Social Proof : Conversion Rate Optimisation

January 11, 2011 7:45 pm

Social Proof : Conversion Rate Optimisation

So you want to tell your audience that you are good at what you do and you can be trusted, but then again what business doesn’t want to communicate that? How do you overcome consumer cynicism when little is known about your brand? Get someone else to tell them, using social proof.

Social proof is a psychological concept that describes how we seek (or infer) the opinion of an independent third party in ambiguous situations. When we don’t know what the likely outcome of a particular action will be, or how we should behave, the actions of others give us a good clue how we should be behaving too. It’s what makes you turn around when you see a queue of cars up ahead starting to turn around one by one, you assume they have more information about the situation up ahead than you do and have decided that turning around is the best option.

So what’s this got to do with conversion optimisation? Well much the same principles are at work on your website, albeit on a smaller scale. We’ve all been consumers in those directionless moments where we know nothing about a supplier or product and are hovering over the ‘submit order’ button. So what do we do? We follow the crowd, we listen to the t-shirt wearers, and if the social proof is absent, we leave.

Examples of using social proof on your website include;

  • Testimonials
  • Case Studies
  • Live Twitter feeds
  • Client logos
  • Product reviews (by customers)
  • Past actions of others (e.g. 82% bought this product after viewing)

The above all directly involve or reference a third party and are very powerful cues for conversion. It’s a key influencer of those who are teetering around the decision of whether to buy/subscribe or not. You can easily employ subtler forms of social proof too, such as;

  • Evidence of speaking at conferences
  • Professional affiliations
  • Team photos & biographies

Whilst these aren’t a direct hotline to an independent adjudicator they imply social proof by highlighting your position among peers. They also remind the user that there are real people behind your glossy homepage and sales messages and that you can be trusted.

Adding social proof to your website isn’t just a ‘nice to have’, it can create a very real uplift in conversion rates.

Social proof has all the benefits of;

  • Building trust
  • Verifying your sales claims
  • Increasing credibility
  • Reducing ambiguity
  • Demonstrating popularity

In short it takes some of the guesswork out of your prospects’ evaluation of you, helping you close the deal. Someone else has been there before and has left the message that they had a good experience, so the new user can more confidently expect the same.

Want to know more about Conversion Rate Optimisation?

This is the first in a series of articles about Conversion Rate Optimisation (aka Intelligent Tweaking). Get in touch to find out about our CRO services.