If you run an online store, chances are pretty high (let’s face it, certain) that you’d like to convert more of your channel traffic into buyers.
They stop by, they click around, but too many of them just leave. All online stores face a somewhat inherent problem that prevents more conversions…
People tend to trust things more when other people trusted it first.
Or more specifically the lack of trust.
This is something that can be impacted in surprising ways with the smart use of social proof.
Let’s think about it this way…
Imagine you’re traveling in a new city and want something to eat (we’ve all been there). And you don’t want to go just anywhere; you want to eat the best food from the best place.
Go ahead and visualize your dream destination—it’s your imaginary vacation after all. You’re somewhere exciting, you have no connections, and you know little about the local culture… but you do know one popular street for restaurants.
How will you decide where to eat?
Without whipping out FourSquare or Yelp, you’d probably look for the not-empty places—the places where people (preferably locals) are actually eating. That’s what we’re talking about when we say “social proof.”
Social proof can mean many things, but the concept itself is simple. People tend to trust things more when other people trusted it first. And there are several ways a business can display this kind of trust.
The social proof world includes:
- Reviews and testimonials
- Influencer recommendations
- Exposure of what others are doing— “social proof notifications”
You’re likely more familiar with the first 3 kinds of social proof than you are the last. Reviews, referrals, and influencers are found all over online, but they’ve always existed in real world marketing, too.
Reviews (in this case, via Trustpilot and for Trustpilot) provide honest testimonials from other customers that inform newcomers to your brand.
Footwear brand Greats uses ReferralCandy to incentivize customers to refer their friends and drive more sales through this kind of social proof.
The smart use of influencers—advocates for your brand who your audience already trusts—can carry a lot of marketing weight. (
The newest kind of social proof marketing—social proof notifications—arose from a unique need presented by the ecommerce world… How can online shops show that they’re popular, busy stores if people only see a static website? In other words, how do stores get the automatic social proof that our earlier example of busy restaurants enjoys?
The answer: by actively capturing and showcasing the activity of other users. When a person takes action on your website, show that action in real time to other visitors so that they see the activity happening within your store. This is exactly what social proof notification platforms (like Fomo, the platform we will be using as an example in this article) provide.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Or check out other social proof tools like Proof or Proof Factor.)
All About Visitor Experience
The goal of adding these notifications is to use social proof for building trust, creating a sense of activity, and of course, driving conversions.
When a person takes action on your website, show that action in real time to other visitors.
As people visit your website, seeing this live activity helps them to understand that your brand is alive and valued by other customers. Their experience is improved through their exposure to currently popular products, awareness of other customers shopping with your company, and proof that your site is a place where people like to shop.
There’s good research behind it too.
Over 4 years and across almost 7,000 websites, data analytics and personalization software provider, Qubit, studied the effects of 29 treatments on website revenue.
The results? Creating scarcity was the number 1 driver for increasing revenue. Building social proof was number 2.
Social proof notifications like this actually achieve both. Through seeing exactly what products others are purchasing in real time, demand is shown off and scarcity is implied. And, by seeing that real people are behind these purchases, social proof is delivered.
How Social Proof Notifications Work
Notifications need user activity. The most obvious user activity to show off when building social proof is conversions.
Whether conversions means product purchases, webinar signups, contact form submissions, or nearly any other critical user action, showing that people are engaging with your product in near-real-time encourages others to do the same.
Now, to be clear, you aren’t actually limited to conversions for social proof notifications. Current visitor counts, most popular products recently purchased, and other inclusions are also possible. Consider the apps and tools you use that may create good stories for social proof.
Purchases? Definitely. New reviews? Probably. Referrals? Sure. New subscribers?
You get the point.
Your social proof tool should be able to integrate with your preferred data sources—or provide a way to integrate if no official integration exists—to create a full story of how people are engaging with your brand.
Once you’ve signed up for your social proof platform, the usual process is to embed a code snippet into your site for handling notification display and then connect with your preferred data sources.
It’s a process that takes minutes, and then you’re ready to go.
A Word on Faking It.
If you have a good product, you don’t need to lie in order to sell it.
Once you recognize the impact that social proof notifications can have on conversions, it’s easy to wonder if faking some data to imply more activity would make sense.
But it doesn’t.
Doable? Probably. Recommended? No. In fact, companies like Fomo outright prohibit fake data for 1 reason—honesty.
Social proof is about as honest as marketing gets and honesty is what your visitors deserve. When you see social proof notifications as a way to tell honest stories and improve user experience, you’ll also realize all of the great stories you can start telling with your social proof platform to further improve conversions.
If you have a good product, you don’t need to lie in order to sell it.
What Do Social Proof Notifications Look Like?
We know how important it is that your website looks cohesive—and just plain good looking. Which is why social proof notifications should be able to match the style of your website.
And guess what…
Match fonts, colors, imagery, backgrounds, and more to fit with your site experience.
The standard format for a social proof notification is exactly that; a slide-in notification, usually in the bottom portion of the browser window.
But style wise, they can be pretty flexible.
They can be situated to appear from pretty much anywhere on your screen and you can control pacing, pages where they’re displayed, and more.
Social proof notifications (and this is where the word gets a bit stretched) can also live in more static placement on your pages—while still displaying live, real visitor activity.
Embedded social proof feeds are commonly used and we’ve seen people create notification feeds as top bars, in-line under product descriptions, and much more.
Regardless of how live visitor activity gets displayed, design should match pretty seamlessly with your brand.
Just like updating a Mailchimp template, banner ad, or any other marketing asset to fit your brand—build a cohesive customer experience—social proof notification styling can, and should, be considered with your brand in mind.
Colors, fonts, language, and more can be adjusted to perfectly align.
Some things are just easy
I get it, you’ve tried a lot of things and your team only has so much bandwidth—so many hours of the day week. You’re a marketer, you’re always testing, always reporting, always improving. Sometimes, adopting a whole new channel feels like a distraction.
The thing with social proof notifications, though, is that—besides some design tweaking—they’re just leveraging the things that are already happening to improve your site experience.
No debating calls to action, no creative needs, no real budgeting like you would need with ads. You’re just putting the success you’ve already had—think, people converting—to work to create more.
Try out social proof notifications and remember to think through what you want to show and how you want to show it. From there, just turn it on.