorsements, the wisdom of the crowd, the wisdom of friends, certifications, celebrity endorsements, and word of mouth.
And each type has its unique influence on consumer decisions.
Social proof is a powerful tool for creating trust with potential customers.
Whether you’re in fashion, food, or another industry, using the right form of social proof can be a game-changer for your website’s success.