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Why should you care about social proof?
Social proof is the influence of other people over an individual’s decision making. Social proof has a great effect on customer’s’ decision making.
Why? Let’s return for a moment to our behavioral decision-making class in university…
Ash’s Conformity Experiment
This famous experiment of the 1950s best illustrates to what extent individuals are influenced by others in terms of their thinking and decision making.
For the experiment, an individual was sat with a group and was asked to choose the shortest stick out of a few. There was a clear difference between the sticks’ lengths and a clear answer, however, the group deliberately chose the wrong answer. The experiment found that 36.8% of individuals conformed to the group, saying the wrong answer. This shows the power groups have on the individual’s decision making.
Reasons for conforming
There are two main reasons why some people conform. The first is the normative social influence, where the individual conforms to avoid social punishment or obtain social reward. In other words, to be perceived as normal and a part of the group. The second is informational conforming, where the individual was genuinely convinced the group was right and his original thinking was wrong.
While the experiment shows customers shifting their decisions from an obvious answer to the wrong answer because of social pressures, imagine the power of groups and society when the answer is unclear and the individual is hesitant.
Even more convincing, no?
Indeed. And this is the sweet spot where you should utilize social proof to induce confirmation to groups.
Conforming in e-commerce
Social proof in e-commerce translates to a customer believing the group’s, other shoppers’, decisions are correct or optimal (“they know best”) and lets them influence his personal decision (i.e. informational conforming). For example, “if 50 people bought this item it must be good”.
As a result, customers value the opinions of other shoppers more than the company’s sales efforts. Also, other shoppers’ opinions influence may change or strengthen their personal thoughts of the item or the company. The customer is particularly susceptible to this influence if his beliefs are not fully founded yet (he/she is still hesitant).
How do other shoppers’ activity notifications induce social proof?
Real-time notifications provide social proof to a shopper, even when they don’t intentionally look for it. Social proof can be:
– About the company (the place is popular and busy)
– About a specific item (the item is desired/bought by others)
Since other shoppers’ activity is not public in e-commerce, revealing this information imitates traditional retail environment and enhances social proof. Both types convey popularity, which enhances the trust and perceived value towards the company and item. This builds the customer’s confidence, which reduces hesitations and leads to more conversions.
– “X number of people are looking at this item”
– “Bought by someone x time ago”
– “Bought by x number of people”
So how effective are the notifications, really?
The notifications also increase conversions by providing transparency and a sense of urgency (induced by other shoppers’ activity and scarcity of items), which raise confidence that the company and products are of high value and heighten pressures on making a quick purchase.
Implementing real-time notifications
Start utilizing this technique and implement such strategy with Barilliance’s Live! software, which allows you to create dynamic, personalized and customized real-time notifications. The software includes an automatic conversion optimization tested against a control group, to present the optimal messages to each customer. Read more to learn about the feature and how it creates social proof.