Using Social Proof to Drive Online Sales

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jodi-gaines-pereiraJodi Gaines Pereira is the co-founder of ReplyManager, acquired by XSellco Limited early in 2015, who’s solutions include High5, a Feedback Automation tool.

Today Jodi writes about asking for feedback and reviews:

Using Social Proof to Drive Online Sales

I’m an avid reader. Probably go through one to two books a week. I stick to fiction mostly – paranormal, fantasy genre (I’ve confessed!) and occasionally dabble in historical fiction. And yes, I did read the Outlander series. Twice. Don’t judge.

Once I’m invested in an author, I proceed to consume every book they’ve written and dread having to discover my next obsession.

Did I mention that I’m completely addicted to my Amazon Kindle? There’s nothing more satisfying than being able to buy my next book in the middle of the night. But the biggest advantage to having my Kindle is the easy access to reviews.

Every time I look for another author, I go first to the ratings and then proceed to read the detailed reviews, avoiding any spoilers, of course. Opinions play a huge role in my purchasing behavior and I’m not alone. I do the same with other products. It’s part of a phenomenon called social proof.

Wikipedia defines social proof (informational social influence) as a “psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.” It’s a fancy way to say that we, as humans, like to mimic what others do to feel part of a collective. And it’s why eBay and Amazon use it to drive sales to specific sellers.

Providing social proof establishes brand credibility and increases trust – two factors that have a direct affect on sales. In fact, some credit poor DSR or Feedback ratings as the number one reason eBay stores fail and on Amazon it can mean whether or not a seller gets included in the coveted Buy Box.

ReviewsBut social proof is more than just quality of feedback and reviews. It’s also reflected in:

● Customer Testimonials
● Volume
● Social Following
● Influencer / Expert Mentions

So what’s the best way to take advantage of social proof?

Ask for feedback without asking for feedback

Wait, what? Asking for feedback in the right way is akin to practicing the art of subtlety. Requests should be customer focused. Did you meet their expectation? Did the package deliver on-time? Was the product easy to understand? If so, invite them to share their experience. If not, provide them a means to solve their issue (preferably offline) before it turns into negative feedback.

Gather customer testimonials, including pictures and detailed descriptions

Make it easy for them to submit and don’t be afraid to incentivise, albeit responsibly. Be creative and use this opportunity to drive sales back to your store. And be sure to get permission to publish their kind words. Amazon and eBay have very strict rules for incentivising feedback, so be sure to follow those guidelines.

Spread the good word

Share your social proof in:
● Advertisements
● White papers
● Social media
● Collateral material

Listen to customers

Don’t be offended when someone complains about slow delivery, lack of communication or a defective product. Use reviews to drive service or product improvements. Your customers will appreciate the effort.

2 Responses

  1. Not long ago Tamebay wrote an article regarding Amazon’s plague of FAKE Top Reviewers. If my memory serves it mentioned Top Reviewers receiving free gifts for review in exchange for a good review. The entire Internet is full of fake reviews & misinformation so I don’t see how you define true “social proof” in a world of fake everything. Fake tans, eyelashes, boobs, clothes, reviews, drugs, VW emissions tests, insurance claims, food ad infinitum. There is more fake in this world than authentic. How do you define & seek authentic “social proof” and not fake “social proof”

    This might help

  2. Thanks for the dialog Jon.

    I agree it is certainly disconcerting that we have to be ever watchful of what is “fake” “manufactured” or “produced” – and not just in the world of ecommerce as you mentioned.

    But I wouldn’t go as far as saying that Social Proof is “Fake Social Proof.” I would argue that there are many more “real” reviews than fake and I think most discerning people can spot the difference.

    As sellers and industry professionals, I think we have a certain level of responsibility to self police, so to speak – to ask for honest feedback, to not engage in soliciting fake reviews and elicit change when we can. Amazon is obviously working to address this as it affects their bottom line too.

    As noted in the article you posted, Amazon stated that the number of sellers that engage in creating false reviews are a very small minority and I have to agree.

    Product reviews still matter and regardless of those dishonest individuals taking advantage of the system, they still play a significant role in purchase behavior.


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